Review: ohGr at the Bluebird, 12/07/11

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"Don't do coke," Ogre urged the audience at the Bluebird last night. "Because I sure fuckin' did, and it nearly killed me." This unvarnished pronouncement from ohGr's frontman came at the end of a particularly strong and sharp performance of "Timebomb," one of the best numbers from Devils In My Details, and you could feel the tension in the room in a moment of awkward silence that followed as some people processed what Ogre was saying in such a simple, straightforward manner.

Fog rolled in off the stage right area above the doorway to the backstage area of the Bluebird for several minutes before the members of ohGr strolled on to stage all wearing grey suits, and being led by Ogre who was wearing a police riot helmet. Appropriately enough, the set began with "Crash" and featured a well-chosen blend of material from across the ohGr catalogue including "Eye Candy," with its compellingly disjointed rhythm accentuated now and again by Ogre's signature hand flutter.

Throughout the show, Ogre gestured with his usual flair for the theatrical while perfectly executing his distorted vocals. What's interesting about Ogre's singing, though, is that even when it's distended, distorted, warped and otherwise contorted into different shapes, you can usually understand what he's trying to say. Somehow, the meaning isn't lost in the translation from words in the head and those as expressed through electronic devices that change the character of the voice.

The act's set ended with a chanted, nearly rapped "Minus" with its insistent refrain. The crowd, who was clearly into the show, beckoned the band back out for a three song encore beginning with "Hollow" and closing with an especially bombastic and forceful rendition of "wateR." During ohGr's set, Ogre informed us that would be fifty years old next year. Hard to believe, as the guy has more life and vitality than most people his age.

Left Spine Down, which took the stage before ohGr, had mike stands made from chain links welded together in a way that looked like what someone described as "chains on Viagra." And then there was the crime scene tape on the band's gear and wrapped around the singer's pant legs. The synth player (Jeremy Inkel of Frontline Assembly), the drummer and the guitarist appeared on stage first before being joined by the singer, who came on wearing sunglasses and carrying a megaphone. With bombastic swagger, the band, which hails from Vancouver, BC, rocked out like it was some kind of late-era L.A. glam band.

These guys were hilarious and maybe didn't mean to be. Kaine Delay bore more than a passing resemblance to the character Robert Downey Jr. played in Back to School, and LSD played like the members were pumped to be on stage. Even when this punk rock fashion victim kept flipping off Delay, he responded by saying: "What did I do to you? Fuck your cat?" Then proceeded to gesture like that's what he's doing.

A low point came when the band seemed to pander to the audience a little by doing a cover of "She's Lost Control" by Joy Division. Delay did a mock version of Ian Curtis' weird dance that he used to do to taunt his own epilepsy. The instrumentation was solid overall -- Matt Girvan's guitar tones were fantastic and Galen Waling was a fantastic percussionist all around -- even if Delay presented a little too much rock and roll posturing for his own good.

Violet Tremors, with its minimalist electro and deadpan vocal delivery, recalled DA from Chicago, only without the organic accompaniment. The music was compelling, mostly because it sounded so retro-futuristic and disconnected in an artful way. During "Concentrate," Jessica White danced and gestured like she was some kind of marionette, suggesting that while the lyrics touched upon some serious issues, the whole presentation was tongue in cheek.

White looked like she could have burst out laughing at the heightened seriousness and stylized look of her performance, while Lorene Simpson was all but hidden behind a bank of electronic equipment. The ladies won almost everyone over with their inspired combination of electroclash, modern chillwave and experimental electronic flourishes -- especially between songs.

The hushed, dusky elegance of Orbit Service, who opened last night, was the perfect introduction to a show like this. The band's layers of atmospheric sounds were enveloping and transporting, like a waking dream. Hearing the minor key shift on "Trajectory" on a big sound system made it even more affecting than normal. The phased spiral of sound that coursed through "As If It Were An Accident" set repeating instances in the air like the sonic equivalent of smoke rings.

The hidden menace of the lyrics, pulled from the shadows of the psyche, as uttered by Randall Frazier's haunting vocals, made what is a bright sounding song take on an air of chilling darkness. There's always been an emotional heft to Orbit Service shows, but this one, like others, left you feeling like the angst and trapped emotions had been cleaned out leaving only a psychic calmness behind.


Personal Bias: I've been a big fan of Kevin Ogilvie's musical projects for close to twenty years. Random Detail: Ran into Matt Jones of Black Cell, Cap'n Fresh and Cameron Hays of Choke the Word at the show. By the Way: Sure could have done without some douche bag spontaneous mosher damaging my glasses.

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