White Lung The Cobalt, Vancouver BC, March 11
Published Mar 12, 2016Vancouver's White Lung have been steadily rising in the public eye for the past decade. The post-punk trio of vocalist Mish Barber-Way, guitarist Kenneth William and drummer Anne-Marie Vassiliou struck gold with their 2010 debut, It's the Evil, which earning a distinction as Exclaim!'s punk album of the year. Word has spread exponentially since the release of their third album and first for Domino, 2014's Deep Fantasy, and with a fourth album called Paradise on the way, a project on which they worked with Lars Stalfors (HEALTH, Cold War Kids) in order to craft a softer, more nuanced sound, their music has begun to evolve for larger stages.
They've toned down the raw drive for cleaner, pop-tinged songwriting, while Barber-Way's vocals have shifted aural focus from cathartic exclamation to embrace a more melodic approach. Yet, they've managed to maintain their aggressively punk core, as attested by their set last night (March 11) in Vancouver.
The all-Vancouver bill started off slowly. Rayon Dyck of Hockey Dad Records established the vibe by spinning punk records that appropriately skipped every time someone walked past the decks towards the stage before guitar and bass duo Kōban played a grungy, Kills-esque interpretation of the Cure had the good-natured crowd fairly docile until Vacant State took the stage. People started diving off it before the band even started playing, making good use of their time since the band would only play for 18 minutes, but VC annihilated it the whole time they were up there with their gnarly, primal hardcore.
White Lung attempted to take the stage to a similarly brisk effect, but they were stymied by the sound guy's smoke break, which meant Mish spent a few minutes getting frustrated in silence as her mic wouldn't respond. Then, as soon as her mic started working, the bass amp wouldn't fire up. Pushing their time well past midnight, the delay seemed to dampen the response. It took a few songs, until "Down It Goes," that the pit put some feeling into it.
Joined for the first time by Caroline Doyle, sawing away on her bass as if to turn it to kindling, about half of the set list was pulled from Paradise, while the other half drew from across their catalogue. Throughout their performance, Anne-Marie Vassiliou was a metronome from hell, fiercely assaulting her kit, while Kenneth William's textural guitar cut through like a sonic boom-riding laser beam. Working the front like the pro she is, Barber-Way shimmied, shot finger pistols and whipped her head like she wanted to hurt someone, working up enough of a sweat with the effort that the crowd could smell the bleach in her hair.
Unfortunately, the headlining set proved to be a little long for them, and her voice audibly started to sound strained. It seemed like she might need a little more work to properly carry those more melodic tunes over a 40-minute set, but her vigour on the mic never let up, nor did the pit. Capping off with "Drown with the Monster," most of the people between the pillars shoved each other gleefully, and cheered long after they left the stage, as Dyck tossed on another record to play them out.