Surfer Blood + Katie Von Schleicher @ Bar Le Ritz – 14th August 2017

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surfer blood montreal

How are Surfer Blood not huge? Seriously, it’s baffling. Listening to any of their 4 studio albums, you realize that frontman and songwriter John Paul Pitts can write a 3-minute gem as catchy and infectious as anything Weezer or Franz Ferdinand have ever done, and yet, they play venues a fraction of the size of those heavyweights. It’s criminal, no doubt, but when a band so great plays a venue so small, a great night is guaranteed.

After Brooklyn’s Katie Von Schleicher sets the stage nicely with a set of mellow alternative reminiscent of Alvvays or Cat Power, Surfer Blood arrive on stage for their first headline show since 2011’s Co-Headline with And You Will Know Us By The Trail Of Dead (also fantastic, for the record), and dive right into Fast Jabroni from epic 2010 debut album Astro Coast. After Frozen, John proclaims “it’s good to be back, we’ve got a lot of great memories here!”, before the perfect riffs of Weird Shapes and perfect harmonies of Miranda follow, the latter provided courtesy of bassist Lindsey Mills and guitarist Mike McCleary. Seriously rock star moves are thrown out on Island, as John and Lindsey duel guitars on their knees. Instant Doppelgängers, another choice cut from hugely underrated new record Snowdonia, follows that, and is another 4 minutes of indie-pop perfection.

At this point, I sneak a peak at the set list, and notice that my personal favourite song, the carnival that is Take It Easy (from the glorious Astro Coast record) is missing, so I take it on myself to yell for it with all the gusto I can muster… which ends up pretty loud in the context of Bar Le Ritz. Lindsey looks at John with a smile, the kind of I-told-you-so one you get from your wife from time to time, before John responds with “yeah, maybe, soon.” Speaking to Lindsey later, she describes how she wanted it on the setlist, but John didn’t, hence the smug grin when it was yelled for anyway! After the wonderful Floating Vibes, my request is granted, as John drops his guitar and, after announcing “I swore I wouldn’t do this!”, climbs down into the crowd, mic in hand, and sings the entire song amongst us as the band plays on with smiles on their faces. Drummer Tyler Schwarz tells me afterwards that this song was probably the turning point of the set, as from hereon out, the crowd is moving and dancing much more than before.

surfer blood bar le ritz

John even thanked me afterwards for exerting the positive peer pressure!!! After he remarks that “you lot are dancey for a Monday!”, Six Flags in F or G follows, with guitar riffs taken straight out of a mid-20th century Western movie, before the bass-driven Taking Care Of Eddy keeps the place raucous. The stunning Demon Dance, from 2013’s Pythons record, sounds even more wonderful live than on record, if that was even possible, before the Weezer-esque Matter Of Time and breakthrough single Swim close out the set at just over an hour.

And what an hour too. Some bands you watch, you kind of grin and bear the new stuff until they play the old stuff you really came for; not so with Surfer Blood. Such is the consistency of their rock-solid discography, the new songs sit perfectly alongside the old ones and are every bit as enjoyable to hear, both on record and in the live setting. Never a dull moment in either of those respects either. A great night courtesy of a great band; tip of the cap to you, Surfer Blood!

surfer blood bar le ritz montreal

Fast Jabroni
Weird Shapes
Voyager Reprise
Instant Doppelgängers
Floating Vibes
Take It Easy
Six Flags in F or G
Taking Care of Eddy
Demon Dance
Matter of Time

Review & photos – Simon Williams

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