It could have been a disaster.
Swervedriver, one of the biggest headliners of this weekend’s MoSo festival, hinted that they almost didn’t make it to Saskatoon.
Bassist Mick Quinn – yes, the same Mick Quinn who played in Supergrass – tweeted out the ordeal from Toronto, where the group seemed to be trapped in airport limbo.
“Well done @AirCanada for leaving our guitars in London. Hope they make it for our headline at Moso,” he wrote.
It wasn’t just the shoegaze group’s guitars that were missing either. Swervedriver’s pedals, the very things that imbue the band with their legendary sound, were similarly seemingly absent. Total disaster in the making, because, after all, without pedals what is shoegaze anyway? Power pop? Alt-rock? Nothing rock?
And then it got worse.
“Now being told by @AirCanada that all flights to Saskatoon full today,” tweeted Quinn.
“Confused & guitarless!”
That disaster, obviously, did not happen.
Swervedriver took the stage on Friday, guitars slung, along with an arrangement of pedals cobbled together from personal collections, the festival promoters, and a few select pieces from local musicians.
And they nailed it, serving up a delay-strewn dish of new material and old favourites such as “Never Lose That Feeling.”
Good work everyone. You all killed it.
Here are our top ten moments of MoSo 2015:
Showcasing a number of songs off their latest album, Pacific Milk – their first album in over a decade, Limblifter sounded as razor sharp as ever. Playing to a small but rapt audience at Buds on a Thursday night, front man Ryan Dahle bedazzled with some seriously underrated fretwork wizardry, while the rest of the band similarly held it all down. Who knows when they’ll be back though, since the four-piece aren’t exactly known for their extensive touring – those in attendance caught that, and sang their hearts out to all those still-shiny tunes from the band’s stellar back catalogue.
“Are you ready to fuck?” bellowed Gaytheist singer Jason Rivera.
The Portland band then launched into a volley of noise rock that sounded like the rumbling hooves of the sludge metal manpocalypse. It was a glorious for everyone crammed inside the Broadway-area seniors’ centre. Dressed in a snappy ensemble of old man pants, a plaid shirt and suspenders, Rivera, along with the other members of Gaytheist, literally tore open the sky with guttural guitar salvos that blistered the ear and seemed to dare a higher power to come and make an appearance and do something about that amazing name of theirs.
It also ushered in a blistering set from Saskatoon’s Silent Era and the madness of the Cancer Bats, who went off in the venue like hair-whip punk metal rock bomb.
One of the most stark and intense sets of Friday night of the festival came courtesy of Montreal’s leanest punk rock retro-fitted duo. The Famines took off immediately after hitting the stage at Vangelis and proceeded to tear a strip of anyone in earshot. Front man Raymond Biesinger spit ‘n’ swaggered his way through a collection of finely-tuned cacophony, dipping into a set peppered with the band’s past singles along with several new-to-us tunes. Mondo maximum rock ‘n’ roll. Openers Haunted Souls were similarly in fine form, flying through the vast majority of their songs in the time it takes to order a tall can at the bar.
Paper Beat Scissors and Ritornello
Closing off the night at the Emmanuel Anglican Church was a contender for best set all weekend; Paper Beat Scissors (Tim Crabtree) backed by a cast of musicians hand-plucked from Saskatoon’s Ritornello Festival. With songs arranged by Crabtree, he was accompanied by an amazing chamber ensemble.
Opener Megan Nash similarly had the audience in awe as she played a flawless set that included her current tour companion, Dana Beeler on a few songs. Following Nash, Montreal’s Michael Feuerstack (formerly Snailhouse) put the church crowd in a slightly rockier mood.
A Seahags show is usually some of the most fun you can have, but ever since the stampy folk band’s lead singer lifted off to Toronto, the boots don’t stomp around quite so much anymore. The group’s Saturday show at the Elk’s Lodge was a fine return to form, with the entirety of the crowd dancing all night with bottles in their collective hands.
Seamlessly shifting from acoustic folk to electronic indie-pop, Montreal’s Rae Spoon even got the babies in attendance dancing. Spoon delivered an unexpectedly full sound complete with great comedic banter. Spoon shared that they frequently sing a song called “Queer Trans Prairie Tourism Co.” at sound-checks to “access the danger”. The transgender musician who’s the subject of the 2014 documentary “My Prairie Home” certainly found a welcoming one in Saskatoon.
Jeans Boots aka Jeanette Stewart backed by members of the Wizards? Yeah, that sounds like something that’s relevant to our interests.
The show also featured some excellent video visuals from Regina-dude Colby Richardson.
One of the best parts about seeing Shooting Guns during their Friday set was the appearance of a mysterious fez placed atop bassist Jay Loos’ forehead. That didn’t keep the group from grinding down into the flooring of Elk’s Lodge, blasting those in attendance with fierce, toothy noise. Even the stuffed elk’s head, firmly planted to the wall facing the impromptu stage, gave a nod of silent approval.
If you overheard “MoSo” in daily conversations around Saskatoon for a longer period of time this year, it was because the festival team sponsored a show at Amigos a week ahead of the official conference/festival kickoff. Local celebrity Economics started things out, playing songs off his recently released album The Wastes which features many other local music scene favourites. Calgary’s trio Braids played a stunning and imaginative set of songs culled from their album Deep Within The Iris to a full Thursday night crowd.