Live Bait: Wintersleep win, Ra Ra Riot ra

Wintersleep & Ra Ra Riot
@ the Garrick
Saturday, November 20
By Victoria King

No matter what part of the country you are from, so long as you were born under the Maple Leaf sun you are instantly claimed as Canadian. As a musician, whatever success you encounter and however many Junos you win, you can bet that your hometown will honour you with a ceremonial street inauguration or concert venue to stand in your honour. As it stands, I would be willing to bet that the guys from Wintersleep may go through this in 20 years or so. Following the great Canadian music stigma of ‘WTF, they’re Canadian,’ Wintersleep recently released their fourth album New Inheritors, and made a stop in Winnipeg along with Ra Ra Riot on November 22.

For starters, I will be honest in admitting that I had never listened to Ra Ra Riot before that evening. I expected something loud and rowdy, as hinted to by their name, yet I was hesitant when I saw the band take the stage. Although they looked more like the type of kids that would be chilling outside the Garrick rather than playing onstage, this was definitely a giant “I told you so” moment. RRR kicked off the night with “Boy.” If you haven’t heard it, take it from me,  I don’t suggest you listen to it in public. Trying to contain my bobbing head and bouncing knees at a socially acceptable pace was a difficult task, but I was thankful to see that I wasn’t the only one in the crowd who was totally down for RRR.  They played a solid opening, and for those in the crowd who resisted the urge to dance; fail.

The stage for the night was minimal, excluding the stuffed dog sporting a wrestling belt, which was left as the one big question mark of the night. “Drunk on Aluminum” was the first track of the evening. Seriously, it was so good. The set included “Astronaut,” “Dead Letter and the Infinite Yes,” “Black Camera,” “Preservation,” “Weighty Ghost” and “Echo Location.” To be frank, I was actually quite surprised how much hard these guys rocked live. I went in expecting a balanced mix of an indie rock/folk sound, but definitely got more than I expected in terms of an indie rock influence. The guitar came through so strong while the vocals maintained the same raw quality that makes their music so recognizable. On a side note, their was a pretty great ’Peg city moment when lead vocalist Paul Murphy asserted, “Pretty cold in Winnipeg” only to be replied by “This ain’t nothin’!” by some dude in the audience. To whoever did so, major cool points. “Oblivion”, “Laser Beams” and “Breath Normal, Nerves Normal” made up the encore, along with Murphy’s “Thank you Winnipeg, this was fucking awesome!”

The one gripe I do need make about the night is in regards to whoever was in charge of the sound system. For at least the first seven songs, the sound at front stage was pretty shitty, with the guitar seeming to drown out nearly everything else. I refused to accept the possibility that the band may not be as awesome live as on recording, so I checked out the middle of the venue. Turns out it was just the front of the stage, as the middle sounded great. Kinda craptastic on my part, but still a solid show.
With that said, it is my prediction that Wintersleep will end up being one of those awesome bands that will forever be clumped in with all other eclectic Canadian groups; and while they may play in your cities and perform for your award shows, at the end of the day they’re still from our east coast.