Operators + Little Scream @ Bar le Cha-Cha – February 24th 2016

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For the brave souls that made it this little dive bar in St-Therese, amid the freezing rain on this wet and slushy Wednesday night, a rewarding musical evening was in store. I arrived to a sparsely filled room with a few locals sitting at the bar and Little Scream doing a late sound check. The sheer amount of equipment in the room took up half the space, which is pretty small to begin with. It seems the weather will delay the show somewhat so I order my beverage for the evening. I order “Une grosse Ex”. As the waitress repeats the order, she giggles hoping not to insult a past girlfriend of mine.

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Laurel Sprengelmeyer took the stage, actually… there was no stage… so I guess she just took the floor with her new crew. She shared after the set that this was the first time she performed with the current lineup. Although she was born in Iowa, Laurel truly is a Montrealer, introducing herself in French for the crowd that starts to gather for this intimate performance. Tonight was going to be a first for many new songs that will soon see the light of day. Being able to glimpse into the beginning of these songs that will soon evolve is truly a gift. This might be a little venue in the middle of nowhere, but there is something to be said about people who exude a certain presence. Both Laurel and Dave (Operators) have this performer aura that draws your attention, yet both are very down to earth and easy to talk to.

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Little Scream played a 7 song set including “Love as a Weapon” that was described as Laurel’s wish to be Prince. Laurel is a visual artist, her painting is the cover of “The Golden Record” and her music really sounds like a multi-layered painting. Little Scream blends their sound like an artist attacking a canvas with eclectic colours and bursts of passion. I can see where the Arcade Fire camaraderie comes from. Little Scream will be doing a few more Canadian shows along with many US dates.

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Operators next took the floor. Their biggest issue is confusion. There is a band called The Operators and another called Operator, which are both quite different from the band that are before us tonight. Imagine if Peter Murphy was riding in a car with Joy Division on Prozac (a happy version of the band) and they hit the Back to Future DeLorean who stops by the 80s to pick up a keyboardist and the late 70s to pick up a punk guitarist and end up in St-Therese. That mixture is Operators who will play some classics as well as new songs. I’ve been a DJ for 25 years, so I don’t dance. I’m the guy behind the turntables and make others dance… but tonight… during the 12 song set of Operators, I can’t help but move to the beat.

You might recognise Dan Boeckner from Wolf Parade (another connection to Arcade Fire) and Handsome Furs. As Dan admitted during the set, we were the human guinea pigs for their new songs, Devojka chimed with a more graceful version that we were an amazing crowd that they were honoured to reveal these songs to. Devojka later graciously gave me her “lucky” setlist that she has used for the last 5 shows. She also introduced her popular (at least with the ladies) neighbour who joined us tonight.

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Operators have EP1 available, and the encore offered two of the 5 songs on the EP. My favorite song from the set was “True” from that same album. I definitely will attend any show they do when they return from their US tour, which Dan told me would end in Cuba!

Tonight, the video slot machines were empty as both bands commanded the attention of those in attendance and made us all feel like friends in this intimate setting. Listening to EP1 on my way home, the songs are enhanced by the performance I just witnessed. I have a strange sensation that the next time I see either of these bands, they will be in a much bigger venue, pleasing a larger audience… but we had tonight together. To all those that stayed home, intimidated by the weather, suck it up… we are Canadians… you should have been there. To those that shared this evening, I respect your dedication and the experience we shared together. My only wish is that a new album comes out soon so I can hear those songs again, forever etched onto vinyl or digital.

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Review & photos – Randal Wark

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