Like many fledgling Discorder reviewers before me, I eagerly stepped through the Red Gate doors for Milk’s cassette release party at exactly the moment the poster had told me they would open: a whole hour and a half before the show. Though the wait was rather grueling, I was lucky enough to meet and speak with guitarist Al Smith of the aforementioned headliner before the show got underway. He introduced me to drummer Akanée Rose; as we chatted of jobs, school, the station (Al was Discorder’s RLA editor some five years ago), and of course music, I found myself becoming increasingly excited for the performance. We all try our best not to judge proverbial books by their proverbial covers, but it was difficult to deny the peculiar, welcoming energy that possessed the musicians around me.
The first band to open was Jons, a psychedelic pop outfit from Victoria. Their set began with a delightfully well-composed instrumental track that flowed well from snappy, syncopated guitar riffs to dreamy bridges and huge choruses that filled the room. The material that followed had a similar structure that oscillated between the earthy and the ethereal as the band, seemingly entranced by their own melodies, gazed into their fretboards, sticks, and microphones as the tempestuous crowd bobbed and swayed to each song.
Next up was Whitney K, a local outfit that seems to specialize very generally in punk-infused anthemic ballads, though their style was pleasantly ambiguous throughout the performance. The audience, seemingly enjoying the sonic diversity, gleefully attempted to groove along to upbeat distorted strums, wild-west inspired rhythms, and cacophonous bouts of feedback. Lead singer Konner Whitney vacantly looked up and to his left during much of the performance, as if trying to remember some tender memory from his past. He and the rest of his band seemed eccentric yet subdued on stage, which lent to their irresistibly enigmatic presence.
As Milk took to the stage, their involvement in the local scene was immediately apparent through the many affirmative and oddly personal shouts that erupted from the crowd, many of which singer Thomas Lougheed answered, directly or otherwise—he even sent out a birthday wish to “Jess” halfway through the performance. Though Lougheed’s banter between songs was quite common, he and the rest of the band became completely involved in their music when the time came, performing their laidback, wistful rock with a dedicated and commendable tunnel vision. Their music possessed a seductive honesty, tinged with the rawness of Lougheed’s voice and guitar playing as he occasionally burst into respective shouts and feedback-saturated solos.
Last to play was new wave artist Gal Gracen, whose music was unfortunately played to a far less substantial crowd due to the event’s late start. Gracen’s songs were a perfect finish to the evening, tinged with a classic new wave bounciness that stirred the crowd one last time before we all went home with smiles on our faces, happy to have spent our Friday night well.