After one of many short pieces of connecting music that resembled a science fiction movie synth sound backed by a big bass pulse, Julian Gross came in with the urgent, curiously toy-like, drum beat of "Hold Hands and It Will Happen Anyway." Aaron Hemphill laid the cutting guitar line over the top and interspersed the exhilarating/disorienting song with a controlled feedback that he executed at will, while Angus Andrew prowled the stage like a gestalt of Jim Morrison and Nick Cave, gesturing as he issued forth bursts of lyrics in a hypnotic cadence. Compelling enough on the album -- here, the threesome came together in perfect harmony for a song that is anything but conventionally harmonious.
Liars set pulled mostly from their latest record, WIXIW, but the group also treated us to songs going back over a decade. Starting off with the first cut on the new album, "The Exact Colour of Doubt," Liars proved capable of a transporting mood through pure atmosphere. Even with the much more textured and organic "Octagon," Liars turned what was sonically akin to Aphex Twin or Plaid into something visceral and just as haunting with a heavy bass throb coming from stage left.
"Scarecrows On A Killer Slant" sounded uncommonly aggressive, inspiring part of the crowd up front to form something of a pit. "Let's Not Wrestle Mt. Heart Attack" found both Gross and Hemphill on drums before the latter focused on guitar and played a rapid, escalating rhythm, all while Andrew let out what could be described as micro-howls -- his signature sound outside of his darkly vibrant singing voice and his expressive falsetto.
The main set ended with "Grown Men Don't Fall In The River, Just Like That," before which Andrew said they had probably last played it in Denver at the 15th St. Tavern. Live, Hemphill's guitar tone recalled that of Rikk Agnew's during his tenure in Christian Death -- sharp and just shy of discomforting. At the end of the song, when Andrew said, "Good night, everyone. It's a pleasure. It's an honor," it was completely sincere and did not sound at all perfunctory.
The roomful of fans beckoned the band back and Liars returned for more songs, closing the show with the metallic "Plaster Casts of Everything." With that, Liars proved that they are a band that aren't afraid to make use of sounds that more conventional acts would discard as noisy or ugly and mold them into a sonic sculpture with a resonant beauty on its own terms.
The opening act, Cadence Weapon, was a hip-hop duo from Montreal that some of us were fortunate enough to see when the act opened for Japandroids last month at Larimer Lounge. Rollie Pemberton seemed even more comfortable on this stage, and no less charismatic, as he and his DJ laid out some of the most sonically interesting hip-hop since Beans last came through. Pemberton brought humor and emotional intensity together in a way that drew you in. He flowed between introspective singing, impassioned vocalizing and rapping seamlessly, especially on songs like "Conditioning."
Pemberton told us that he got a beat from his friend, and fellow Canadian, Grimes, and performed a song called "88" in which he deftly referenced Downtown 81. The duo performed some older Cadence Weapon tracks like the "punk ass rapper" denouncement, "Sharks" and the Edmonton-referencing "Oliver Square" from Breaking Kayfabe.
For the last third of the set, it seemed as though Pemberton upped his energy some, even with the moody "Hope In Dirt City" and its '80s synth pop sounds (one of the best tracks from the album of the same name). At the end, Cadence Weapon treated us to "Loft Party" and Pemberton got a good section of the crowd to repeat "party" after he sang the chorus and he came down off the stage to be among people and encourage participation. Cadence Weapon is easily one of the most interesting and imaginative hip-hop acts out right now.
Personal Bias: I've been a fan of the Liars since seeing the band blow the headliner off stage in 2002. WIXIW is easily one of my top three favorite albums of the year so far. Cadence Weapon's Hope In Dirt City is also excellent.
Random Detail: Ran into Sam McNitt of Rowboat, Jeff Shapiro, formerly of Blue Million Miles and Adam Rojo, formerly of Ideal Fathers at the show.
By the Way: A diverse bill, whether two bands or ten, is always welcome.