POXY + Priestess + Paradise @ Main Hall

By Angelica - BVST - 03/09/2005

Well, aren't we the darlings of the rock'n'roll scene? Personally, I'm sick to death of hearing Montréal described as the Next Big Thing, especially when I wouldn't be caught dead attending shows by 95% of the bands used to bolster this theory. Since I don't see industry lapdogs with ink-stained fingers attending any of the Montréal rock shows I go to, I feel safe in the assumption that they're the ones getting it wrong. Except for this time. Maybe. The art stars were out in full force, surprising for this kind of a rock'n'roll show. Of course, it was a showcase, a Montréal showcase, and masturbatory self-congratulation amid Montréal music lovers is very much en vogue these days, in case you haven't noticed. Whatever. I tuned out the fancy haircuts and carefully designed looks of cool detachment and focused on the job at hand: rocking out.

First up, Paradise. This foursome makes macho, muscular rock, all churning bass lines and flashy riffs. The Judas Priest comparisons are easy, but lest the 'bangers get too comfortable, the band subverts their own heaviness with an onstage attire seemingly culled from a Liberace estate sale, with each band member in a matching sparkly white suit. Jet Phil's guitar work shines and not only because his flying V is encrusted with rhinestones, for while the look is hotel lounge band, the music is pure rock, filtered and distilled to its essentials. Paradise love kitsch; their latest album Hotel is a tribute to tacky roadside reststops everywhere, with songs like "Super 8" and "Stardust". The lyrics, like the riffs, are over the top, but what the band lacks in complexity, they certainly make up for in skill and enthusiasm, most of which was lost on the crowd. This was, after all, a bitterly cold Wednesday night, and even though my ass was shakin' in spite of me, I can understand the audience's reluctance to give themselves over body and soul.

The crowd seemed to liven up a bit when Priestess hit the stage, mostly because of the growing buzz surrounding this "new" four-piece. Priestess aren't new at all, of course. Once known as The Dropouts, a significant departure in musical direction prompted the moniker change. Now they're signed to Indica Records (GrimSkunk, Absolu, Psychotic 4), being produced by Gus Van Go (Me Mom & Morgentaler) and pretty much set to take over the Montreal rock scene, one audience at a time.

"Hey, we're Priestess and we're gonna fuck you" announced singer Mikey, but few in the crowd had any idea how earnestly he meant it. What followed was forty minutes of earth-shattering, potentially life-changing, shit-hot rock'n'roll.

Priestess have achieved the perfect synthesis of handclapping, sing-along catchiness and no-bullshit headbanging heaviness, that same dangerous dynamic that has made C'mon such an obsession for me. Searing guitars, pummelling bass and drums and soaring vocals meld seamlessly, busting genres and breaking heads in the name of rock'n'roll. If this night was any indication, their debut release is going to be a varied ride. Hammering punk rock, foot-stompin' boogie rock and even a white man's blues number, all moaning guitars and pleading vocals, charmed their way into the hearts (and pants) of the crowd. Shit, there was even a five-minute drum solo! And while it's clear that these boys love their rock and are well-versed in it, every guitar lick, every drum beat sounds fresh, new and dirty as hell.

Of all three bands showcased that night, Priestess received the least media attention; no big cameras were jostling to make quick cutaways on their solos. Of course, that's the nature of the beast; often, the one with the most to offer goes relatively unnoticed. But make no mistake: this is real Montréal rock'n'roll, the kind you WON'T find at your local newsstand. By the way, your next chance to catch Priestess is at the end of April, when they join the mighty Motörhead for a series of cross-Canada dates. It's bound to be one hell of a show.

I wanted to leave immediately once Priestess left the stage; I was sated, satisfied, and I knew that it could only go downhill from there. I've seen Poxy many, many times and despite my best efforts, they just can't move me, and I'm just left pining for the halcyon days of my youth when Poxy's previous incarnation, Caféïne, opened my eyes to the power of local music. Despite my better judgement, however, I was compelled to stay. Like spotting a high school crush on the street, I had to take another look to see if anything had changed. I was too curious, too hopeful that maybe THIS time I'd fall in love all over again.

I didn't. Despite yet another lineup change and despite a new sound (a heaping helping of Depeche Mode with just pinch of electroclash), Poxy left me cold once again. The sleaze, the sexiness that made Caféïne so compelling is still absent, replaced by cookie-cutter choruses and a skin-crawling synth. I'm sick of writing bad things about this band. Next time, I promise, I'll leave right away.

Despite the inevitable disappointment, overall, this was a good night. I wish there had been more dancing, more reckless rock'n'roll abandon, but the night was just cold and hostile enough (both outside and in) to make really losing yourself impossible. That would make me sad, if not for the fact that I know I'll have plenty of other, low-profile, chances to rock out to some of the best this city has to offer.

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