Scapeshift @ The Windsor Beer Exchange, February 10th

The bar was cozy and familiar – I had been there many times before – with warm lighting and a thick atmosphere. The place was crowded with friendly faces in alternative dress – vibrant colours contrasting dark themes, full beards and tattoos, beanies, pull over hoodies, band T’s etc. . . All what you might expect from a pop punk show. The promoter could often be seen traversing the venue wearing her signature vested jacket, beanie and camera. She was cool, and inspired in a lethargic way; she reminded me of a punk Ellen Page. She was running a benefit show “for those who have suffered in silence, or know someone who struggles with mental illness,” and the pay-what-you-can donations were being directed to the Canadian Mental Health Association. Scapeshift, a Windsor pop punk band “with an emo aesthetic,” and whose lyrical content deals primarily with the theme of overcoming mental illness, was finishing the night with an energetic and melancholic sound. They were playing upstairs, above the homier stage on the ground.
The room was smaller, with a dark and chill vibe. Christmas lights hung above a tiled floor, illuminating a sleepy burning setting much more suited for the dark abrasiveness of punk. Just before Scapeshift’s set, I sat on stage with the band as they tuned, taking in the pop punk kids perfectly adhering to the stereotype of “friendship.” They listed around the stage, sharing with big smiles, evoking a familial sense of brotherly community, and everything felt alright. Then the sound guy placed RHCP, ruining everything. Scapeshift went on at midnight.
The band was reminiscent of other pop punk acts like Real Friends, Knuckle Puck, and The Story So Far, and their music consisted of common pop punk tropes and conventions – shouted and emotive confessional lyricism, uppity d-beat percussive runs, and aggressive and cathartic easycore styled breakdowns. The guitar emitted standard pop punk tones with a slight hardcore influence. The vocalist maintained a contemporary pop punk style, mixed with the harshness commonly found in mid-2000s post-hardcore. The drummer was good, though he sometimes missed cues that sent the music forward in an unnatural way. He also had an awkward d-beat style that needed improvement. Based on the drummer’s overabundance of cymbals and toms, it was clear that pop punk was not his root genre. The bassist was excellent, maintaining complex tapping rhythms and tight skipping grooves. He was the most intricate one in the band, though his subtle complexities were often overlooked by the aggressive tones put forth by his friends. I noticed him by chance.
The crowd formed into a hesitant line somewhat away from the stage, giving space to a lone mosher that awkwardly danced in a circle. The crowd was enjoying the music, bobbing their heads back and forth, but were too timid to participate in the band’s performance, contrasting the audience’s pop punk atmosphere and energy before the set. The guitarist and bassist seemed very stiff, but the vocalist and the drummer made up for this with a constant out pour of emotion and movement.
The sound was awful. Guitar overpowered almost everything, and the vocals were nearly inaudible. On the second last song, there was a screeching feedback that rung out for a full 45 seconds. All eyes were on the sound guy – he just looked around. People started leaving. The guitarist and the drummer seemed unconcerned, but the vocalist continued on in angry frustration. I found myself wanting it to be over for the singer’s sake. It was good pop punk, but completely perverted by the incompetency of the person running the sound. By the end of the set, everyone that had been in the crowd was farther back away from the stage, sitting and talking and drinking. The singer was pissed and the guitarist was confused. Despite the still vibrant mood of the crowd in the bar, the night felt hollow and sad. There was a melancholy that undercut a surface of fragility. A thin layer of cheerfulness that hid a deepness not immediately apparent in the room.

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