The Besnard Lakes


‘Are you guys the leftovers who missed Psych Fest?’ (referring to last weekend’s event in Liverpool) teases Jace Lasek from the stage at the modestly assembled crowd in front of him at the Ruby Lounge. Amongst the yeahs and whoops someone from the back of the crowd replies ‘you look like Ian Hunter!’ (the Mott The Hoople frontman) to which Lasek breaks out into a huge grin and laughs ‘well now we can all be friends, we’re your bezzies from Montreal’. And that’s just what this brilliant show feels like, an intimate gig for the few assembled fans, and with no new album to promote, it’s a relaxed atmosphere that makes for a pretty much greatest hits set from our ‘bezzies’.

When I say it’s relaxed, in no way does that mean the band are just going through the motions. Lasek, impossibly tall, all long curly hair and indoor sunglasses, is on ferocious form, his incredible falsetto and guitar shredding almost lifting the roof off the venue during the storming opener ‘Devastation’. His wife Olga is u stood besides him, low slung bass in hand, taking lead on several songs throughout the evening and even whipping out a turn on a flute for the beautiful ‘Chicago Train’, a rare moment of quiet amongst the storm of tonight’s performance.

The Besnard Lakes are like everything and nothing you’ve heard before. Sure, they can be classed as ‘prog’ or ‘psyc’ or just plain ‘rock’, and they hail from the same Canadian linage as bands such as Mt. Silver Zion, Godspeed You! Black Emperor and Stars, but they very much plow their own furrow amongst all that. The best example of that, and the absolute standout moment of the night (and maybe my live highlight of the year so far) is the fantastic ‘And You Lied To Me’ from their second album ‘…Are A Dark Horse’. It’s starts off with a sea of luscious synths before breaking into what can only be described as dramatic spaghetti western guitars, as Lasek paints the picture of a spy in World War II. The theatrical silent pauses before he gently quivers the central line of ‘you aren’t even who you say you are’ immaculately observed by the rapt crowd, before the drums start to pound and the band go into full on wall of noise rock mode…it’s a mini symphony over about 7 minutes and it’s so so wonderful.

The whole gig flies by in a flurry of glorious guitar squeal, and before I know it it’s 11.30pm and the encore of ‘Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent’ parts one and two (as forcefully demanded by one of the audience) is chasing chills up and down my spine for about the eighth time tonight. The crowd may be small, but the band are mighty and deserve more attention than the Tuesday night faithful assembled tonight. Let a bit of Besnard into your life and all will seem much brighter (and more dramatic), try starting with ‘Besnard Lakes Are A Dark Horse’ and discover your new bezzie mates.

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