If you’re someone that has kept their finger even remotely on the pulse of alternative music, you are as aware as I am that we are currently going through an era of reunions. Cult favourites have come out of hiding and shaken of whatever cobwebs they’ve collected in their years of inactivity to take on the proverbial road once again, maybe even write some new music in the process. While a certain level of romanticism has made most of these reunions successes (at least for the artists), I remain skeptical about this new trend. While the few good ones are near life affirming experiences, most fall somewhere between passable and almost laughably disappointing. So, when I heard Daughters would be reuniting, I wasn’t sure how to feel. One of the most innovative and dangerous bands in noise / grind / art rock / whatever-the-fuck-genre-it-is-Daughters-play reuniting after nearly a decade? For better or for worse, this I had to see.
I got there early. Opening act Loma Prieta is one of my favourite bands and I was excited to see them play some new songs live. Needless to say they did not disappoint. Their live show was as incendiary and moving as ever, flawlessly executing their unique brand of emotionally charged and dissonant post-hardcore with the same energy as their recorded material suggests. Much to my enjoyment, most of their set came from their 2015 masterwork, Self Portrait, sprinkling other gems from their now extensive discography throughout. A welcome surprise was in the inclusion of guest vocalist Josh Staples on couple of songs, who complimented the quartet’s otherwise abrasive vocals with more melodious flourishes.
Loma Prieta left the stage to grand applause, which was almost surprising considering the room’s passiveness towards the performance while it was happening. As some people withdrew into the back of the room, a strange mixture of long hairs, goths, and people in baggy hoodies started to amass at the front of the stage.
After setting up their literal tower of speakers behind them, The Body was ready to perform. They went right into it, blasting the audience with near deafening levels of feedback. The crowd welcomed the crushing sound, banging their heads and slamming their palms against the stage at the beat of the kick. Their performance was on point, and having never seen them live, I was impressed with the mastery they demonstrated over the challenging genre they crafted for themselves. My only point of critique would be that they could have sacrificed a bit of their loudness for a better mix. Long time collaborator, Chrissy Wolpert joined them for this particular stretch of dates and her performance was hardly audible amidst the chaos which was a shame. This was in part intentional, I’m sure, but having her a little higher in the mix would have made their set exceptional.
The Body took apart their mountain of equipment and the stage was left generally bare once again save for a pretty standard backline. Daughters casually took the stage, vocalist Alexis Marshall toting a particularly flattering two-piece suit. I was anxious — would this prove to be another bullshit reunion, a band half-assedly attempting to reclaim their former stardom? Daughters quickly dismissed my skepticism, wasting no time with pleasantries and going straight into fan-favourite “The Dead Singer.” Marshall climbed up onto the monitor and met his rabid fanbase at the threshold of the stage like a messiah addressing his congregation. He met the explosive energy of the crowd with his own brand of aggressive punk showmanship and it was obvious that there was no veneer to his antics. Though this show was taking place at the Cobalt, I felt instantly transported back to the beer soaked basements that Daughters had dominated for the better part of their career. Sure, there was a stage but Daughters pushed past that often indomitable barricade with relative ease, with the better part of the band consistently at brink only to be outdone by Marshall constantly dipping head first into the frenzied hands below.
Daughters tore through a dizzying set of songs ranging from their first album Canada Songs to their critically acclaimed self titled, laying waste to the audience at every opportunity. Between Marshall shoving his mic down his throat during the break in “Daughters Spelled Wrong” and watching guitarist Nicholas Andrew Sadler move his hands so fast it made you wonder if they would disappear leaving behind nothing but fiery skid marks, Daughters haven’t missed a single step. The band concluded the main component of their set with “The Unattractive, Portable Head,” with surprise guest vocals from a die-hard fan before returning to finish the night off with “Cheers Pricks” amidst a flurry of stage dives and hollering voices.
As Daughters took a breath after the first salvo of songs, Marshall confessed to the audience that the last time they played Vancouver, nearly ten years ago, was a disappointingly memorable experience having played to a near empty room. Who would have thought that ten years later they would be selling out the Cobalt and reasserting themselves as one of the most intense and destructive bands in noise rock? Somewhere in the middle of their set they played a new song, “Long Road, No Turns,” alluding to something larger than a string of reunion shows. Needless to say I am beyond excited, reunion skepticism be damned.