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Merchandise, Cloakroom, Soft Haze at The Cobalt

Monday 01st, June 2015 / 17:26
By James Olson
Merchandise at  Photo: Sarah Whitlam

Merchandise at The Cobalt.
Photo: Sarah Whitlam

May 22, 2015

VANCOUVER — Due to unexplained (but likely border-related) circumstances, Nothing were unable to perform their Vancouver stop on Merchandise’s After The End tour. While this reviewer was disappointed by the news, with some line-up juggling, the show at the Cobalt succeeded in sharing the spotlight for a local act and gave Cloakroom an opportunity to surprise and delight.

Local three-piece sludge pop act Soft Haze was enjoyable if rigidly simplistic. Their grungy surf rock stylings was tuneful particularly on cuts such as “What Is It Like to Be a Bat?” and the lumbering “Background.” What could be gleaned from their brief performance was that Soft Haze definitely has room to develop as songwriters as there was a notable lack of dynamic range within and between their songs.

If Cloakroom’s set could be summed up in a single word it would be “loud.” The Indiana act’s sound is a maelstrom of all things ear-splitting as they mix noise, shoegaze and even space rock into something unique. Doyle Martin’s vocals were tragically buried under the instrumental attack but that did not make their performance any less compelling. Drummer Brian Busch is an absolute monster behind the kit, navigating tricky yet forceful fills with finesse and aggression. Bassist Robert Markos was fun to watch as he appeared hypnotized by his own noise, what with his purposeful head-banging. His Nothing shirt was an appreciated tribute.

It was obvious by the size that the crowd had grown to between Cloakroom and the headliner’s set who the majority of patrons had come to see. Within seconds into the jangling “Little Killer,” Merchandise already had audience members dancing. The band admittedly looked constrained on the small Cobalt stage, what with a keyboard and laptop having to share room with a full quartet. Carson Cox’s distinctive pipes commanded attention throughout, especially on the pulsating, shimmering “Time.” The Tampa act’s post-punk theatricality created a sultry mood perfect for the first nights of the summer season.

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