Show Review: Strange Ranger/Tonemirror/Stresser

By Padraic Berting, Featured Photo via Saehee Yoon

Having spent many of my formative adolescent years attending house shows in Southern New Hampshire, I leapt at the prospect of going to one in the Toronto suburbs. The night included music from Portland indie band Strange Ranger, and two local Toronto outfits: Tonemirror, a dream-rock act and Stresser, an emo/skramz group.

The joy of attending house shows stems from two factors. First and foremost the bands and music itself, but also the equally enthralling experience of getting stuffed into a basement with a whole bunch of strangers in an unfamiliar neighbourhood. The latter aspect was particularly positive at this show; it was amplified by the fact that it was the weekend before Halloween and the house was packed to the brim with people dressed for the occasion. Notable costumes included multiple Morrisseys (I counted at least three) and someone simply wearing a white t-shirt that said “life” while handing out lemons to all passerby’s. These goofy costumes, coupled with the occasional impromptu Frank Zappa dance party in between sets, made for a lively and jovial atmosphere.

This mood was complimented by some of the strongest live performances I’ve seen by local bands in months. Stresser kicked off the evening with a quick, aggressive, and intense skramz set. Their songs were carried along by hard-hitting drums, screaming vocals, and walloping bass and guitar. The last song they performed, called “Anxiety Attack”, ended with a buildup of simply whispered vocals to a cacophony of sound which continued to rise until finally being released in an intoxicating cathartic rush. Immediately following their set was Strange Ranger who brought the bloodcurdling boil created by the last set down to a pleasant simmer. Strange Ranger combined guitars and a keyboard with a strong rhythm section and softly sung vocals to produce a shimmering collection of indie songs. The pleasant atmosphere hearkened the listener back to sensations of early adulthood. The final band, Tonemirror, brought the dreamy euphoria of the last set up to a rollicking wave. Utilizing a sound which synthesized shoegaze, indie, and post-hardcore, the three-piece set performed hard-hitting songs swathed-up in warm, distorted fuzz. They fused the sounds of the two previous bands and ended the night on a wholly upbeat note.

Perhaps the best part of living in a bustling city is the countless opportunities to see extremely talented local acts perform live. However, intimacy often takes a toll when venues are overflowing with patrons; you can feel almost as removed from the artist as you do at an arena concert. Thus, I cannot speak higher of attending performances in small, DIY spaces, as they separate the barrier between you and the artist and allow you to experience music in a completely new way. This show further validated my belief in this ideal and reminded me of the simple joy of attending performances with incredible local bands in a small, intimate setting.

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