Even though faint rumblings of the band’s reunion had been creeping down the grapevine from Hamilton, never did I think I would be fortunate enough to see Simply Saucer LIVE in concert. So many proto-punk heroes and trailblazers from the golden age of wild and weird rock ‘n roll are either six feet under, or scattered ashes. Lou Reed is dead. Jimi Hendrix is dead. The Asheton brothers are dead. Rob Tyner, Fred ‘Sonic’ smith, and Michael Davis—all dead. But Edgar Breau and Simply Saucer are very much alive, and after their performance at Le Ritz PDB back in February, I can personally attest to this fact.
Soon after a pleasant Q&A with Edgar and biographer/drummer Jesse Locke hosted by CKUT’s Joni Sadler, No Negative took the stage to deliver their hard-edged space punk. Harsh and loud but retaining a hypnotic groove, their set slowly spiraled into extreme noise and dissonance by the last few numbers. Guitarist/vocalist Matt sternly surveyed the room, like a severe knight overlooking a desolate battlefield, wielding a well-worn ax and mounted on a steed of blistering distortion. The sound system served them well at the Ritz, being the first time I could clearly perceive their vocal howl over the abrasive cacophony of the powerful riffs.
Next up was the infamous Red Mass. Roy ‘Choyce’ Vucino began with lyrical invocations that seemed to have the intent of starting a boisterous satanic ritual. With echoing vocals and mysterious proclamations, the strange music began as electronic drum beats took precedence over the live kit, and a puzzling style emerged. At times the largely spoken and shouted vocal delivery resembled an aggressive hip-hop characteristic, and walls of electronic noise periodically washed over the danceable, repetitive rhythms.
And then—the main event. Simply Saucer triumphantly took the stage and wasted no time launching into a sonic salvo that drew broadly from Breau’s oeuvre, seemingly divided into three phases. The first portion was dedicated to material that my eager ears were less familiar with, drawing much from the 2016 release of unearthed rarities, Saucerland. To blast-off however, the room was struck with an instrumental intro, after which we were poised for a scorching, soulful rendition of “Low Profile.” This first portion of the set ultimately felt like a dose of pure rock’ n roll in a way that I didn’t expect for some reason. In my mind, I have always placed Simply Saucer in a realm of rather extreme eccentricity, if not just for the force of otherworldly creativity behind them, perhaps simply because of the time and place from which these vagabonds erupted. But though Hamilton in the 70s may have been relatively isolated from like-minded freaks; these tunes did not occur in a vacuum, instead drawing from the best and boldest sounds available. All this not to say that there was any sort of derivative quality in the songs performed during this first portion of the set, but that with their fusion of heritage and unicity, they situated themselves among the most iconic of the rock ‘n roll pantheon—the eternal shit. Numbers like “You’re the One Girl,” “Almost Ready Betty,” and of course the brilliant “Bullet Proof Nothing” shimmered like classic rock hits that would-have-been, in a fair world. One song which I did not recognize was reminiscent of Highway 61 Revisited-era Bob Dylan, genuinely channelling the lyrical fluency and reverent mutation of tradition, while steering clear of cliché.
Phase 2 of the set eased away from the rock aesthetic as Edgar picked up the acoustic guitar to partition the tumultuous sonic sea to either side. The aching, reflective sentiments of “Loretta in the Rain” wound their way through my brain, but before the crowd could get too comfortable in this contemplative state, phase 3 arrived like crackling lightning. “Mole Machine” signaled the coming of the frantic, sci-fi steeped onslaught that the group is most notorious for; that legendary post-psych proto-punk which is chronicled on the hallowed Cyborgs Revisited LP. The Saucer only continued to gain momentum, with intensity and velocity steadily increasing as they pierced the limits of the stratosphere. Edgar displayed his talent as a commanding and charismatic frontman throughout, retaining both raw power and playfulness. His potent vocals were in top form as were his raging, unfettered guitar solos. His compelling presence was undeniable, laying down his instrument to “Dance the Mutation” as the cyborgs rushed in. Saucer veteran Kevin Christoff stood close behind him, effortlessly summoning deep groovy bass lines, distorting time and space with dextrous fluidity. To stage right, Colina Phillips was a joy to watch, providing rich vocals, tantalizing synth, and percussive embellishments that injected energy and excitement into the performance with each thrust of the tambourine. Mike Trebilcock graced the stage with guitar moves and the skillful manipulation of “Skully” the Theremin, not far from Ed Roth, who, obscured by the glint of his glasses, headlamp, and weathered ballcap, manned a slab of keys and electronics from the back left-corner like a stoic psychedelic surgeon. Jesse Locke, biographer and skinsman extraordinaire, rooted the cosmic outburst in beats that balanced fury with exactitude.
The set concluded with an even more frenzied, riotous version of “Illegal Bodies,” than what is immortalized on the Cyborgs LP, with Edgar swaying wildly as he raced around the fretboard, mop of hair hovering over his face. He introduced the ultimate rocker by stating it was “just variations on the chord of E,” and this demystifying honesty, this unpretentiousness is exactly what gave the pandemonium a joyful and infectious aura. In the context of the early 70’s, such a display would have been utterly shocking—raw, fantastical, and deranged—but now that they have found a keen audience, the simple excellence of the songs and virile alchemy of the band is what shines through the blaring din of the Saucer. Their music was performed with a palpable love, and I left the Ritz with a certain charged inspiration, a subtle yet distinctly elevating state that slowly manifested over the course of the following days. Even in the salty slop of the Montreal winter, amongst the marching metalloids, in the dreariness of the downtown core, “what a fantastic movie I’m in.”