Charly Bliss + Casper Skulls @ Bar Le Ritz – 23 November 2019

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Charly Bliss in Montreal

It’s funny how we discover bands sometimes.  Around this time last year, the Editor at Montreal Rocks asked us to provide our top 10 albums of 2018.  In response, one of the reviewers said “please remind me to do a full list that isn’t 10 instances of Charly Bliss’ Guppy” (take a bow, Mr Dan Corber).  Technically, that record was released in 2017, but what’s a year between friends?!  Anyway, I had heard the name before, but hadn’t investigated properly until this point, but when I did, WOW!  That debut was phenomenal.  Somehow, though, they one-upped it this year with their fantastic sophomore record Young Enough.  A colossal 30-minute set at this years ’77 Festival was a wonderful appetizer to their live experience, but I have been dying to see a full headline set for a while.  Tonight is the night; their debut headline show in Montreal.

Casper Skulls

Toronto’s Casper Skulls are first up, cut from a similar cloth to Snail Mail and Soccer Mommy, though the vocals of Melanie St-Pierre sounds a little more Eleanor Friedberger. The sound is fairly MOR, and draws heavily from their upcoming record scheduled for 2020, but ends with a couple of older songs that sound notably more fiery, in which Melanie sounds a lot more old-school PJ Harvey!  Ones to watch for 2020 for sure.

By their own admission, Charly Bliss are tired tonight.  Having been touring relentlessly for 9 months now, tonight marks their last ‘real’ show of the year (their words, not mine).  Frontwoman Eva Hendricks drinks from a giant water bottle to soothe her understandably fatigued voice between almost every song, and indeed implores the crowd at the start: “my voice is a little tired; feel free to sing along!”  Blown To Bits provides the same thunderous intro as their ‘77 set, and it’s immediately apparent that despite the fatigue, the band do not plan on dumbing down from their performance tonight.  Eva immediately bounds around the stage with guitarist Spencer Fox, and the band rarely holds back throughout the hour-long set.  Festival or club show, tired or not – nothing detracts from their live show.  Hard To Believe is every bit as energetic. 

Threat arrives next, from the Supermoon EP that dropped less than a month ago and is sung along to with so much gusto by the 100-strong crowd that you would think it was an oldie.  Eva drops off her mic entirely to let them sing it by themselves towards the end, and if you closed your eyes you would easily think you were in a much bigger venue with a much bigger crowd.  Clearly, these Charly Bliss fans are a devoted bunch!

Camera is a moderately more mellow proposition, with Spencer, drummer Sam, and bassist Dan providing note-perfect harmonies to Eva’s scratchy lead vocals, while Ruby sounds almost Weezer-esque in its flawless construction and catchy hooks.  Eva pays tribute to the crowd prior to Heaven: “this is our only love song, but it’s taken on new meaning; it’s between us and you!”  It starts off as a slow strum, but soon becomes seriously loud, especially so at the chorus, and builds to a grandiose climax before merging into the fast bass-driven intro of Under You, which sets everyone off dancing once more.

The epic Percolator, which opens the Guppy record, arrives next and sounds infinitely more punked-up in the live setting, whilst Gatorade comes across much grungier, but no less frantic.  Eva returns to the synth on stage left for a storming Bleach, before leading into the standout title track from the new record, setting a space-age vibe as she sings over reverb and feedback.  It already sounds like a bona fide anthem destined for much bigger stages, and Eva’s fragile wavering voice only makes it sound even more heartfelt and sincere.  Truly, a goosebump-inducing moment.

Capacity sounds almost as anthemic at this point too, with Eva unencumbered by any instruments at all, waving her arms to the synth sounds provided by Spencer’s ultra-distorted guitar, before hammering away at a single snare drum in the middle of the stage.  Chatroom closes out the set with another huge singalong and another healthy hit of goosebumps, as the rabid crowd bellows “I wanna see you stripped down naked!!!” at Eva’s invitation to tear the roof of the tiny Bar Le Ritz. 

A venue not even half-full.  An exhausted headliner.  Somehow, it came together to produce the gig of the year. 

Setlist

  • 1.    Blown To Bits
  • 2.    Hard To Believe
  • 3.    Threat
  • 4.    Glitter
  • 5.    Camera
  • 6.    Ruby
  • 7.    Heaven
  • 8.    Under You
  • 9.    Percolator
  • 10.  Gatorade
  • 11.  Bleach
  • 12.  Young Enough
  • 13.  Capacity
  • 14.  Chatroom

Review – Simon Williams
Photos – Pedro Riot

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