Real Live Action

White Lung

w/ Mormon Crosses, Flowers & Fire

Electric Owl; December 5, 2014

Jonathan Kew

The day has come. Yes, rue on you, White Lung, and all Vancouver buzz-bands, for returning to The City of No Fun. Prepare for your utmost devastation at the hands of a college radio magazine.

If the rise to indie fame must be accompanied by the snark of hometown contrarians, it’s a small price to pay. And notwithstanding my mixed feelings on Deep Fantasy, White Lung deserve their rising star. While possibly the least weird of their local contemporaries, the band’s effortlessly powerful presence and manic anthems make them vital. And as their show proved, people are paying attention.

As the authenticity arms race marches on, the Electric Owl found itself packed with YoPros and middle-aged white collars. It was kind of a Granville Street crowd: the environment where chauvinistic condescension from guys to their female friends—e.g., “Ooo, you went into the mosh pit? Look at youuu!”—was hard to construe as even slightly ironic.

Flowers & Fire came on first. Their music suggested a predilection for the dreary mood of goth rock with a prettier tone and a cleaner timbre, not unlike The Cure, or locals Mode Moderne. The music was distinguished by the full-bodied voice of the vocalist. The singer assumed languorous postures, as the guitarist kept his head down, conjuring the atmosphere with sharp, shreddy tangents and tangy flares of sustain.

Were Flowers their sole promise, then you could accuse the rhythm section of breaking character. The bassist operated in constant bounce, smiles periodically occupying his face and the drummer’s as well. Those two were right; it was a good time.



Next was my first time seeing Mormon Crosses; it was great. Lit with Kenneth Anger Magick Red, Mormon Crosses’s performance operated with a faux-mod posh authority and a heavy psychedelic fetish.

Bryce KPA’s busy drum work pedaled like a total inclination toward the crash. There was a disorienting disparity of tempo between percussion and guitar, with Jesse Taylor’s shuddering sense of rhythm. The two resolved as the drums became impossibly urgent, while the guitar’s pummeling moved from deliberate to feral. While these features received vocal credit from the increasingly engaged audience, the bass deserved praise as well.

Casey Preston’s onstage embodiment of stiff upper lip while subtly tunneling lines anchored the band in style and substance. If I had a minor complaint, it’s that the band’s potential for thuggish brutality and their more adventurous compositions remained somewhat separate. As a nice note, local fixture Nic Hughes, with dramatic flair on-point, joined the band on-stage for the final song. Good as it was, we all knew compulsory moshing must be saved for the headliner.

Which was decent, I guess.

Ok, if I do have a problem with White Lung’s live sound in the times I’ve seen them, it’s that Mish Way’s ability to snarl with melodic sustain and the manic tone of Kenneth William’s guitar melodies are muddied by low end in the mix. Perhaps it’s just my taste, but it is a shame, because the sharpness of those features is an idiosyncratic strength.

Nonetheless, the chops were there. The guitarwork remained dizzying in speed and agitation. Way retained her didactic star edge, with sharp rhetorical gestures that contrasted the vulnerabilities of her lyrics with her onstage might. Anne-Marie Vassiliou’s confident rhythm maintained. And newfound bassist, Hether Fortune, added more power to the band’s front-line presence, issuing furious vocal harmonies. Altogether the performance did a good job of impressing the band’s talent for melodic composition: yeah, I was humming on the way home.

The quality aside, White Lung stopped playing after about 30 minutes — no encore. The applause quickly gave way to indignation from entitled dudes who expect “Freebird” finales from punk bands, or something. And thus ended White Lung’s return to Vancouver: a large disturbance of boos rising above the brief din of applause. Like Yeezy says: “Soon as they like you, make ’em unlike you.”

That seems pretty punk to me.

White Lung was a good show tainted by outside features. But sometimes audiences change while bands stay the same. After the show, I got to see at least one person make a huge TGIF spectacle chucking his empty onto the street with deliberate aplomb like he’s Lonely Island or some shit: a powerful display of Privileged Male Anger that catapulted my experience towards yet unknown levels of PUNK TRUTH. Fuck it: not like he’s trashing his own neighborhood or anything.