Viet Cong stuns Struts

Post-punk bands bring awesome show.

Punk rock has returned to Sackville with a deadly force after its week long, Montreal Pop Explosion-induced hiatus. On the first of the month, it was coast-to-coast noise, punk, kraut, and indie rock channeled through performances by Victoria-based Freak Heat Waves, Calgary-based Viet Cong, and local artist, and erstwhile food truck operator, Jon McKiel.

When Jon McKiel opens, shows have an amazing tendency to turn out well. His last couple of performances have led to some of the most memorable nights with regard to live music since the artist began his stint as a local music stalwart. His performance at SappyFest was a prime example. The night he kicked off the main stage truly came alive and was an absolute highlight of the festival. And the show in question was no different: McKiel began the event with the right tone, offering a more punk influenced sound than his usual set, hinting at what was to come and perhaps also hinting at new material being worked on by McKiel, who was joined by Evan Matthews, Josée Caron, and Kevin Brasier of Yellowteeth.

Freak Heat Waves, on their second continent-wide tour, showed off a bunch of new material that may appear on their yet to be released or recorded sophomore album. Judging by the set they played, that LP is shaping up well. The smooth twang that pervaded their previous album has been subordinated a bit in favour of a rawer brand of punk that really drove the show forward. The stylistic change marks a leap forward, and with the ins and outs of the album surely being hammered out and perfected during this tour, their new LP will certainly be one to look forward to.

Calgary’s Viet Cong ended the night off well. The band, which features Matt Flegel and Mike Wallace of the now-defunct Women, has been busy keeping post-punk alive in their prairie province, and are now bringing it across the country. Their sound had a huge range to it and its highly rhythmic nature created a relentless sound collage, tying a high pitched psychedelia and prog-rock infused kraut-rock melody to a distinctly post-punk rhythm.

The dimness of the lighting in Struts Gallery was a welcomed addition to each band’s set. As a genre, post-punk isn’t particularly bright and rosy, so to speak, and the almost dark, stark atmosphere constructed in Struts’ front foyer was exactly the right environment for what transpired there. The sound, which was collaboratively managed by the bands, was exceptionally well done, leaving the audience’s collective hearing in a state of disrepair by the time the show drew to a close. Freak Heat Waves and Viet Cong are heading back west to Calgary and Medicine Hat, with a handful of shows in the provinces between.

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