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The Besnard Lakes at The Independent: Live Review

Photographed and Written by Patrick Kelly

About halfway through their set during a break in the rocking, The Besnard Lakes’ rhythm guitarist gleefully proclaimed, “I’m pretty wasted!” Without missing a beat, the band’s lead singer, Jace Lasek, repeated the happy lil’ phrase with the same enthusiasm, the only difference being that he held up his drink to salute the audience. The crowd cheered as they'd likely to do after a band member (of any sort) admits to their drunkenness. And as often as I’ve heard that phrase (or something like it) yelled into a mic, none of them were as successful as the ones uttered at The Independent on Monday night.

While the phrase might have been clichĂ©, it certainly was not a detriment (or excuse) for their set. In fact, it achieved the opposite; I can’t believe anyone can play that material, as dense as it is, while absolutely hammered. Their state of mind (or lack thereof) wasn’t apparent at all as the Canadian indie/shoegaze rockers slashed through material from their newest album, The Dark Horse Are The Roaring Night, while sprinkling in bit of …Are The Dark Horse (the full length released in 2007) and one song from Volume 1 (their first full length).

While the entire set was evidence of the band’s ability to produce and play first-rate songs, no moment could touch their performance of “Light Up The Night” (first song of the encore)- which is one part electric guitar solo, two parts thumping rock and four parts harmony (led by the husband-wife duo of Lasek and his wife, Olga, who is the band’s talented bassist). And while no other song came close to that melodic gem, the four piece made sure others still tried. The opener, “Like The Ocean, Like Innocent," got the surprisingly sparse crowd (where’s the support for the eastern Canadian bands SF???) into the fold quickly; you could just see the evolution from toe tapping to head-banging throughout the 8+ minute ballad. Quickly following the first track from …Are The Roaring Night, were “Chicago Train” and “Albatross," two of the band’s strongest songs, both live and in the studio. And, let’s not forget their two most popular songs- “Disaster” and “ For Agent 13”- which were both followed up by a warm and enthusiastic applause from the diverse (age!) crowd.

Fittingly, the band also talked of Brian Wilson. To no surprise of anyone who has heard the vocals/harmonies on any one of their songs (though “Disaster” and “Light Up The Night” might be the best examples), The Besnard Lakes are surely influenced by the former Beach Boys' front man. While they talked of their excitement upon seeing him during a solo performance in Montreal some years back, it was quickly apparent that they were somewhat disappointed with the man who has indirectly helped them achieve their distinct sound (with equal parts homage and originality). Their concern seemed to stem from the fact that, despite his songwriting genius, he had slowly turned into a man who can only read from teleprompters and feign happiness and excitement at the thought of old hits. If their performance at the Independent was any inkling of their talent and their ability to put on a solid live show, The Besnard Lakes don’t have anything to worry about…no matter how many whiskeys are downed before hand.

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