Published Oct 23, 2015Now in its fifth year, Toronto's Not Dead Yet has earned a reputation as a festival that supports and features the city's thriving DIY scene like no other. The credibility of the festival and the shows booked by Stuck In The City around the year are a huge draw for acts from around Canada, the U.S. and Europe, who not only flock to the festival to play it, but to chip in and help out, too.
That sense of camaraderie was evident as the first night (October 22) kicked off at the Silver Dollar. As local garage rockers Dilettantes took the stage, friends who have been coming to the festival for years hugged, smiled and reconnected in the dimly lit club. Dilettantes recall a time much older than the festival itself, when the Dollar's red curtains were a little less musty and the seats in the padded booths had a little less give. The band's vocalist was glammed up like a vision of Marc Bolan, in leopard-print leggings and glitter-bombed eyes, and took to stage acrobatics that'd put a 20-year-old Iggy Pop to shame. Their songs had a definite swagger to them, which worked best when their muscle didn't get lost in the sometimes-muddy sound.
Another local act, Triage, followed, and their brand of crossover thrash was a definite hit with the crowd, especially when they tore through a Breakdown cover. Even with a slightly modified line up, the taut intensity that they brought on their demo tape late last year was somehow refined. Thrash and '80s Japanese hardcore are the reference points Triage are working with, though their mix is unique and big on personality, as evidenced by set closer "Power Beat."
Bay Area's Face The Rail matched the previous two bands in energy, and at times, exceeded them in terms of catchiness. Their most recent release, Learning To Die, is a study in Californian pop punk, heavily melodic and tempered with desperate vocal performances and chorus-heavy guitars. Live, when the melodies connected, the immediacy and direct quality of the lyrics lent a sense of urgency and passion to their songs. At other times, the chorus guitar effect was overwhelmed and the occasional awkwardness of their songwriting and lyrics showed.
That they were followed by fellow Californians Sadicos didn't help Face The Rail's case. Even as simple a trio, Sadicos' songs swung; the black-clad group played their songs loosely but fiercely, with much credit due to their maniac of a drummer. The band's bassist and guitarist traded vocal duties, and they proved to be the most impressive band of the evening for being able to do so much with so little.
Texas' Impalers continued the intensity and then some. Featuring members of Power Trip and Glue (who are also on the bill this year), the band raged through their ugly, violent brand of d-beat with a kind of raucousness that summoned fists and beer cans in the air. Squalls of feedback connected each song like an umbilical cord, and dialled up the tension by offering a sense of pause, though not relief, from their bile.
Headliners Diät were a strong counterpoint to Impalers' maximalist sound, proving a band needn't be the loudest in the room to be the most effective. The crowd stood rapt, perhaps worn out by the previous set, but more likely entranced by the pulsing, meditative post punk that the group teased out.