Published May 07, 2016Over the last decade or so, Lab Coast have become one of Calgary's most reliable and cherished local bands. Led by multi-instrumentalist Chris Dadge and vocalist David Laing, the group played at the beloved barbeque joint/music venue Palomino for the hometown release of their latest full-length, Remember the Moon. The Friday night show was somewhat of a warm-up show before the band head out on an extensive cross-Canada tour next week.
New local band Crack Cloud opened the night with commanding, obsessive guitar jabs. Their repetitive and tense jangly punk was hypnotic, and was accentuated by some freestyle saxophone for some of the songs. The room was packed during their set and everyone was left in awe of the five-piece's tight sound.
The second act of the night, Faith Healer, fronted by Edmonton staple Jessica Jalbert, started with the breezy "Again" from Cosmic Troubles, released on Mint Records last year. The group (without bassist Jim Cumming, aka Jom Comyn, who is away on a European tour) then played a steady and captivating set made up of other songs from Cosmic Troubles, including psych-pop jam "Acid" and the bopping "Infinite Return."
Although many of the songs from Remember the Moon have been part of Lab Coast's live sets for a while now, the band have really tightened up recently. They started with album opener "Hanging Flowers," followed by the bouncy indie rock gem "Bored Again," which may be one of the strongest Lab Coast songs in their repertoire. For "Helen Bach," Dadge and guitarist Henry Hsieh swapped drums for guitar and vice versa, showcasing the versatility within the band.
On record, Lab Coast sound very modest and comfortable in a lo-fi setting. There is a distinctly warm, homemade feeling about their albums thanks to Dadge's insistence on tape recording in his basement. When it comes to their live performances, Lab Coast become a whole different experience. Fleshed out by guitarists Samantha Savage Smith and Hsieh, and fill-in bassist Matt Learoyd, the five-piece allow Lab Coast's pop sensibilities to fully bloom. The layered, off-kilter guitar riffs swirl together in a mesmerizing collage held together by Dadge's solid beats. Laing's monotone voice is steady but his delivery carries subtle pop hooks that get emphasized by the clever guitar interplay.
Regular bassist Darrell Hartsook, who is unable to make the tour, stood front-and-centre and playfully heckled the calm Laing during much of the band's set. As well, many of the members' parents were in the crowd, partaking in a drink or two and dancing along with the audience, making the hometown show feel like a special night with friends and family.
Topping off the night, older favourites like the radiant "As Usual" and guitar-stressed "Dislocated" from the band's 2014 full-length, Walking On Ayr, were met with the crowd singing along and bumping tall cans of PBR together. Lab Coast finished with title track "Walking On Ayr," which has a triumphant marching beat that worked very well as the closer.
Lab Coast aren't a flashy band, but they remain a skilful, adept and unpretentious rock band. On the heels of their fourth and most polished LP, one would hope the group will be able to gain the attention of a wider Canadian audience this year.