Words by Chris Bryson
Photos by Jess Mann
As the time got closer to 10 p.m. on Friday, October 4th, The Good Will was filling up with music fans ready for a night full of ferocious art. Nobody was let down.
It was the dark noise-metal of Saskatoon’s Adolyne and the monstrous shifting sludge metal of Montréal’s The Great Sabatini that rightfully set the stage and amped the crowd for KEN mode’s 20th anniversary set.
In an interview before the show KEN mode’s vocalist and guitarist Jesse Matthewson said that rehearsals were beating the crap out of him, and the hardest part in prepping for the show had been the endurance test. The band slammed through their almost hour and ten-minute-long marathon set of songs spanning from 2006’s Reprisal to 2018’s Loved with the intensity and craft of seasoned veterans.
KEN mode kicked off the night with the driving fury of “Feathers & Lips” and ended the main part of their set off with the chugging rage of “No Gentle Art,” both from 2018’s Loved.
Throughout the show KEN mode cycled through four bassists who have played with the band over the years. Describing the intent behind this, Matthewson said that with diving into their back catalog and performing material they hadn’t played in a long time, they wanted to bring up some of the guys who wrote the songs with them. So throughout the night Jesse and his brother Shane, the relentless force behind the drum kit, were joined by bassists Skot Hamilton, Chad Tremblay, Darryl Laxdal, and Drew Johnston.
The selection of songs throughout the night kept fans eagerly engaged as KEN mode pulled out highlight tracks and their personal favourites from over the years, and even played some songs like “Fractures In Adults,” which they had yet to perform live. For their encore they brought out “Counter Culture Complex” from 2013’s Entrench and closed the night down with the slow-building shimmering whirl of “Dead Actors” from 2015’s Success.
For such a commemorative event for a band that has continued to push what it does on the fringes of noise, punk, metal, sludge, and hardcore, KEN mode’s 20th anniversary show went beyond expectations and honoured their legacy in the best way they can; loud and heavy and angry as hell, but in the friendliest way possible. It was a night to behold for all of those in attendance, and after 20 years at it, this show was a bold statement that KEN mode are the best at what they do.
For the future of KEN mode Matthewson is eager to get back into writing and creating new material, and like previous releases, wants to do new things with the band’s sound. “I want to get more fucked up jazz in there,” says Matthewson. “Maybe some more electronic type influence looming over top of it, so we’ll see how we execute it. I have kind of an idea, an aesthetic in my head, but I don’t know how to execute it yet, so we’ll figure that out.”
“That’s the most fun part for me, writing and making records,” says Matthewson. “Playing shows is alright, but it’s so stressful to me. I’m looking forward to this being over so we can concentrate on the more chilled out part.”