Hanging in With Plants and Animals

This article can also be found on Monday Magazine’s website.

Sugar Nightclub was the place to be for Victorian music lovers this weekend. On Friday night, the club hosted Los Angeles surf-pop sensations Best Coast, and on Saturday night the bar’s doors reopened for Montreal’s Plants and Animals. Many in attendance Saturday evening were still a bit green at the gills, obviously nursing Best-Coast-hangovers, but it wasn’t long before Plants and Animals swept us all into an intoxicated, musical bliss for the second time in as many nights.

Plants and Animals are known for their attention to detail in the studio. The band’s analog recordings, 2008’s Parc Avenue in particular, are exquisite testaments to the power of tape. Stories of Plants and Animals committing entire days to properly mic a drum kit, and splicing tape with razor blade precision, swirl about them as they relentlessly criss-cross North America. The band has recently opened for groups as lauded and diverse as The National and Gnarls Barkley: a testament to the band’s own stylistic fecundity. On Saturday night, Plants and Animals proved that they are much more than studio wizards; they are a hell of a live act, as well.

Upon descending from the green-room above into the sullen depths of blue lit smoke, the band immediately started into their first song which, as guitarist/lead singer Warren Spicer later confided to the near capacity crowd, was a new track from an album the band has been recording on the road. It was a sign of things to come: their set, though predominantly composed of songs from Parc Avenue and 2010’s La La Land, was peppered with brand new material. If Saturday night was any indication, the band’s forthcoming album will be every bit as good as its predecessors.

While the live versions of the older material Plants and Animals played on Saturday night did their respective album incarnations justice, it was apparent from the evening’s outset that the band’s live show is very much a stripped down re-visioning of the songs: they are a three piece band after all, a numerical footnote easy to forget when listening to the vinyl. Their live re-workings made for a sound that was more sparse, but also more fierce.

On this night, Plants and Animals were no longer domesticated— less fern, more venus fly trap; more Bengal tiger than tabby. The ferocious interplay between guitar(s) and drum was reminiscent of Gold Rush era Neil Young: at once sloppy and precise, numinous and unrational.

Back up singer and multi instrumentalist Nic Basque seemed to favor his hollow bodied six string guitar on Saturday night, but occasionally he strapped on his bass guitar to compliment the rhythmic genius of drummer Matthew Woody Woodley: “Bye Bye Bye” was especially powerful, less orchestral and more pounding in a live skin.

It was a night that ended too soon: it wasn’t even midnight yet when the band finished their encore. Music lovers spilled down the stairs and out the doors and onto the streets, eager to rehydrate after back to back evenings of musical debauchery. Ears still ringing, they surveyed the band’s humble, grey van which was still warm from a never ending tour. And Sugar Nightclub’s doors closed again for another week.

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