On May 2nd, 2013, I attended Maxwell’s Music House in Waterloo to observe some of the new Indie music that Southern Ontario has to offer. Sexdwarf, Dan Howler, and Fast Romantics were playing.
The show was disappointing at first, what was supposed to be an 8:30 start was pushed back at least an hour, and we sat through what seemed to be an infinite sound check. It’s always slightly disenchanting to witness how much boring stuff goes into putting on a show, and by the time it actually started, I felt like I had already heard too much to be blown away with the actual sets. The night was also cursed with myriad instances of technical difficulties, which no one can fault the talent for.
Maxwell’s, an artsy- and industrial-looking bar, drew in a modest but engaged crowd, proving to be a decent little music nook in Waterloo. Honestly, it’s hard to imagine any other genre playing there. The kitschy deco and atmosphere worked synonymously with the indie music being played.
Dan Howler was the first act up, and he swooned the ladies (and even some lads) with his decadent vocals and old guitar. At first, it seemed as though he was trying to mimic the sound of an entire band with his layered tracks of vocals, drums and other sounds but he quickly pulled his act together when he started performing solo sans the extra tracks. His voice was smooth and rich, and sounded similar to John Mayer, Jack Johnson, and a male version of Colby Caillat all smushed together. His lyrics were littered with nostalgia and sentimentality, which is an easy way to get a crowd caught up in the sound. He also had a bluesy charm that took me until the second last song to pinpoint. My greatest negative about this performance, which could be widely disputed, is the cover of “Hit Me Baby, One More Time” by Britney Spears. In my opinion, many artists make the mistake of covering old 90s tracks for the sake of humour and fan excitement, but for me, it cheapens the show. Overall though, Dan Howler is making some pretty good music.
The next act was Fast Romantics, an Indie band from Calgary, based in Toronto. I wholeheartedly wish that I had missed sound check, just so I could experience the pleasant shock of “Funeral Song” with their actual set. I was blown away with the sound they produced, which they’ve admittedly stated is similar to that of Arcade Fire. There were also some Mumford and Sons sounding moments, but that seems to be the current direction of Indie. The members of Fast Romantics sound like they were made for each other, and their harmonic vocals tugged on my heartstrings a little. Vocalists Matthew Angus and Lauren Heron complimented each other brilliantly. From points of opposition to perfectly in sync, their voices just really work together. My only criticism is also a bitter-sweet praise. The band started every song with an abundance of energy, which at times dwindled towards the end, but this is a minor snag that will undoubtedly resolve itself with time. Fast Romantics were an exciting band to watch, from the broken bass string in the very first song, to the swapping of instruments between members mid-set, it was all very charming and romantic in the way that good local music should be. They are also set to release their new album in the fall, so keep a watch out for it.
Overall, I was very impressed with what the bands had to offer–even in a small Waterloo bar on a Thursday night, it felt like the acts were playing their little hearts out.