Mystery Machine’s return to the stage after seven long years was certainly an occasion to behold. If only the show had started earlier. Who knows what the reasons were for the delay, but when the first of four bands doesn’t begin their set until 10:30 p.m., one should expect audience members to get a little antsy.
The show finally began with the Australian-based three piece War Baby who sufficiently pummeled the crowd with a terse and punchy ten song set. Kirby Fischer is a monster on the kit, his technique the perfect combination of stunning precision and bone-crunching power. Jon Redditt bore a nasty snarl for most of the set, spitting out words over the churning racket with overflowing vitriol. Their set closer “Belly Ache” was frightening to behold as Redditt’s slithering guitar work combined with a whiplash inducing stop/start rhythm sounded like southern rock on acid.
The “Hairiest Band of the Night” award would have gone to the second act If We Are Machines. Never has this reviewer seen that many beards in one band, ZZ Top be damned. If only their music was as memorable as their facial hair. If We Are Machines’ brand of prog rock was well performed but rarely catchy. Their almost deliberately lethargic delivery grew tiresome and only rarely did the tempo change from song to song. Moodiness and spaciness can be great, but when overused they can become sleep inducing. In short, If We Are Machines sounded like a killer band at 45 per cent of the necessary energy.
The third and final band up before Mystery Machine was Seven Nines and Tens. This prog metal three piece was certainly talkative for an instrumental band. Guitarist David Cotton took time to give shout outs to both If We Are Machines and War Baby, the latter of which “played their first show at our third show”. The group’s shifting dynamic range coupled with their sheer titanic aggression gave the audience the opportunity to drink in the elemental power of their shamelessly over-the-top riffage. Their set was in one sense a sombre affair as Cotton informed the audience that this would be their last show with drummer Riley Roukema. What a way to bow out, as their final song “Crystalline Xanthine Alkaloid” boasted an insanely heavy metal riff.
While the opening bands all played on the main hall floor, Mystery Machine took their place on the stage proper allowing more room for the crowd to go hog wild. These recently reunited Vancouver scene veterans pounded through their set, set back only once by a minor amplification issue to which singer/guitarist Luke Rogalsky said with a smile, “It’s been seven years, forgive us.” Mystery Machine was joined halfway through their set by two thirds of Seven Nines and Tens, crystallizing the general spirit of camaraderie which epitomized the evening. Even in their seven year absence, Mystery Machine hasn’t lost a beat.