On Thursday night at Logan’s Pub we were all eagerly awaiting the album release show for the LP ‘Bonnie’s State of Mind’ by Freak Heat Waves. Well, for better or worse (or maybe neither one) things don’t always turn out the way you expect, and it seems no one told the band that this was an LP release performance. At least, they didn’t act as if they knew. They didn’t mention the album once – in fact, they didn’t say a word, period. And, even though they kept us waiting until well after midnight, their set was about 15 minutes long. 20 minutes, tops. I wasn’t annoyed or disappointed particularly, just puzzled. A guy beside me must have noticed my look of bemusement, because he shrugged and said, “They always do that.”
OK, let’s back up a bit. The night’s roster was actually quite inspired, showcasing as it did three distinct takes on that sprawling genre called post-punk. First up was Painted Fruits who were, surprisingly (if only to me), the most glam-pop informed act of the evening, and they played it to the hilt with wigs and black lipstick. The lead singer even wore a gender-defying mini-skirt. Throughout the spirited set they continually messed with the conflict between Beatlesque melodies and discordant guitar work. Their performance was also the night’s most earnest, perhaps because they simply had more to prove.
Next up was a local favourite, Fountain. Live and in person these four are nowhere near as noisy and abrasively in-your-face as their recorded material might suggest. Lead singer Evan Jeffrey regularly went into a dervish-like frenzy on his guitar, but overall the proceedings were orderly, as the band thumped out mathematically precise rhythms and staccato beats.
Most unassuming of all (in appearance, anyway) were the reluctant headliners, who quietly walked up to pick up their instruments dressed in plain Walmart tees and jeans. There were none of the synths and electronics that are heard on the latest LP. No, this was the stripped-down, basic guitar/bass/drum trio with absolutely no embellishments. So, with no fanfare and no engagement with the audience, what’s left? The music, naturally, and it spoke volumes. The rhythms set forth by Thomas Di Ninno (drums) and James Twiddy (bass) were worlds away from the funk and sci-fi disco from ‘Bonnie’s State of Mind’ – more math rock than anything else – but they were mesmerizing nevertheless. Then there was the lanky figure of Steven Lind that loomed over the crowd (I mean, literally – the guy is tall) playing his beat-up, chipped guitar that is held together with duct tape. With his emotionless visage and deep monotone of a booming voice, he cut an impressive, ominous figure. It is tempting to say that it was like Joy Division meets Bauhaus, but there was nothing nostalgic about it. This was the disturbing sound of the future, not a flash from the past.
So, despite being shamefully short, Freak Heat Waves’ set was a resounding success. You can pick up and listen to their excellent (and I mean, excellent) records anytime, but seeing and hearing them live really something else – something I am truly glad I witnessed.