Sumac, with Endon, Black Spirituals and Molten Lava
February 19, 2016 at the Biltmore Cabaret, Vancouver BC
This really is my favourite kind of show – one where the mix of bands is eclectic enough that the underlying thread that ties them together isn’t immediately apparent, and you’re hard-pressed to put your finger on which act seems more out of place. This one was early too, with a curfew in effect so as not to infringe on the venue’s regularly scheduled Friday night dance party. That sounds pretty lame, I know, but there’s really no point trying to argue against that logic from the standpoint of business sense.
Local drums-and-bass duo Molten Lava got the party started with an energetic, albeit brief set. Fittingly, there’s really no simple way to classify these guys’ approach to music beyond playing it fast and tight and having a good time doing it. Unfortunately, the show’s early start worked against them and attendance was sparse at best when they took the stage at 7:30. I think it’s safe to say that those who arrived later definitely missed out.
Oakland’s Black Spirituals – another two-piece – took the stage next, with an approach that couldn’t be further removed from that of the band that preceded them on the bill. Relentless drums lent urgency to all manner of effects-laden entrancing soundscapes I’ll admit I have very little understanding of. I found their set strangely captivating, as unsettling as it was appealing, and as gentle as it was abrasive.
Teetering on the edge that exists between controlled chaos and unbridled apoplectic fury is where you’ll find Endon’s stage performance. There’s a haunting aspect to the intensity on display that comes with knowing that those sounds are actually supposed to be that ugly, and this is driven home when you find yourself thinking that maybe the guys making them aren’t really okay with them. By this point, the room was starting to fill up, and the majority of attendees couldn’t look away. I don’t blame them. An early but strong contender for most intense set of the year. Under no circumstances whatsoever should you pass up the opportunity to see this band.
Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances, Sumac had to cancel their west coast tour. Mercifully, however, they were still able to play the Vancouver date. I can honestly say I don’t believe I’ve ever seen the Biltmore so packed for a show that had to be over by 11 pm. One highlight of the set included the band playing some new material from their recently-recorded second record, which, based on my assessment of this show, promises to be as much of a ripper as, if not more than, The Deal. While it’s always satisfying to see a band play as tight and as hard as these guys, it was doubly satisfying to see them move around on stage so much this time. It seems every time I see them, they just gel that much more as musicians. In addition to making me anticipate the new record, their set made me anticipate their next set. Here’s hoping that the situations that prevented their participation in this tour are swiftly overcome.