While the Matador may look like an inconspicuous home from the front, circle around to the back entrance on any given weekend evening and it becomes evident that this is no ordinary house. As I walked past the inflatable pool in the backyard and down the stairs into the wood panelled basement, I saw a stage delineated by a string of purple Christmas lights and crushed beer cans already littering on the floor. Indeed, this is not your dad’s basement jam space.
Obscenery, a three piece from Victoria, kicked off the night with a cover of Weezer’s beloved “Undone — The Sweater Song” while people filed in, finding a place to sit among the collection of futons that lined the walls or navigating the appropriate distance to stand from the stage.
Next, Dante’s Paradise played a collection of songs familiar to many in the crowd, who provided carefully timed “woos.” When singer Justice Cote exclaimed “I don’t see enough hand clapping at shows and I think we should do it more,” the crowd kindly obliged and stayed surprisingly on beat. Half way through the set, people were downright dancing and I watched anxiously as a few heads nearly bumped the low ceiling.
By the time The Ministry of Human Resources took the stage, the crowd was ready for what was about to happen, while I was caught in the middle of now tightly packed room — some strategic crowd maneuvering got me close enough to see the band. Half decked out in country-inspired attire, they played high energy, Captain Beefheart-esque instrumentals interjected with the occasional lyric that sent the crowd into a frenzy. At times the floor bounced with such force it felt possible that the foundation might give way and drop us into the pits of a wonderfully jazzy hell. Part of the intrigue of the Matador is this sense of impending danger, drawing DIY moths to a flame to dance, dance, dance. Still, with the Matador being a house in a residential area there was a tight schedule to keep, and The Ministry of Human Resources utilized their final minute with a ripping so-called “free jazz.”
girlsnails brought the night to a close with a mellow and sweet math rock set that saw the lead guitarist switch guitars three times. Partway through I noticed an ominous baby doll head on the hi-hat that was somehow the perfect image to summarize the night. I emerged from the basement and stomped across the muddy backyard while people chatted excitedly amongst themselves before dissipating into the neighbourhood, and, as the clock approached midnight, the Matador returned to being just another house on the block.