The Besnard Lakes + The High Dials + Einstellung @ The Oobleck, 1st October 2014

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One of the things I like about going to gigs is the support band lottery.  Every now and then it is possible to stumble across a real gem, the pleasant surprise, even in the context of a headliner as excellent as The Besnard Lakes.

The High Dials are one of these surprises. Things like this make the job of reviewing a favourite band that much easier. Familiarity can make for a tedious review, full of hyperbole and complaints that the band in question aren’t as big as U2 when they are obviously much more deserving, and that if the majority do not agree then they are wrong and I am right………etc.

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The Besnard Lakes opened tonight with Is That What We Call Progress.  For a band that in my opinion ought to be absolutely huge this is an apt question.  When this Canadian band reaches these shores is it usually to play small venues, populated by people in the know.

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In many ways the High Dials are similar to The Besnard Lakes in that the first time that I saw them I ended up wondering why I had not seen them before, even though the name and a couple of tunes were familiar. They don’t visit the UK that often but last time around they toured with The Brian Jonestown Massacre so they should have been on the radar.  Once again I am also left wondering why these bands stay a secret to many, retaining cult status.

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No disrespect to The Oobleck or The Hare and Hounds or any of the other recent locations, which are excellent venues, but I know that small stages with ceiling and walls closing in do not exactly do full  justice to the fantastic sounds that this band can make because I’ve had the good fortune to see them in bigger venues. Maybe it’s purposeful, but the low key approach to the UK dates  and the cottage industry feel belies what this band are to their fans.

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Maybe it is how they do things in Montreal.  The High Dials have no record label, choosing to release and promote their own material and on this tour have effectively loaned two members to The Besnard Lakes to fill in for long standing guitarist Richard White who has given up touring.  I have to say that this caused some trepidation but there was no need as the guitarist Robbie had the signature sound down pat. The additional keyboards freed up Jace Lasek, one half of the husband and wife team that make up the core of the band, to add even more layers of guitar.

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The Besnard Lakes sound is big, complex, sophisticated and at the same time direct. Various pundits have taken the lazy option of comparing their vocal harmonies to the Beach boys, or applying a spurious shoe-gaze label and as usual they are fairly much wrong on both counts.  If there is an influence on vocal harmonies at all, then it’s more Pet Sounds than Help Me Rhonda, and as for shoe-gaze then these people know very little about the genre!

The nearest I can get to a pigeonhole is that they are rock band.  From the “peppy ditty” (or at least that’s how bass player an vocalist Olga Goreas introduced it), which is People Of The Sticks to the five minutes of pure noise which makes up more than half of Alamogordo the  reflect huge amounts of other genres whilst still sounding uniquely The Besnard Lakes. A broken bass string led to ten minutes extra guitar mash up half way through the set and I don’t think anyone noticed.

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The High Dials are just as tricky to pin down. They have a style which owes a lot to 1990s UK Indie , which is probably why they appeal led to me straight away, but with a lot of substance and variety in the songs. Hearing Yestergraves Echoes In Empty Rooms got me interested enough to listen to the new album and review it for this site! Praise indeed from this cynical old geezer.

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Last but not least I must give a mention to the first support, and locally-based Einstellung who started the evening with their huge blocks of industrial post rock sound.  They were good but seemed to go about things in the same way as others of the genre — in spite of their name.

All in all a great night with excellent bands topped off by The Besnard Lakes, as usual, leaving us all floating in dry ice.

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Set list:

And This Is What We Call Progress

Colour Yr Lights In

Because Tonight

46 Satires


People Of The Sticks



And You Lied To Me



Photos – Stephanie Colledge

Words – Ian Gelling

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