Brass gets beautifully brutal

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      At the Railway Club on Saturday, January 25

      It’s a given that gigs tend not to start on time. Punctuality isn’t exactly the punkest of qualities, and there’s something to be said for keeping your fans in suspense before flicking on the amps. There was a point, however, at local quartet Brass’s EP release party at the Railway Club last Saturday when the wait for live music devolved from running fashionably late into frustratingly drawn-out.

      Word circulated shortly before the projected 10 o’clock start time that openers Devastator had bailed from the four-band lineup, leaving patrons milling about the club to jovially pound back a few extra preshow pale ales before hardcore crew Stress Eating hit the stage. No harm, no foul.

      Eventually, with the din of drunken chatter hanging in the air, a couple more musos entered the club with gear in hand. This was Sexy Decoy, a last-minute add that gave more bang for the buck but raised the question of why someone didn’t juggle the set times.

      Regardless, standing centre stage first was bespectacled Sexy Decoy vocalist Amanda Brackett, who let out a self-deprecating rallying cry of “Woo, music!” to the hungry crowd before she and the rest of the combo sank into a microset of underperforming punk tunes heavy on rudimentary drum thuds and the singer’s shaky wails.

      Stress Eating’s performance was likewise a little ragged but featured a pro run-through of ’80s posthardcore unit Rites of Spring’s “For Want Of”. The group’s own rapid-fire “Rhythm Jester” didn’t quite have the same intensity, but it had Matt Watkins ramping up his on-stage energy as he choked out sarcasm-laced lines on individualism (“I live on Main Street too, I’m just like you”) and stumbled into the audience.

      Charm had the first massive-sounding set of the night, the trio tunnelling through the crowd with ear-fracking beats and guitar buzz. Reuniting Hard Feelings vocalist-guitarist Al Boyle with bassist Rick O’Dell, Charm works within the tightly wound postpunk pressure cooker of their old outfit. Perfecting the template, Boyle furiously chopped Wipers-styled licks out of his six-string on “Celebrity”, and despite his tiny frame he let out a monstrous Gargantua’s howl while latching onto the mike stand for “Noisy Youth”.

      Headliner Brass—not to be confused with high-speed local street punks the Brass—built on Charm’s manic momentum with an oppressive set of its own. The band’s just-released, self-titled EP was highlighted early on with “Cause”, hammered out to perfection via the kit-crushing beats of wispily-mustached skinsman Rory Troughton. When not gruffly growling out his lines, vocalist Devon Motz spun himself dizzy, performed pull-ups on the Railway’s ventilation system, and occasionally surfed across the small throng up front.

      Brass barrelled through the bulk of its set with punky aplomb, though a pace-changing tribal jam had Motz grabbing a pair of sticks and a tom-tom to meandering effect. Later, the singer curiously quipped that he and his buddies were Vancouver janglers the Courtneys and sent out a roid-raging cover of Le Tigre’s “Deceptacon” to “all the crazy feminists out there”.

      The sweat-soaked show grew wilder as the night went on, including a mug-crushing mini pit of people slamming into the too-close tables, and the gear-wrecking finale of “Strut Punchin”. Motz howled on the cranked-up loser anthem that he’s “never doing anything”, but at least he and the rest of Brass made a beautiful, brutal mess of the Railway Club. And yes, it was totally worth the wait.