As I've written before, I really like attending M for Montreal each November because there are always surprises in the line-up. I always see several performers that pleasantly shock the hell out of me.
Last night, for example, I wanted to see a band called Absolutely Free, descendents of an experimental math-rock collective called DD/MM/YY. And yes, they were very good, even though this was their very first live gig. You'll seldom see such intricate rhythms played on live drums.
The band has two kits onstage and sometimes features two guys bashing at the same time. No standard 4/4 fare for these dudes. Very tight, very cool.
But the real surprise came with the first act of the night. I've grown a little tired of the sensitive singer-songwriter type, the guy with the guitar who probably gets a lot of girls because he sings about his feelings. You know the type, especially if you pay any attention to the music heard on Grey's Anatomy.
That's what I was expecting with Daniel Isaiah. I planned to sit quietly through him until Absolutely Free came on, reading a book off my iPhone. Rude, I know--but I've really had my fill of sensitive singer-songwriters.
But within 30 seconds of his band coming onstage, I was transfixed. Three people with Daniel and his guitar partner providing a twin reverb-drenched twin hollowbody guitar twang attack. Think Dire Straits meets Chris Isaak with a slight David Lynch twist. Extremely evocative, atmospheric and even slightly ominous. The songs were great.
But the person who really had my attention was a woman named Tara on drums. Her playing was both complex and tasteful. She played a superbly tuned and miked Yamaha kit consisting of just a snare, kick and floor tom augmented by a few cymbals and an electronic drum pad. Her touch so was light and deft in sort of a Steve Gadd way (drummers will know what I mean) that I couldn't take my eyes off her hands. Brilliant.
Had I not been at the venue early, I would have never seen Daniel, his band or his drummer. Another reason why you should think twice about blowing off an opening act.