Maxwell’s continued their streak of intriguing shows and being the place to stop in the area for rock bands on tour on June 15, this week hosting a trio of local Southern Ontario punk bands. Hailing from Richmond Hill, Dundas, and Waterloo respectively, The Flatliners, The Dirty Nil, and Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs were the line-up for Toronto indie label Dine Alone Records’ summer 2017 tour, which took them all over British Columbia, the Northern US, and Ontario before ending in Toronto on June 17th.
The evening started off with Sam Coffey and the Iron Lungs, and like the beverage with the same pronunciation as the frontman’s name they certainly woke the crowd up. Arrayed in matching denim vests, their formidable six-member stage presence was bolstered by an additional guest guitarist halfway through. They finished off their set with an impassioned speech about how much their hometown Waterloo meant to them and followed it up with a closing song featuring the climactic finish of two guitarists together playing a double-necked guitar at the same time.
The second opener, The Dirty Nil, followed them up with some intense and atmospheric punk with notable grunge and noise rock influences. Lead vocalist and guitarist Luke Bentham had actually graduated from Laurier earlier that day and was energetic and involved, blowing huge bubblegum bubbles throughout and at one point even suctioning his mouth to a transparent guitar. The band recently received a prestigious Juno Award for Canadian musical achievement recognizing them as Breakthrough Group of the Year, and it was easy to see why they are considered rising stars. Despite the band being half the size of their preceding performers, they suitably amped up the crowd and continued to hype up the main attraction, The Flatliners.
Set up in front of a giant, unfurled banner of a wolf impaled by two swords, the headlining Flatliners played a heavy set fresh off the recent release of their fifth album, Inviting Light. Accompanied by the stage diving and crowd surfing of a raucous group of dedicated fans, they entertained with a nice mix of new songs and old favourites from throughout their extensive discography, and after a suspenseful exit and return closed with a short encore of one song. Interestingly enough, despite two albums since the most prevalent source of songs in their setlist was 2010’s Cavalcade, though almost every release was well-represented as testament to the longevity of their appeal. That said, the band’s debut album Destroy to Create was reasonably excluded, considering the ska-punk approach the band later moved away from.
It was great to see such different takes on the punk genre that were all interesting in their own way but still meshed together as a united set. It’s always nice to see representation of the Canadian music scene and the continuation of Maxwell’s embrace of it, and I look forward to what these bands hold in their future.