Daughters + Big Brave @ Théâtre Fairmount – March 11th 2019

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Daughters at Theatre Fairmount in Montreal

The long-running Providence, Rhode Island noise rock band Daughters played a sold-out set at Théâtre Fairmount this past Monday. The band’s performance attempted to walk an uncomfortable line between their grindcore-influenced past, and the barely under-control noise rock of their most recent material. While not entirely successful, the evening did yield a handful of moments of genuine heavy music ecstasy.

Montreal drone/doom mainstays Big Brave opened the evening. They played a set filled with new compositions from their upcoming fourth LP “A Gaze Among Them,” set to be released on May 10th. Elevated by a fantastic performance from new drummer/percussionist Tasy Hudson, the band was in fine form. 

Daughters band at Theatre Fairmount in Montreal

My first encounter with Daughters happened over a decade ago when the band I was playing in at the time opened for them in Ottawa while they were supporting their 2006 album Hell Songs. While I was certainly no stranger to aggressive music, there was something about Daughters that was particularly abrasive and off-putting. Their demeanour and stage presence, equal parts menace and standoffishness, not to mention the spastic, atonal squall of their songs, had kept me at arm’s length.

Daughters at Theatre Fairmount in Montreal, Canada

Fast forward 13 years, and I found myself surprisingly enraptured by the bands’ latest record, 2018’s You Won’t Get What You Want. On their first album in eight years, Daughters sounded revitalized, imbued with a clear purpose. The menace and old-testament fury are still there, but it is now manifest in finely chiselled monoliths of song. Slow, mantra-like dirges that benefit hugely from the power of repetition over protracted song lengths. 

With a setlist stretching back to the aforementioned Hell Songs, Daughters sometimes struggled to reconcile the chaotic punk intensity of their earlier songs with this new sound. Specifically, the new songs sounded muddy and blunt in a live setting, like they were trying to match the intensity of the older compositions, only to end up losing what makes the new record so special.

The crystalline, deliberate arrangements present on You Won’t Get What You Want, were rendered as an incoherent swirl. Dual guitars jockeyed for space against digital samples, triggered percussion, impressively dirty bass tones (courtesy of Chris Slorach from Toronto noisemakers METZ) and Jon Syverson’s totemic drums. And while the messy wall of noise seemed to be much appreciated by those in the feral mosh pit that formed song after song, I couldn’t help but mourn this loss of subtlety. 

That said, there were a few moments that transcended these shortcomings. In particular, the band’s performance of “Satan In The Wait” found the perfect balance between live energy and studio restraint. Anchored primarily by Slorach’s massive seasick bass lurch, Syverson’s tom-heavy beat, and an eerie air-raid siren sample, the song took its time building up to an ecstatic climax. With Alexis Marshall repeatedly howling “THIS WORLD IS OPENING UP!,” as the band’s noise congealed into an apocalyptic din, it actually felt like the ground of Théâtre Fairmount was splitting beneath us. 

Marshall’s stage presence throughout the evening was also a highlight. Adopting the aura of a deranged southern preacher delivering a roiling sermon to his throng of devotees (a perfect match for his Nick Cave meets David yow vocals,) the singer frequently stepped out into the crowd to grab concertgoers and yell, spittle and all, into their faces. At other times he deep throated the microphone, spun it around like a lasso, and spiked it to ground with a loud snap going through the PA. 

The band ended on a high note, performing “Ocean Song” from their latest record. “To know, to see for himself, if there is an ocean beyond the waves,” Marshall sings before ceding the song’s final minutes to his bandmates. Torrents of drum rolls echo over a steady bass pulse and are then joined by buzzsaw guitars and atonal samples, riding a two-note drone into the abyss. The dynamics were perfect, building through repetition and layering instead of charging out the gate with blunt force. If only more of the set had focused on these strengths, the night might’ve been truly memorable.

Review – Jean-Michel Lacombe
Photos – Steve Gerrard

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