At the Rickshaw Theatre on Saturday, January 28
Even though Vancouver had plenty of time to get prepared for what unfolded at the Rickshaw on Saturday, it’s not an exaggeration to suggest no one saw this one coming. Somewhere along the line, the Pack a.d. made the leap from a pretty damn good band to an insanely great one.
Four months after the release of its fourth and latest album, Unpersons, the two-piece made up of singer-guitarist Becky Black and drummer Maya Miller finally threw a local album-release party. Proving that some things are indeed worth waiting for, the sold-out show generated enough advance buzz to become a bona-fide event. If you somehow ended up with an extra ticket, there was no shortage of desperate takers outside the venue.
With the pressure on, the Pack a.d. used its first major headlining show in Vancouver to make a jaw-dropping statement. When the smoke finally cleared it was hard to tell who was more drained: the band or the PBR-liquored fans sardine-canned on the dance floor.
The night made a few things crystal clear, chief among them being that Black and Miller are a team in every sense of the word. You want showmanship? You had to look no further than Miller, who has obviously figured out that the last thing people want to see from a duo is a timekeeper who sits there like a Sominexed Meg White. By the night’s second number, the chugging “Cobra Matte”, she had a mile-wide smirk on her face, each hit of the snare drum administered with a wildly cartoonish, robo-monkey wallop.
Miller also understands the often-overlooked importance of in-between-songs banter. And by banter, we’re not talking tired pronouncements like “This one’s off our new album.” As the band’s unofficial emcee, she’s funny in an endearingly self-deprecating way, filling the gaps between numbers with things like “That was a song that we do. We’re going to try and play another one that we play.”
A winning mix of detached cool and Joan Jett swagger, Black gave her drummer plenty of help. The singer was a one-woman wrecking crew, whether ripping through the ozone-crackle “Haunt You” with a snarling ferocity, or stalking the stage like a heart-full-of-napalm panther for “Rid of Me”.
The Pack a.d. came out firing with songs pulled from their two most recent albums, Unpersons and we kill computers, both of which have found the group moving away from its garage-blues beginnings. Ironically, though, it was when the band dragged things back to the Delta that things officially caught fire. Halfway through the howling exorcism that was “Don’t Have to Like You”, it was like Black suddenly flicked a lit match onto a lake of gasoline, the audience roaring its awe-struck approval, the band responding by stomping hard on the accelerator.
Impossibly, the human blur that was Black actually seemed to get more amped with each passing song. The guitarist finished the encore number “Cabin” triumphantly perched on top of Miller’s kit, the two bandmates beaming like they’d just conquered the world. Or, more accurately, kicked the ass of a city which, even though it’s had plenty of warning over the past half-decade, likely never saw the Pack a.d. coming. Here’s sincere condolences if you weren’t there, because, as parties go, this one was a fucking rager.
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