SLAX x SW : Direct to Damnably

When I arrived on the scene, the stench of vomit was already emanating from the alleyways.

The chaotic international zoo that is SXSW swirled around, but I was undeterred in my mission to be among the first attendees of the Damnably Records showcase, where Construction & Destruction – all the way from Port Greville, NS – were set to take the stage. Even in the Texan climate, the duo resolutely embodied the dynamic breadth of a maritime morning; calm, warm, and contemplative at times but volatile at heart, capable of shifting into unsettled territory and ramping up to a raging tempest at a moment’s notice.

Later in the evening, David Boring from Hong Kong presided over a highly moody post-punk ritual. Deep chunky bass grooves pushed forward the onslaught of churning guitar noise and slicing counterrhythms, sending the dust flying from the rafters of Valhalla. The commanding presence of vocalist Janice Lau is what really sold the act; the unyielding face to the morbid angst which the band excavates.

Then the Drinking Boys and Girls Choir; a trio who appeared as if straight out of a high-school for skate-punk shreddery. Essentially NOFX filtered through Korean cultural hybridity and with a strong female presence, their endearing melodic mantras and relentless top tempo rhythms struck the ideal balance between proficiency and reckless abandon. Though the set seemed a little long by punkrock standards the crowd was sold, ultimately devolving into joyous mosh by the last few tracks.

While the audience had been steadily growing throughout the night in anticipation, I don’t think anyone was truly prepared for the incredible eruption that was Otoboke Beaver. After bearing witness to this set, I have no reservations in saying these absurdly talented gals comprise one of the best punk bands kickin’ around the planet today. Their noisy aural assault is artsy and challenging but harnesses a direct punch-in-the-face garage sensibility; far brainier than yer average punk band but oh-so fun and physical. With wild tempos, spasmodic rhythm changes, and off the wall vocal hooks, their music hits the ear as chaotic spontaneity, but their cacophonous performance is tight as a tourniquet; a perfectly executed explosion, in as much as total destruction to your ears and mind can be perfect. To further accentuate the electricity in the air, most songs were briefly interspersed with screams of “WE ARE OTOBOKE BEAVER” and/or “F*CK YOU!!!!”. It was thrilling to see these lovely and outrageously badass Japanese feminists flip off and goad the crowd of majority males moshing uncontrollably, and of course these provocations were eaten up with glee. As if the Beaver’s manic display wasn’t already unhinged enough, the climax came when the lights were abruptly shut off mid-song and guitarist Yoyoyoshie appeared atop the speaker column as onlookers switched on their flashlight apps to pierce the darkness. She tantalizingly hiked up her dress to tease the audience before leaping into the crowd, surfing across the room while somehow still extracting awesome noises from her axe and reigning (fake?) blows upon the very audience members who were propping her up. This is a band not to be trifled with.  

Otoboke Beaver will be releasing their new album 'Itekoma Hits' on April 26th via Damnably Records!

Zach Carriere is the Head Music Director at CJLO, and the host of Slax Trax, airing every Monday from 6 to 7 pm on CJLO.