Last night, Cellos made its live debut on a Windsor stage. It was their first performance as a band and despite a few stage jitters, they pulled it off magnificently.
Despite it being their live debut, the members of Cellos are far from being novices. In fact, the trio may be three of the best representations of their respective instruments in the city. Guitarist (and vocalist) Kyle Marchand is better known as the driving chunk behind Orphan Choir as well as the experimental soundscape engineer in What Seas, What Shores (he also had a short stint in the melodically golden Yellow Wood). Bassist Joe Rabie’s thundering grooves have build the skeleton for many projects, including the prog rock dirge of Surdaster, the instrumental frantics of Red Rows and the experimental blind field trips of Star Trek: The Band. And the sheer muppetry genius of David Allan on drums has all been evident to anyone who has seen the octopus-on-cocaine tentacles fly in other projects like Explode When They Bloom, Poughboy and Which Witch. It only makes sense that these three play together – they’ve been in such diverse projects individually, that it would take a project of this nature for each of them to truly shine and show what they are ultimately capable of pulling off.
Their set last night – opening the highly anticipated return of KEN mode to Windsor – was brief but succinct. The second song, tentatively titled “Notes from Underground”, was a clincher – when the power riff groove locked in, the crowd was hooked. For a band playing their debut, they had a crowd in their hands, attentive and hungry, eyes agape and ears thirsting. Their set was like a rock opera conveying how an underwater minefield going off must sound to the fishes around it – as heart racingly exciting as it is terrifying.
Marchand’s voice is reminiscent of Gibby Haynes via early Butthole Surfers records (a la Locust Abortion Technician) with a tinge of Bleach-era Nirvana (the band actually closed their set with a Nirvana cover, “I Hate Myself and I Want To Die”). If I was to play Pitchfork and mash analogies, I’d say it was like Gibby Haynes singing in a band with Paul D’Amour (Tool) on bass, a pre-Badmotorfinger Kim Thayill (Soundgarden) on guitar and Keith Moon on drums, with a set arranged by Mr. Bungle or Mars Volta, but even that isn’t entirely accurate. In fact, if I was a psychologist, I’d say they sound like the soundtrack for the exact moment when the voices in someone’s head suddenly instructs them to kill for the first time. It’s a rush of anticipation, anxiety, excitement and lunacy all at once.
But perhaps the real majesty of witnessing Cellos’ debut performance last night was something another witness said to me: “It’s so exciting to see a band’s first performance. I mean, I’ve seen them play in other bands before, but them together, is something new. Seeing something brand new is just so exciting.” These guys have done this before. In different bands, a hundred if not a thousand times before. But seeing them play something new and something fresh for the first time, is something magical. The material is fresh in the audiences ears, not tainted by the memories of shows past by, not blurred by the fact that they’re there to “watch a friend’s band play”, they were there to experience something new by musicians they’d grown to trust.
And judging by the response, Cellos has a bright future ahead of them.
You can catch Cellos next performance opening the show at Phog Lounge (157 University Ave. West) when Calgary’s This City Defects comes to town on Monday April 11th (Red Rows is also opening).