In an unorthodox combination, mellow noise music and upbeat surf-pop brought a large crown to Thunder & Lightning last Thursday for Sackville’s own Hawkes and the St. John’s-based Bleu.
Hawkes got off to a quiet start, casually starting to play while unaware concert-goers loitered in the main bar. I happened to walk in after hearing music coming from the alley. At first, I was unsure if the band was warming up or playing. The three band members were each fixated on their own instrument as if they were unaware of the other two, as well as the crowd. The guitarist crouched over his guitar, which he laid on the floor for a portion of the show. However unaware the band outwardly seemed of each other, it was obvious they were in sync by the smoothness of the sound and agreement in transitions. It felt like myself and the rest of the crowd who slowly shuffled in were uninvolved observers of a garage jam session.
Hawkes had a disordered, droney sound. The entire set sounded like the soundtrack to a UFO landing. I wasn’t sure what to expect from Hawkes, but it wasn’t the spacey, noisy set they performed. It was a compelling set that demanded an active listener to discern and anticipate the next change the music would take.
Next, Bleu hit the stage, with another passive opening prefaced only by the singer’s quiet “okay.” However, the Newfoundland band changed the tone by cracking jokes with the crowd. At one point the singer asked the room if we were bored yet, and jokingly pled with us not to leave. The rest of the set was riddled with witty banter and jokes cracked by the band.
Bleu’s sound was somewhere in between dream-pop and surf music, the perfect pick-me-up on a snowy Sackville night. Twinkly guitar reverb had the crowd moving, while the band’s top-notch vocal harmonies enhanced their hoarse voices. There was good variation within each song, mixing lighter moments with heavy, crunchier sounds. Yet, Bleu’s sound was familiar, reminiscent of many generic indie pop bands from the last number of years.
The set was tight and the band had chemistry; the bassist and guitarist nuzzled up to one another on multiple occasions. As well, the lead guitarist put on an impromptu light show by turning one of the stage lamps on and off to the beat of the music with its foot switch. The band’s stage presence was key as it made up for their music, which was good but lacked a level of uniqueness.
The inconsistency between the style of the two bands made for an interesting night. Regardless, it ended off with the same way it started, slow and mellow. As Bleu ended their set, the crowd shuffled back out of the bowling alley and into the frozen abyss that is Bridge Street in January.