The Besnard Lakes + Stonefield + Lady Strangelove – The Corner Hotel, Melbourne (12/03/2011)

As can sometimes be the case on a Saturday, it was a slow start to the show at The Corner. At 8.45PM the room was empty, save for a few people lazing up the back, plastic pots of beer in hand, awaiting either friends or entertainment. There was also a small group of slightly more animated young men, all wearing tight jeans, long hair, one of whom was standing barefoot. Although the room remained hollow, at 9PM these four young men traded carpet for board, taking the stage and arranging themselves amongst their instruments. This was Lady Strangelove, a four-piece group from Adelaide who recently traveled to California in November to record with Silvia Massey, the producer for the first two releases by Tool, Opiate and Undertow, of which the band are presumably fans. In fact, this is the problem with Lady Strangelove. Upon watching their performance, it is obvious that they all really love the music that they are making and are in awe of their influences, namely Soundgarden, Jane’s Addiction, LA Woman-era Doors, which is not necessarily a bad thing, but unfortunately by sticking a little too close to the template they come off as more tribute than original act.

By the time they finish the crowd has grown significantly larger, finally emanating some of the buzz and anticipation that a touring international band should generate. Although, casting a quizzical glance through the crowd revealed a diverse mix of stereotypes; some black-clad Goths standing side by side with hippies dressed in bell-bottoms headbands, and so perhaps some of the mounting anticipation could be attributed to the family of young girls standing with their parents on one side of the room. The loud cheers as Stonefield took the stage confirmed this theory, as, having been adopted by Triple J and acquiring positions on some national and international festival line-ups (they had from performed at Golden Plains earlier in the afternoon), the four young sisters, aged 12-20 years old, are suddenly the subject of buzz.

It is immediately apparent that this sudden attention is deserved, from the very first note Holly, Sarah, Amy and Hannah Finlay prove that they’ve got rock chops and great pop songs to match. They are most obviously influenced by Led Zeppelin era-rock, even playing an abridged version of Whole Lotta Love at one point, but they do this without sounding like imitators; each impressively adept at their selected instruments, far surpassing the silly faux-1970’s hippy costumes they wear onstage. Amy, the drummer and lead singer, has surprising depth and edge to her voice, and when the girls all take a verse each at one point, they display similarly gutsy and expressive voices beyond their years. It is only during the very awkward between-song banter that they reveal themselves to be as young as they actually are. With a slot secured at this year’s Glastonbury, Stonefield are definitely a group on the up and up.

After a short break, some increasingly distorted and indecipherable words were broadcast through the PA, announcing the arrival of the main act, Montreal’s own The Besnard Lakes. Although the band are a four-piece (a theme for the night), the audience focus could not help but fall upon what is clearly the nucleus of the group; husband and wife and co-lead singers, Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas (family being another shared component of night’s line-up). Smiling as they walked out to a warm reception, The Besnard Lakes launched immediately into Like the Ocean, Like the Innocent Pts. 1 and 2; the two-part opener from their latest release, The Besnard Lakes are the Roaring Night, immediately enveloping The Corner Hotel in a feeling that was at once sleepy and intense. And they did rock out, with Kevin Laing (Drums/Keyboard) and Richard White (Lead guitar) holding their own within the mix, beside Goreas’ simple but heavy-as-a-cannonball bass while Lasek switched continually between rhythm guitar and sythnesiser, also changing between an incredibly high Brian Wilson-style falsetto, and a pitch closer to his speaking voice.

In contrast to the two younger support bands who, it must be assumed, hold the music of the 1970s in reverence, Lasek looks as though he is actually still living in this time period, sporting his trademark large glasses and long hair, in spite of a very obvious bald spot. His band’s sound, however, is not tied to any particular time period, borrowing distorted garage guitars from post-punk bands of the early eighties and mixing it with the atmospheric drone of the Jesus and Mary Chain, the ethereal qualities of Blonde Redhead and a very heavy rhythm section. All of these influences meld together to create a sound that is unique to The Besnard Lakes.

The intricate and layered nature of the arrangements are intrinsic to this sound, and enable the band to mix together their distinct musical components; the heaviness, the repetition, the ethereal synthesizers, the Beach Boys harmonies, the droney guitars. These intricacies, however, also result in the band playing their songs seemingly note-for-note as they appear on the albums, which does somewhat restrict the spontaneity of a live performance. The audience did not seem to mind though, calling out to Lasek and Goreas between songs, to which the smiling couple, clearly enjoying themselves, were only too happy to respond.

Set highlights included Devastation from The Besnard Lakes Are the Dark Horse, and Light Up the Night and Albatross, both from the latest record. After returning for a three song encore and then immediately descending to the bar where they band smiled for photographs and signed records, The Besnard Lakes, on their first ever trip to Australia, clearly left their fans more than satisfied.

Originally published on FasterLouder on 16/03/2011: View Original Article.

Photographs by East13net: View Gallery.

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