It was the kind of birthday party that had an air of being all-too-aware of its irony; aware that time is a human construct and age, by extension, a weaponized form of numeric representation, wielded by institutional powers to both honour and shame our socially-constituted bodies.
“Fuck it,” the night-gatherers at Red Gate seemed to be saying. ”Any excuse to blow up some balloons, spread some love, and shred some guitar in celebration of life in this perennially whack world is one that ought to be seized.”
And seize they did.
The evening began with the members of Myyk setting up under a haze of neon pink lights, adorned from head-to-toe in black and silver, reverberating effortless femme-punk energy. They looked like the people I was totally intimidated by in high school — the type of kids who sketched in the margins of every homework assignment and were referred to as “moody” by their teachers at parent-teacher conferences.
The wall of noise that slammed into me from the bass and guitar somehow smacked me across the face and subdued me at the same time. It was almost too felicitous that the only lyrics I was able to distinguish from behind it were the words “society” and “anxiety.” Moments of hypnotic trumpet-solos produced the feeling of suddenly floating through an abyss, without stripping songs of their edge. I seriously needed their mixtape when I was 17.
Spesh Pep stepped up next and announced the name of their first song, “Sketchy Dude” — effectively setting the tone for the set-to-follow that was as fierce as it was groovy. The three band members jammed wildly, producing some powerfully satirical new wave psych rock. Halfway through the set, the barefoot drummer dedicated a song to expedia.ca, the guitarist wailed on the whammy bar like they were trying to break their high score on Guitar Hero, and members of the crowd went flying around the floor as if their limbs were freeing themselves from the confinement of their bodies.
Those closest to the stage plopped down on the floor and stared up, cross-legged, at the band to follow, Elf Pity. They swayed along to some fairly low-key post-punk alternative tunes, featuring some pretty crazy drumming, and traded head-scratches for slobbery kisses with Stanley, the partially-deaf cavalier King Charles spaniel (the real star of the night if I’m being totally honest).
“My name’s Jess. It’s my fucking birthday,” proclaimed the frontperson of the closing band, Dew, with the same intonation one might proclaim their excitement for a Monday. As soon as they began to sing, that same voice projected so beautifully I felt, for a heartbeat, blissfully paralyzed. They were joined on stage by the groovy guitarist of Spesh Pep, a dazzling drummer, and a spicy saxophonist — and I walked away dreaming wistfully about the day I’d have enough musically-gifted pals to gather on the eve of my own birthday.