Upon arriving at the Rialto last Thursday, I found myself caught up in the chaos that is coat-check, forcing me to miss a good portion of opening band Big Brave. When I did finally break through, it couldn’t have been at a more inopportune time. Unfortunately for Big Brave, they were victims of every musician’s worst nightmare, a technical malfunction— this not only stalled their set for roughly 10 minutes, but also, abruptly ended the song they were in the middle of performing. After exchanging some patch-chords, the band announced they intended to finish the final two songs of their set to a crowd who had seemingly dismissed the fact they were on stage at all.
Though I had never heard Big Brave prior to last week, their live performance left me feeling as if something was missing. Perhaps it was the fact they were opening for one of the most prolific local bands or the interruption to their set, but the final two songs seemed to lack confidence. Following Big Brave’s set, I moved to the balcony to obtain a better view of Thee Silver Mt. Zion, a band I have listened to for years yet missed several opportunities to see live.
As the band took the stage, singer and guitarist Efrim Menuck expressed his frustration with the coat-check, sarcastically remarking how absurd it was for the venue to assume their patrons would be wearing coats in the middle of winter. This garnered a loud cheer from the audience, similarly frustrated with The Rialto’s organizational lapse. Menuck, then, proceeded to dedicate the first and newest song of their set, Fuck Off Get Free We Pour Light on Everything to the citizens of Montreal, claiming that every province (including Quebec) wanted Montreal dead. This created an awkward tension among the crowd only to be quickly overcome by the magnitude of the band’s performance. As the first song of the night came to a close, Menuck jokingly asked if the band had time to play another song, poking fun at the length of their material.
The band proceeded to play three more songs off of their latest release, including Austerity Blues, Take Way These Early Grave Blues and Rains Thru the Roof at Thee Grande Ballroom (For Capital Steez). After Austerity Blues, Menuck made the same remark about their set-time— at this point however, the humour of the joke had significantly worn off. This awkwardness was carried over into a self-curated question and answer period, where the audience was invited by to ask any question they pleased.
The environment quickly became toxic, and the audience was dived into two halves: those who just wanted to hear the band play music and those who wanted to entertain the negative attitude of the singer. After dismissing several questions about his hair, equipment, favourite song and Olympics— Menuck took it upon himself to address the recent issues surrounding Quebec’s Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms.
It was at this point where the show died.
In poorly attempting to explain intolerance, Menuck thought it would be wise to make a rather sexist remark about his personal intolerances stating: “women shouldn’t wear pant-suits”—in reference to Pauline Marois’ attire. To the dismay of the audience and his wife/bandmate Jessica Moss, Menuck single-handedly ruined the atmosphere of the show with his comments.
While I understand his passion for politics, there is a time and place for everything. I left the show feeling confused and cheated, as if my ticket to the concert bought me a front row seat to Menuck’s bitter opinions rather than Thee Silver Mount Zion Memorial Orchestra. Perhaps next time, I’ll stick to listening to their records.
– Michael Langiewicz