by Myles Tiessen
As the icy Winter wind whipped down Portage Avenue on November 17, a crowd of eager, cigarette-inhaling, primarily 20-somethings packed into the back of the Good Will Social Club for a night of post-punk brilliance.
Headliners Blessed–who had recently released their outstanding and anomalous new album Circuitous–were joined by underrated scene legends Stuck and Winnipeg newcomer Fold Paper for a night of effects-laden angular guitar rock that shook the entire building with unrelenting determination.
Fold Paper, an up-and-coming but already local favorite led by Chell Osuntade, was making their debut live performance and kicked the show off with an atomic-level bang. Consisting of members of Merin, Conduct, and more, the band is no strangers to the stage. Osuntade himself plays with JayWood, is a member of Julien’s Daughter, and is well-versed in the local music circuit. As they took the stage, the already nearly packed venue was filled with a cacophony of shouts from a crowd eager to hear the next big thing in Canadian post-punk. Despite the members’ collective experience, Fold Paper admittedly had to shake off those ‘first-show nerves.’ But, by the third song, they sounded wickedly strong and were living up to the esteem their fans so clearly felt them capable of.
As they transitioned between original material and covers, it became clear just how intimately and energetically Osuntade believes in the power of post-punk. He continually mentioned how honored he was to open for seasoned bands like Blessed and Stuck and exalted the greatness of the artists he covered. He laughed as he described the first time he heard Deadladen, then after the band was finished tuning their guitars while their pedal boards buzzed, dove headfirst into a high-octane version of “Fit For Work.”
“This next one is gonna be loud. I hope you have earplugs,” said Osuntade before Fold Paper’s closing song. A wonderfully deranged version of “RANKS” then flooded the speakers, engulfing the crowd in a whirlwind of borderline punk rock.
Stuck never spends too much time away from Winnipeg before returning. The Chicago legends performed at this past year’s Real Love Summer Fest in Teulon, which they said was one of the best shows they’ve ever played, and are now back, in quick succession, to once again blow the minds of an increasingly large crowd.
The genre veterans tore through their set at a loud and fast pace. Their impenetrable technical abilities were performed with such ease and confidence it might have been easy to miss if not for the glowing wall of fuzz bouncing in your skull. Stuck performed many tracks from their latest EP, Content That Makes You Feel Good, which features angular guitar riffs, reflective social commentary, and a whole lot of flaming noise. The intensity of the delay-riddled set increased at the same rapid pace as the bands’ sweat and as their last few songs became further experimental.
While it’s easy to crank the gain, reverb, and hit a few pedals, Stuck made their unique strain of noise radiate like the sun beaming through the stained-glass windows of a nuclear power plant. They proved to be one of the best and most creative bands working in the post-punk arena today.
Awash in a bath of red light, Blessed took to the stage late into the night to perform (mostly) new songs from their carefully curated, masterful album Circuitous. While any sort of knowledge of colour theory will tell you red evokes negative, violent emotions, it can also represent passion, love, and in the case of ancient Egyptians, to prevent danger. An enigmatic color like red makes total sense for an album so unfathomably rich in detail and meaning.
The band spoke to the crowd minimally at the start of the set, warning the audience of the upcoming lack of engagement. While vocalist Drew Riekman was mostly apologetic in his statement, he might as well have been saying: “Hey, watch this…” because what followed was enrapturing. Listening to Blessed expertly maneuver their way through the complicated, dense tracks of Circuitous over the next almost hour-long set was hypnotic.
The effects-heavy set dipped between post-punk, math-rock, indie, and prog, never settling in a comfortable pattern but felt anchored by the chemistry and talent of the band members. Blessed made interesting changes to some of their material; where Circuitous goes quiet in songs, Blessed played them loud and abrasively; their performance was dramatic, intoxicating, and extremely innovative.
The now semi-Winnipeggers created one of the best alternative rock albums of 2022. The spell-binding riffs, contemplative lyrics, and mature tone rewards listen after listen, and it felt like a wonder to watch them launch Circuitous in eloquent style.