Crystal Swells Toast Collective, Vancouver BC, June 7

Crystal Swells Toast Collective, Vancouver BC, June 7
Photo: Steve Louie
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After wandering through a back alley off Kingsway, passing open kitchen doors and upstairs apartment balconies, over a few sheets of plywood and rickety wooden stairs, one entered the happening art space known as the Toast Collective. And there, Maple Ridge's Crystal Swells tore through their catalogue like they had something to prove, reverberating the wooden shoebox room with their surf-laced garage-punk and noise-pop. There were a couple of stumbling blocks, falling off the in-tune rails a bit in their attempt to do an old song a new way, dropping a verse and aborting a track near the end and the vocals of guitarist Nick Price were almost completely washed out, leaving only traces of what sounded like a uniquely tuneful voice. He seemed to have a hooting punk-rock vibrato akin to Jello Biafra, but it was hard to tell for sure, and there wasn't really a sound guy to fix it.

However, the screaming of bassist Joel McDonald balanced out the vocals, adding self-deprecating banter for appeal, and the whole group showed flashes of swagger in their instrumental passages. Ross Lalande was working hard on the drum kit, requesting a little downtime as his cheeks flushed bright red in the somewhat stuffy space, so his band played an extended slow jam version of "Pacific Centre Sludge" from their 2012 HarshSide/SludgeFreaks EP, a prom-ready sway that exploded in triple time near the end. For their last track, Price ditched his guitar, grabbed a mic and sang the manic "Freaks in Heat" from the perspective of the audience, closing their set perfectly.

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