While not my favourite Toronto venue, the Hard Luck Bar often hosts artists who are on my “must see” list. That was certainly the case, September 29th as The Ongoing Concept, ’68, and Sleepwave came to the big city to open for Norma Jean.
I first time I heard The Ongoing Concept was in 2013 with their song “Cover Girl”. The music of this band ranges wildly, crossing and combining divergent genres, making the band really tough to classify. Live, their set is amazing. Dynamic, almost overpowering at times, as they run through songs from both of their full-lengths. A few troubles came up with programmed background music on a couple of songs. I thought the band would just ignore that issue and carry on, but they stopped to fix the problem.
Sleepwave records as a two-piece with Spencer Chamberlain and Stephen Bowman both taking charge of vocals, guitars, bass and keys. Live it’s a different story, as the band builds to five members. Chamberlain’s Sleepwave is far from being a reincarnation of his time as vocalist for Underoath. Delivering a smooth, modern rock sound with electronic elements may not give Sleepwave a unique sound, but it’s strong, aggressive and, well, almost perfect. Drawing from songs off last years “Broken Compass”, the band takes the songs to a higher level during the live set. Gone is much of the “sameness” found on ‘Broken Compass” as the live band adds diversity to their sound. Chamberlain is a seasoned professional whose true abilities are showcased during a live performance.
Another two-piece, and one of my favourites, is ’68. Disappointment was way too mild a word to describe my feelings when I heard that The Chariot had decided to disband,, But that feeling was short lived. Within months, frontman Josh Scogin announced his new project with ex- Becoming The Archetype drummer, Michael McClellan. Straddling the line between chaos and art, ’68 creates on stage what every band dreams of doing; performing the perfect live set.
I meet with Scogin prior to the show for a coffee and a talk about the music of ’68. I raised the point of how their live shows appear as the ultimate jamb session. He admitted that some nights can be better than others, but tonight was one of those ideal performances. A normal band setlist has been prepared and practiced for weeks prior to playing live. Watching two superb musicians, playing of each others lead, with this type of energetic spontaneity was incredible to see.
Be appalled, but I didn’t stay to watch the head-liner, Norma Jean. While having all of the releases, I’ve never been a dedicated fan. I find their music to be creative and capable, but it’s never taken them to the higher echelon I want to see in an artist.
My bed was calling louder than their music, it was time to head home.