Friday, April 15, 2011

Sex With Strangers Georgia Straight Review

Sex With Strangers unleashes a sweaty, hedonistic dance party
By Alex Hudson, April 15, 2011

At the Biltmore on Thursday, April 14

(Rebecca Blissett photo)

Sometime shortly after 12:30 a.m., Sex With Strangers frontman Hatch Benedict joked, “I’m looking forward to working tomorrow.” The irony of this statement was not lost on the undeniably-into-it audience. It may have been a weeknight, but even the promise of a gruelling hangover didn’t stop the revellers from turning the Sex With Strangers CD-release show into a sweaty, hedonistic dance party.

The evening began with newcomers the Controlling Boyfriends making their live debut. The group's members appeared to be battling a case of nerves, and before they even played a song, one of the two rappers admitted, “This was thrown together at the last minute.” This genesis might have explained why the instrumental accompaniment included only a drummer and bassist. The arrangements were a little thin, but this didn’t stop the MCs from delivering an adrenalized performance, leading those who showed up for the 9 p.m. start time in a series of call-and-response shout-alongs.

The energy only went up from there, as the all-female Joyce Collingwood cranked the amps for a fast and furious set of face-melting thrash. The quintet tore through well over a dozen songs in under 20 minutes, with many of the tunes clocking in at around a minute, and the shortest of the bunch consisting of only a single chord. Most of the group’s material relied on a pummelling combination of power chords and pulse-racing rhythms, the guitarists ventured up the fret boards on “Who Cares?” to unleash fiery, interlocking metal licks. This clearly made a major impression on one long-haired headbanger near the front, who spent the performance tossing his blond locks and pumping a fist in the air.

Between sets, Mark Henning from Guilty About Girls and the now-defunct Pure spun a clubby selection of radio hits and obscure gems that ensured that the dance floor never empty.

Though the Biltmore was only half-full, Run With the Heard kept the party people moving with its freakish take on experimental dance-pop. With as many as seven people on stage at once, the outfit delivered a genre-defying squall that ranged from Auto-Tuned pop to backwoods country to ’90s-infused hip-hop. Strangest of all was one song that began as a ramshackle banjo hoedown before morphing into a computerized rager that, bizarrely, found a middle ground between folk and electroclash. Tight as the musicianship was, the best part of the whole spectacle was the sunglasses-wearing bro clutching a tiny plastic six-stringer that appeared to be a Guitar Hero controller converted into a synthesizer.

Run With the Heard lets no piece of out-of-date video-game hardware go to waste. Rebecca Blissett photo.

It was midnight before the headliners took the stage, but Sex With Strangers rewarded the faithful’s patience with a selection of four-on-the-floor dance-rock bangers. This was the release show for the band’s new long-player, Frontier Justice, a concept album about the warring survivors of an apocalypse. The six-piece didn’t let the weighty subject matter hamper the fun, as Benedict introduced two consecutive songs as being “about fucking”.

The massive, bearded frontman’s banter was frequently obnoxious but consistently hilarious throughout the 50-minute set. During Frontier Justice’s title track, the pulsing low end prompted him to observe, “That’s bass, it’s in your face.” Then, between songs, he informed the crowd, “I have one testicle. That’s true.”

The Awkward over-sharing of too much information aside, the robotic, four-on-the-floor disco numbers kept the Biltmore teeming. During the encore, Benedict invited the audience on-stage, and the band finished the night bumping elbows with the punters. And in an uncharacteristically gracious moment, he added, “Thank you very much for sticking it out.”

Hopefully, after a job well done, he rewarded himself by calling in sick for work.

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