Published Mar 22, 2014The German Club normally offers relaxed, warm interiors for shows in the Queen City. Not far off from Regina's sluggish downtown, the animals on the walls, huge murals of German countryside, and shuffleboard are best suited for slapdash rock shows and rollicking country and folk. When Snake River came in for the vinyl release of their second album, McKruski, they made the place entirely their own.
Herb and the Humans pounded out great garage-rock to start the chilly spring evening off. "Pounded" is exactly the word for it, as drummer Gino Giambattista is clearly trying to be the hardest hitting player in the city. The trio's chemistry builds every time they play live, their sound building off the garage sound that guitarist Herb Exner explored with in his previous band, the Hot Blood Bombers, adding hints of rockabilly.
Wizards have some kind of anointed status in Regina, being the only Saskatoon act to make it onto Carl Johnson of Library Voices' "Prairie Shag mix" for the city. The quintet sidesteps easy categorization with a lot of what they do. After an opening instrumental with mild surf influences, they ran the gamut of wide-ranging songs, working in noisy, punk-ish bits into their rock formula.
When Snake River came up, the house lights on the performance side of the bar turned off entirely, replaced with a series of bright white lights placed at the band's feet. Their shadows extended to the deer and pictures of old German Club members on the walls, and a picture of the record's namesake and main character was projected onto a wall.
The atmosphere worked well for the band, which is a far different beast live than it is on record. The McKruski pressed to LP leans more to lead man Chris Sleightholm's folk inclinations in its mixing and instrument choice. Live, he's just as stoically demure as he is on record, but the live lineup for the group changes the sound considerably. Somewhere in the blend between country and folk scene mainstays and post-hardcore regulars, they found a sweet spot of intensely heavy psychedelics that didn't lose any of Sleightholm's solid songwriting in the transition.
The foursome played McKruski front to back, Sleightholm even telling the crowd when side one was over. Any band reserves that right when their current album is a concept record; this one explores a set of characters from around the Snake River Mountain area. Once side two was over, they had one song ready for an encore: a cover of "Night of the Vampire" by Roky Erickson, a telling pick for the sound and aim of Snake River.