Garage rock has been revived once more, even if it never really went away. Decades ago, when electric guitars began falling into the hands of kids with time and passion to spare, the markedly DIY style of rock ‘n’ roll began to permeate the music scene.
Only occasionally peeking its head out into the mainstream, the influence of decades of not giving a shit about what the masses thought of your sound shaped the way music was made and experienced. Whether it be steeping your music in aggression, humour, or ragged experimentation, garage rock served as an outlet for the musical whims of just about anyone who chose to be involved. And those who got involved at The Kremlin on January 16 exemplified what garage rock is really all about.
The warehouse-like venue, with white tile walls and a small stage surrounded by stacks of amplifiers and crates, seemed as though it could take a beating. A kitchenette in the corner; a cardboard and Sharpie sign declaring the price of a cassette tape at the merch table; a desk lamp duct taped to a microphone stand to illuminate the sound board.
As the floor filled with feet, and the ambience grew to a dull roar, the positive and self reliant atmosphere thickened. You can feel it. You can feel it.
From opening act The Secrets, with their blues tinged, psychedelic rock, rife with guitar solos and vocal effects, to the closers Sexy Decoy, whose punk-rock sound descended into delectable chaos with screams, feedback, and tortured instruments, the many faces of garage rock got their chance to sit in the spotlight.
With varying intensity, the five bands that took to the stage battered out their musical messages to an audience demanding to hear what they had to say.
Skinny Kids’ set, short and tight, gave the audience a taste of their psychedelic surf sound. Despite seeming eager to leave the stage, the crowd danced in their washes of guitar, bass, and drums.
Les Chaussettes’ garage pop sound — tinged black with both distortion and volume — charged the crowd into pseudo-moshing; their harmonies and shimmering guitar lines caused every stationary foot in the room to start bouncing along.
But the event was really all about The Pretty’s; it was their album release after all. They not only brought excess passion, aggression, and rock-and-roll attitude to the stage, they also brought their own evening wear. The proto-punk-pop four-piece, all clad in dresses, brought the crowd to a tumult with songs from their freshly released record Empty Heads, all packed with hooks catchy enough to convince anyone that they’ve heard them before.
To put it simply, both the band and the crowd went all in. Sweat and beer cans flew across the room, landing in the faces of grinning men and women getting a taste of the Vancouver’s musical underground, and loving every minute of it.