Angus Andrew was a bundle of nerves as he ambled on stage at Venue to announce that Liars would be playing sans guitarist Aaron Hemphill, who had injured his hand the day before. He had thought of cancelling the gig—”but fuck it,” he exclaimed, “this is Canada!” Thus, Andrew, drummer Julian Gross and two members of Fol Chen soldiered through a loud and furious set. They didn’t miss a note.
The band’s previous Vancouver engagement opening for Radiohead two years back saw them straying towards the less accessible side of their catalogue (while poking fun at the chagrined T-Bird Stadium crowd), but here they stuck more to punkish guitar scorchers. “Scarecrows on a Killer Slant” pounded like an angry Cro-Magnon, and “Scissor” repeatedly bursted out of quietude with killer chords and crashing cymbals. However, their performance couldn’t help but feel a bit blunt at times: their traditional guitar/bass/drums setup, while supplying ample force to the big choruses of songs like “Clear Island,” sadly left little room for the finer experimental passages from their recorded work. Still, they were a joy to watch, right up until an encore of “Freak Out” that saw Andrew go positively batty.
Fol Chen were a nice genre-hopping complement to the main attraction. They drew in elements from Hot Chip’s playful beats, St. Vincent’s guitar stabs, and even Trench-era Liars’ jilted melodies, overlaid with smooth male/female vocals. The real heart of the band resided in the drummer, a madman whose feats of rhythmic ingenuity showed distinct worship of Don Caballero and similar gods of math rock. Conversations in the audience overpowered some softer sections, but after enough solid tunes (and after people stopped to notice their coordinated neon orange outfits) it was Fol Chen who won out in the end.