At the Cobalt on Monday, September 16
Vancouver is one of the weirdest cities for shows. Not only do they always start later than expected, but it’s really hard to drag people out unless it’s a weekend. This is for two reasons: drinks are expensive and the jobs that keep us busy midweek do not pay enough. This is a city of pre-gaming, so it kind of worked out that Detroit’s Human Eye was late getting over the border last night, pushing back the start time at the Cobalt by 40 minutes.
Local three-piece Defektors opened the show to a shelled room. Oh, Defektors—you kill me every time. This band is still so good, and while this was not its best night, it was still sharp. Ben Phillips, a classically trained musician, plays guitar effortlessly and sings with deeply tested restraint. “Sometimes I feel so far away,” he cried out in one number that sounded like it could have come from Greg Sage’s solo album Straight Ahead. The only thing more charming than this band’s hooks is the fact that drummer Evan Brewer’s glasses slide all the way down his nose every song, but he just keeps going.
As the room slowly gained more bodies, Sex Church took the stage. I’d never seen Sex Church play, even though I’d heard them through the wall of an old jam space I once practised at about nine million times. Sex Church is really tight and really powerful. It’s sludgy, precise, and the band delivers buildups in a way that keeps the audience hooked. I couldn’t take my eyes off their bass player, who has absolutely zero rock-dick ego, but plays with intense dexterity. His hands take over that instrument in a way that’s nonchalant and coaxing. Look close enough and the strings are bending all over the place. It’s so… cool. Sex Church reminds me of New York’s the Men, before the Men got soft. When the Men still had Chris Hansell and things were dark, fast, and overbearingly loud.
Finally, Detroit’s Human Eye took the stage. Human Eye is led by Timmy Vulgar, your classic “rock weirdo” who has famed himself with his erratic stage moves and with side projects including the Clone Defects. Off-stage, he wears a black-leather vest with a button that says “I Am a Savage”. He’s polite, and he can’t decide what he wants to drink after the two double-vodkas and whiskey shots he’s already sucked back. On-stage, he’s all spazzed-out facial expression, gold-lamé blazer, duct tape on the head (total alien obsession), and a guitar-pick hand that moves as fast as a hummingbird.
Human Eye is touring on its latest Sacred Bones release, They Came From the Sky, which plays on the band’s obsession with space. When I watch a band like Human Eye, the musician in me always thinks about how the members would act in the van together. They are such an unlikely troupe that it somehow all makes complete sense.
In contrast with Vulgar, the synth player, Johnny Lzr, looked like a Russian killer from an ’80s movie. Thanks to his circular sunglasses, military vest, and music stand holding a white binder (which he actually referred to many times during the set), I wondered what his fifth-grade report card said about him.
A good band plays every night like it’s the last night it will ever be playing. There could be 10 people in the audience or 1,000, but the band members give the same amount of crazy. Human Eye did just this.
It makes sense. You drive 10 hours and take shit from the Canadian border guards, so why phone it in? Human Eye did not phone it in, even playing an encore when the excited crowd begged for one. For that alone, they made it worthwhile for all the people who came out of the woodwork for this Monday night Vancouver punk show.