While Vancouver’s 2015 heavy metal calendar has been more or less relentless from the very beginning, this July weekend was a particularly packed 72 hours of music. From Rush at the Rodgers Arena to Iskra and Ahna at The Black Lab on Friday night, the two simultaneous Invisible Orange ventures of this evening (just down the road a night of heavy/thrashy/groovy metal was kicking off at Funky’s), and Armstrong MetalFest going on all over the top, Vancouverites were spoilt for choice on where to get their fix of riffs. With this in mind, it’s easy to see why a show as eclectic and experimental as Ides of Gemini and Clay Rendering, with local doom and noise support, might suffer on the ticket sales front. Yet, although the audience may have been modest, the intimacy and variety of this show made for something not easily forgotten.
Elevator Compactor’s performance was a reflection of this unforgettable quality – masked and detached from the crowd, the noise duo wasted little time presenting The Media Club with their disturbing and dissonant sounds, sinking into their own world and letting the audience witness the ride. The band’s neurotic music however almost became a backdrop to another element of their performance, with the crowd observing as Johnny Matter spent the set creating a visual manifestation of the band’s convulsive and raging sound. This ‘sound painting’ proved an interesting component of the band’s performance, and while the nature of their sonic experimentations naturally doesn’t lend itself to being ‘enjoyed’, Elevator Compactor’s set proved an interesting display of the extreme, challenging, and fiercely personal character that art should have.
Travelling to the opposite end of the serious spectrum next were Olde Worlde Nudists, who took to the stage complete with Hawaiian shirts, flower garlands, and two bassists (if you’re gonna doom, doom it right). The first show by these red-eyed riff-mongers, Olde World Nudist’s performance (if a little rickety at first), walked the line between being heavy as balls and outright ridiculous; and the band clearly took great pleasure in working the combination. There was an undeniable musical talent hidden beneath the hilarity however, with Andrew Bailey veering from early-Sabbath inspired warbling to meaty screams during songs, and proving an adept entertainer between (“our next song is about a future where man no longer rules the world… this one’s called Chairman Meow”). Dropping some interesting curveballs into their proudly uncomplicated chord-worship (piano and flute solos… why not?), Olde Worlde Nudist’s proved themselves to not just be another stoned face in the crowd, and completed their virginal performance having left a lasting impression on those present.
Next up were the first of the night’s out-of-towners, with Mike and Tara Connelly of Clay Rendering sharing the stage with barely an inch between them. The married couple’s clearly intimate on-stage dynamic reflected the haunting, romantic passion of their music, and was also evident in the power and conviction with which their stylistic blend of ambient pop, Gothic rock and crushing heaviness emanated from the stage. The juxtaposition between both artists throughout the set remained striking – Tara’s calming, almost blissful sway during the band’s more delicate moments proving a direct contrast to Mike’s assault upon his guitar, yet both aspects of Clay Rendering’s performance fused seamlessly and beautifully into one captivating, cathartic sonic experience. Again bringing their own experimental character to the night’s proceedings, with Tara switching between keyboard and accordion duties while the caustic impact of the drum machine added an industrial impact to their diverse sound, Clay Rendering crafted an atmosphere of emotional and musical heaviness that demonstrated their talent as songwriters, performers, and artists.
Approaching haunting atmospheres from a differing angle to the band before them, Ides of Gemini then took the stage for a ritualistic conjuration of their dark and occult-tinged heavy rock. Although giving off a subtle sense of frustration from the beginning of their set (persistent sound issues, the absence of usual drummer Kelly Johnston due to injury, or the dwindling crowd may all have been contributing factors), Ides of Gemini’s precisely executed performance proved to be the most well-received of the night, with The Media Club audience gleefully lapping up the band’s combination of catchy riffery and evocative odes to Satan. Bassist and vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett formed two powerful pillars at the front of the stage, with the towering six stringer coaxing devilish ambience from his guitar while Timms’ ritualistic intonation further ramped up the spookiness. Dropping older material into a set that focused on their most recent album Old World New Wave, Ides of Gemini’s progression and development was presented alongside the infectiousness of their style, demonstrating the validity of the band’s growing reputation and showing them to be one of the more praiseworthy of the bands plying the Satanic-psychedelic sound.
Quickly getting to the “and this is our last song” portion of their set however, Ides of Gemini seemed relatively hasty to depart the stage (perhaps those sound problems did take their toll after all), completing the night in a rather abrupt fashion. Nevertheless, The Media Club’s crowd were not shy in their satisfaction, and as they dispersed into the night (many on to the heavy metal magic of Spellcaster, who were fucking great), the curious sensation of knowing you just experienced a night of fringe-dwelling art remained.