Ultrathin and Holy Cobras, at l’Escogriffe, Montreal, Jan 7th 2010: By Ralph Elawani

Jan 24, 2010

You know the old skit (universally acclaimed for its either fun or unfun qualities) about tossing a seemingly infinite number of clowns into a miniature car? Right. Well, seems like this old pal gets replayed on (at least) a bi-monthly basis at l’Escogriffe, Montreal’s best rock’n’roll dive, known for the Guitar Wolf-ish sonic excellence of its PA system and the illimitable capacities of its barmaids to cope with scavengers like me, scuba diving under bar stools to pick up a handful of quarters to pay for the next round.

Around half past ten, as I was making my way into what most garage rockers consider their second living room, I felt like bad karma had hit the fan and sprinkled the night with copious amounts of bad luck, for the place was as empty as supply and demand could allow it to be –i.e. one on one exchanges between myself and the bartender. Chucking notions of macroeconomics aside, I sat on a stool, downed a few pints, went out for a smoke and then came back inside to drain myself and then...the bar was packed.

I felt like I had travelled through the White Lodge/Black Lodge; I was getting my shit together to ask agent Cooper to sign my jacket, but Ultrathin where just about to finish duck taping their equipment, which meant I’d have had to yell and all that jazz...

To cut a long story short, let’s just say that any card carrying punk rock geek will enjoy the sonic assaults of Ultrathin. Not only are some members behind promising new Montreal-based labels Campaign For Infinity and Psychic Handshake, –the latter has already released a fair share of wax in a tiny wee bit of time– but their live sound, prompted by a Spinal Tap-like amount of pedals, definitely results from hours of listening to bands that only your roommate knows of and whose first limited to two hundred and fifty-seven white copies 7” he blasts all the time on the Macbook mom and dad bought him to go to grad school (M.A. in post-colonial queer haiku-inspired poetry of the second half of 1983). Needless to say, they were undeniably my cup of tea. Make sure you listen to the live performance they recorded on WFMU.

As Ottawa’s Holy Cobras were plugging their VHS and putting on their sunglasses, the place had become packed enough to be declared the abode of an independent army (which is not to undermine the fact that in some countries, more than three individuals sporting similar outfits and walking together can be declared such). Holy Cobras can be said to provide an ideal score for any movie featuring a lone rider of the apocalypse. Their singer is a snotty puddle of awkward gestures that owes as much to Darby Crash and Tomata du Plenty as he does to Helmut Döring (without probably knowing it)...and I say that while being as serious as pancreatic cancer...well, let me reiterate; I liked the Cobras’ psych punk à la Chrome/PIL/Spacemen 3 (duh, guess who they covered as an encore) very much, but I just never dug sunglasses after dark, especially at l’Escogriffe, for it always seems so over the top. All of which would have normally forced me out of the bar, but as I was on my way, I noticed that Darbyduder had L.A.M.F. goofily scarified into the skin of his lower back. For some reason, I guess it made my night and made me think: “well, I dig stupid kids who indulge in whatever binges and make uneducated decisions about their own body”. And that was it; I stayed for the whole thing, and enjoyed their rendition of “Walking with Jesus”.

–Ralph Elawani