I arrived at the Red Gate just before ten to catch the opening acts for the night’s show. I walked into the darkened room where ten or so other people were clustered in groups on couches, while the DJ played ‘80s style remixes of top 40 songs interspersed with gunshots.
Hick took the stage around ten as more people wandered in. Their set opened with the soft dissonance of “Travellers” but transitioned to a heavier guitar and bass driven sound over the course of their twenty minutes on stage. Without distinct driving melodies, Hick’s music sounded to me like ambient punk rock — the guitar and bass thrashed to a tune I couldn’t quite discern. To end the final song, the lead vocalist shrieked what I heard as, “DIE, DIE, DIE,” before concluding with a graceful thank you to the audience.
Darto’s set was the night’s most cohesive. The Seattle-based group played an atmospheric mix of rock instrumentation and synth. Even when Darto alternated between their vocal leads, their set was stylistically consistent. Their ambient sound was reinforced by a series of dream-like images projected and distorted behind them. Of all the sets I heard that night, theirs moved me the most; when it ended, it was like a spell was broken. The audience dispersed to the couches, to smoke outside, and to wait for the next act.
Fountain’s set was characterized by its tandem vocals and off-kilter post-punk sound. Their up-tempo set was the most fun of the night, especially their performance of “Emerald Dripping Flat.” Robert Coslett and Evan Jeffery chanted together the song’s chorus: “Sugar, water, cream, water.” The audience was highly receptive to the dynamic set of tracks from their EP Fountain 2. The midnight energy in the room peaked as the audience danced to Fountain’s guitar-driven set.
By the time Tough Customer’s set began at one in the morning, the crowd had grown smaller. I realized that much of the audience was composed of members of the bands that had played and their friends. Tough Customer’s set was performed for those who knew the band intimately. Vocal duties were shared among with band’s four members, with vocalists often following different melodies simultaneously; the result was disharmony across the set. My favourite song in their set was the cowbell heavy “Farm of Tom,” even though the drummer’s repetition of “COW!” made me feel like I was on the outside of an inside joke. The set concluded after minutes. I left the discord of the music for the late night streets of the Downtown Eastside with the chant, “Cow, cow, cow” in my head. Through all of the noise, I felt like there was something I had missed.