Mike Donovan (formerly of Sic Alps, and with the band equipment still tape-labeled as such) is touring in support of his solo album, Wot, and made his way to Toronto’s Parts & Labour on the 28th of October.
Never having been to the venue before, I was immediately struck by it’s strangeness: there was an oldschool, softcore porno playing on a screen near the back and the walls were collaged in black and white photocopies of band and show photos.
The two openers were both garage rock bands; the sets were rough (with one band ending their set because they had run out of songs to play), making Parts & Labour feel like a basement practice space.
Close to midnight, Donovan, the drummer, and the rhythm guitarist began setting up. The lights were still off, as the band had requested to play in the dark. After getting through their first song, one guy yelled out suggestions on how to fix the band’s sound, insistent that the rhythm guitarist needed to up his volume.
The band continued to talk to the audience (there were only about 12 of us there) throughout the set, saying, “Love y’all” and, “does it sound alright?”
The band knew it didn’t, though, saying “We’re out of tune, but that doesn’t really matter” and “There’s a lot of reverb, and it’s confusing.” The drum beat sounded like it was coming from a rainforest because of all the hissing (there had to be a bad connection somewhere), there was an issue with how the snare was mic’ed, and often when Donovan leaned into the amp to get some feedback going, there was a delayed Dino Jr. grit. Still, Donovan was quick to fix minor sound problems, plugging in a pedal when it got kicked unplugged without pausing the song.
The addition of a neck-hanging harmonica helped to drown out the hissing and pull the audience back into the music. It was impossible not to notice Donovan’s insane coordination, as he madly strummed and showed off his lung capacity. The bell-covered tambourine was also a nice touch, adding another layer to their sound.
You could tell there was some tension within the band, though, as the rhythm guitarist was on a rant about his sound and Donovan cut him off with a “one, two, three, fo-hourr,” beginning the next song.
After the last song, the band quickly abandoned the stage. While packing up equipment and instruments, they started fighting (verbally) about the show’s bad sound, and the last thing I heard was, “I don’t feel bad about myself.”
Still, the twelve or so people there did seem to like the show; they collaborated with the band throughout, telling them which sounds to turn up and which to turn down. In an odd moment of kindness, one dude even said, “I want it to sound as good as possible,” and the girl next to him–looking like Marilyn Monroe–watched the whole show seemingly entranced, white hair bobbing.
You can find Donovan’s album here, along with some Sic Alps music. The album is full of cleverly titled songs, like “MP3 Farm,” “Baroque Ass,” and “Sexual Reassignment Surgery Blues,” and comes in a slew of formats.
Leah Edwards |