A Memory We Won’t Soon Forget
Thursday night in Little Burgundy, the local Montreal snow clearing operations were in full effect. Small neon orange signs marking off one side of Notre-Dame Street for clearing, or for the case of some unlucky souls, car-towing. If you were distracted tonight though, no one could blame you. Those 90s greats of Canadian grunge were back in town, for not only one, but two back-to-back shows at the Corona Theatre.
Taking along for the ride Toronto band Stuck on Planet Earth, Moist has returned in force to Montreal. The band got their start like many epic acts in Canada; the four core members connected in Kingston, Ontario – that eternal cradle of Canadian rock. Though officially having ‘formed’ together as a band in Vancouver, BC, many of the group originally met at Queen’s University. Now crossing the country for the 25th anniversary of their first studio album, Silver, you might however mistakenly get the impression Moist was a local Montreal act. Both local shows are sold out. As the snow fluttered down through the cold air, the line waiting slowly stretched around the block. A few of the hardcore fans had camped out in deck chairs and many, many warm blankets.
The warmth inside more than made up for the cold without. Both from the disarming charm of frontman David Usher, as well as the faithful fans hanging on his every word, it made for an atmosphere that was more of a warm reunion than a frenzied performance. I felt more like a member of a friendly post-grunge family than a pawn in a moshpit that night inside the Corona.
From my personal recollection of their MuchMusic heyday, I clearly recall Moist had a far more tortured presentation than your average grunge band. The twisted visual menageries of ‘Silver,’ ‘Resurrection,’ ‘Tangerine,’ and ‘Leave it Alone’ left a solid impression in my somewhat naive and innocent teenage mind. Aside from those typical 90s visuals of grunge cliche – be it insects, dishevelled make-up or fish-eye lenses… the real power was the band’s presentation of a kind of eternally unresolved emotional turmoil. When Usher wailed out lines like “Morphine baby’s final breath Smothered to my breast”, “lost lover” and the ‘absolution that we never knew’ it carried a punch few other music acts could replicate. Combined with a jarring performance captured on camera, it felt all the more strange then, to now be seeing the same faces take the stage, now packaged as well-adjusted mature adults, 25 years later.
That heavy emotional punch connected with something inside each of those fans and brought them all back two decades after the fact. David Usher, Mark Makoway, Jeff Pearce, and Kevin Young can carry a crowd, but the less-reported truth is that Moist fans also carry them. With each lyric he belted out, a legion of their faithful followed their frontman on every single syllable. The communal Moist singalong filled the theatre – it was a bit surreal – literally, everyone knew the words.
As the voice of the crowd rattled the old wooden walls with each song in the set, the experience was a bit of a shared time machine. While the fans in the crowd no doubt had a few more grey hairs than when they heard the first release of Silver, the energy that night made me feel as though we might as well be back there again. I could not honestly say the same about similar Canadian acts of the 90s era
Review – David Loach
Photos – Kieron Yates