It was 8 p.m. in the dog days of the August summer heat. The sun hadn’t even set and yet I found myself descending into the Biltmore’s basement. It’s not the first time I’ve ever been a bar while the sun’s out, but it did remind me of a uniquely Vancouver phenomena: the early show.
As I scanned the room, there were a few other keeners in the venue who I noticed matched the stupid grin I was wearing in anticipation of Peter Sagar’s subtle return to Vancouver. Having played with Mac DeMarco in both Makeout Videotape and DeMarco’s touring band, Sagar decided to focus on his own project, Homeshake, last year when he realized life on the road wasn’t for him. One glance at Homeshake’s current tour dates, however, and anyone could be fooled by the laundry list of current North American stops supported by Montreal mainstays Sheer Agony.
Dada Plan frontman Malcolm Biddle started the night off by welcoming the sizeable crowd that had gathered in the thirty minutes since I had arrived.
“Good morning,” he quipped with a smirk before jumping into a succession of hypnotic pop jams that were definitively West Coast. Relying on swirling guitarwork lined with introspective lyrics like “What if I wrote a letter to my soul / Would it get there when I’m old?” Biddle lead the crowd through nearly a half hour of solo material that drew heavily on ‘60s psych-pop relics.
Last minute fill-ins for Sheer Agony — who it turned out had dropped off the bill in favour of not wanting to test the patience of those musician minutemen speckled along the 49th — Freak Heat Waves, began without warning. It’s been nearly half a decade since I’ve seen them live and as that first snare hit snapped into the groove of “A Civil Servant Awakening” it was evident their recent summer tour had been a confidence booster.
Now expanded to a quartet, bassist James Tweedy had been replaced while a second guitarist was added to the mix. The result was bold and, once again, hypnotic as the four filled the Biltmore with swirling, automaton-like rhythms. Although Freak Heat Waves’ brandrings of hypnosis was the mechanical antithesis of Biddle’s freewheeling grooves, watching as the sea of bodies in front of them ebbed and flowed, completely spellbound by the Victoria quartet’s unique brand of 21st century post-punk, was a nevertheless impressive sight.
As many prepared for the Cheshire Cat’s theme to continue through the night, Homeshake frontman Peter Sagar took the crowd by surprise when he prefaced their set: “Shhhh… we play quietly.” Attempting to subdue the ecstatic crowd’s rumbling was foolhardy at this point though.
Opening with the slinky “Cash Is Money,” Sagar pressed on. Persistent hushing came from both himself and members of the audience between songs as the sea of bodies continued to cheer him as they writhed in a trance, totally locked into Homeshake’s sticky sweet grooves and Sagar’s unassumingly charming shy-guy crooning. Processed through enough effects to give him a helium-infused delivery, the Montreal outfit sailed through a set comprised of the best of last year’s In The Shower like “Making A Fool Of You,” “She Can’t Leave Me Here Alone Tonight,” and “Slow” while pulling material from the forthcoming Midnight Snack, including the wobbling and funky “Heat.” Just past the half-hour marker, it became evident that the Ice Cream Social crowd was eager to usurp the dance floor so, after a series of shout-outs that included his parents and half-brother along with local rapper Young Braised, the stage quickly cleared as the band made way for the bodies that were determined not to be silenced.