Cameras flash new material

Gentleman Reg, Maggie MacDonald, and Joel Gibb all managed to fit on the tiny Grad Club stage last Thursday.
Gentleman Reg, Maggie MacDonald, and Joel Gibb all managed to fit on the tiny Grad Club stage last Thursday.
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The Hidden Cameras played songs from their new catalogue, as well as old favourites.
The Hidden Cameras played songs from their new catalogue, as well as old favourites.
Photo: 

Concert Review: The Hidden Cameras @ The Grad Club, Oct. 27

The zombies taking the stage at The Grad Club last Thursday were nothing to run from, unless you happened to be afraid of the Lesbians on Ecstasy.

The Montreal-based quartet were decked out in their Halloween finest, smeared with fake blood and white face paint, and while they may have looked undead at first glance, they soon proved that they were nothing short of fully alive and were more interested in rocking out than eating brains.

The crowd, too, was clearly alive, dancing right from the start of the very first song. As Véronique Mystique’s heavy, fuzzed-out bass riffs spilled from the speakers, the well-dressed contingent at the front of the stage shook their bodies and flailed their limbs in time with Jackie the Jackhammer’s fierce assault on her electronic drum pads.

The Lesbians’ songs, while uniformly heavy and driving, hung together well on tight musicianship and were packed with a surprising amount of melody and wonderfully danceable beats. Singer Fruity Frankie sang, yelped and shouted her way through the band’s set, all the while dancing around and providing an animated centerpiece for the small stage. At one point, she led the band in synchronized headbanging, after which she noted, “I’m going to pay for this tomorrow!” Apart from her later dedication of their final song to someone in the audience, this off-the-cuff remark was pretty representative of the band’s general stage banter, but between-song talk proved unnecessary as the band leaked an energy that the crowd fed upon. The Grad Club had filled up by the end of the Lesbians’ set, and an unusually high proportion of the crowd was paying attention instead of chattering idly over a beer—proof of the band’s stage presence and capacity to win over new fans.

The Hidden Cameras took some time setting up, finishing their sound check as they went. It was not until the stroke of midnight that the first notes of the Cameras’ set rang through the packed room, accompanied by cheers and camera flashes. Never before have seven people fit so effortlessly onto the Grad Club’s tiny corner stage but even so, the remaining two musicians had to set up on the floor. Seemingly unfazed, the cellist and the viola player gave their all right from the word “go”—or rather, the word “Hey!” the appropriate title of the band’s lead-off instrumental song which was punctuated by bandleader Joel Gibb’s yelps of said word. The band moved briskly through it and another before arriving at a tune the audience knew. “This is an old one,” Gibb announced before launching into the gleeful “Doot Doot Plot,” the first track from the Cameras’ 2004 album Mississauga Goddam. It was met with an enthusiastic cheer and even more enthusiastic dancing.

A little later in the set, the band paused between songs so Maggie MacDonald and “Gentleman Reg” Vermue could give the audience instruction in the dance routine to accompany another new song, “Awoo.” The moves were simple—striking fashion-model poses, pointing, clapping and doing motions reminiscent of the Macarena dance among them—and the crowd was happy to follow along. MacDonald and Vermue kept up their routine for the duration of the song, as did several fans up front.

Over the course of the show, the band’s nine members took turns playing a series of instruments. On top of the guitar, bass, drums and keyboard of a standard rock band, the Hidden Cameras added an organ, a xylophone, a cello, a viola, tambourines, a slide whistle, unidentifiable auxiliary percussion pieces and a banjo.

With all of this variety and engagement before the halfway mark of the show (not to mention some extremely catchy songs), it was abundantly clear why the Hidden Cameras have such a glowing reputation for their live act: they love the stage, they love music and they love making people dance. Gibb would periodically judge one side of the crowd to be better dancers than the other, which would only redouble the dancing efforts on both sides.

The crowd was even willing to dance to the new material the Cameras were showcasing, which comprised just under half of the 75-minute set. Old and new blended together wonderfully, and a number of new songs shared the same glorious je ne sais quoi as the best of the Cameras’ back catalogue. Most of the new songs are slated to appear on the Hidden Cameras’ forthcoming album, Awoo, though a small number have already appeared in demo form on limited-edition vinyl singles. Judging by the line-up at the merchandise table after the show, Kingston will be more than happy to buy whatever records the Hidden Cameras release in the future.

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