“Are you waiting for someone?” The man at the table near me wondered why I’d been sitting alone at the back of the Cobalt for an hour. After telling him I was doing a review of the night’s show, he introduced himself as Jean-Christophe Niquet, drummer for Sonic Avenues and, incidentally, the band I was there to catch. Shaking my hand graciously, he laughed, “Well, I hope it starts soon.”
I agreed. Although, it wouldn’t have been very punk to begin on time.
Indicating the evening was about to commence, a voice on stage mumbled that they would “kinda need a drink to play.”
Beer was distributed and the five-piece High Wasted dove in with no other warning, delivering a short set that was infectious and scrappy. Lead singer Graves growled abrasively into her mic with a big voice unexpected from such a little thing. Clad in a leopard print jumpsuit and with a bouffant and winged eyeliner, she was a striking combination, like Barbarella meets Joan Jett.
Smart-ass lyrics like, “All I want to do is get fucked up with you / ‘Cause baby, we’re so fucking cool” were spoken in place of banter. Then, with no nonsense, High Wasted left as wordlessly as they came.
It’s a good sign that a band will impress when the guitarist gets whoops from the crowd during soundcheck. At first riff, and never losing momentum, NEEDLES//PINS had the audience fist pumping and spastically head bobbing.
Passion reflected from the band’s execution — vocalist and guitarist Adam Ess, with a James Hetfield tone to his voice, played so ferociously he nearly ripped his instrument in half. Bassist Tony X, breaking up heavy lines with sips of beer, often raised his piece in vehemence, while drummer Macey Bee, the calm ying to Ess and X’s manic yang, stretched her shoulders before pummeling her skins on “I Heart Your Drugs.” The admittedly longest set they’d ever played closed with a cover of The Replacements’ “Bastards of Young” that extended into an annihilating shred.
Sonic Avenues toasted to their impending ruckus, forming a circle on stage with a round of shots. “Cheers, everyone. Let’s do it.”
In support of their latest release, Mistakes, the Montreal quartet performed a raging set that explored the length of their catalog and demonstrated their rising star as power-punk lords. Piercing feedback, solid harmonies, and frantic drums on “Better Days to Come” warmed the audience for the finger-blistering riffs of “Automatic” that would establish the evening’s high-velocity pace. The dexterity of lead singer and guitarist Max Desharnais never faltered, shining on “Hiding From You,” from the band’s 2009 debut. Similarly masterful was guitarist Sebastian Godin, who held his axe out into the crowd for a spanking.
Contagious hooks were the icing on Sonic Avenues’ cake, all accented by JC Niquet’s warp-speed drumming and bassist Chance Hutchison’s meaty licks. “In Your Head,” a gritty Mistakes cut, prompted tourmates NEEDLES//PINS to hurl themselves toward the stage and chant the rowdy chorus, beer cans raised in the air. Crowd surfing ensued during closer “Girls With Pearls,” sending patrons home sweaty and smiling on feel-good riffs, and capping off a night that was absolutely worth the wait.