The Rest @ Abyssinia

      . : : March 9th, 2012 : : .

As I mentioned in my Andrew Cole blog, I spent the entire evening at the Drake Underground with a watchful eye on an ever depleting battery meter on my Edirol recorder. By the halfway point in Andrew Cole’s set, it had started blinking the low battery notification message, and I was certain that I was going to run out of juice before the set ended. Without spare batteries on hand, I was helpless. The blinking became more urgent, and it looked like it was going to die any second. I hate having incomplete recordings, so my heart was in my throat. Andrew Cole finished his set, and I was certain when I’d look down, the recorder would be off — no more than my own faint reflection in the glare off its blank screen. Luckily, I was wrong.

I looked at my watch — only a few minutes after 11. The Rest was playing a show in a venue I’d never heard of, in a part of town I’d never been. I hadn’t really expected to be able to make it (after all, there was FOUR acts to catch at the Drake), but there seemed to be enough time to make it if I scrambled. But there was no way these batteries, which desperately held on throughout the night at the Drake, could be asked to continue to perform for a minute longer let alone another 40-minute set. So, standing up to leave the Drake, I made myself a bargain: if I could find an open convenience store that sold batteries on the way to the subway station, I would figure out a way to the Abyssinia Bar and Ethiopian Restaurant in Koreatown.

I said a quick goodbye to my friends Doug and Cathy, hoping they’d forgive me for an unceremonious departing, and headed out onto Queen St W. I don’t think it was more than a block before I saw a convenience store across the street that I’d never remembered seeing before. Sure enough, they had batteries, and beef jerky. (What? I was hungry, and hadn’t had a thing to eat or drink all night!) I quickly looked up directions to the venue, which (helpfully), is quite literally just outside of Christie subway station, so off I went.

After getting into the two-story venue, and figuring out from the lack of anything in particular happening downstairs that the fun must be upstairs, I climbed the rickety steps up and pulled open the heavy wooden door. A cacophony of sound poured out of the dark room, as an aggressive local metal band had just taken the stage. I paid my entrance fare, and started into the room. I didn’t get very far, granted, as the room was barely much bigger than my own living room. With a capacity of some 50-people, I started to wonder if it hadn’t already been oversold as they continued to let people in. It was a wall-to-wall crowd, and there was barely enough room to close the door behind them all.

Only brightly coloured, flashing pot lights on the ceiling made seeing two feet in front of your face possible. I wormed my way a bit further into the room as best I could, so my recording wouldn’t be interrupted by patrons entering and exiting the room. The loud, angry metal band seemed to whip the crowd up into a frenzy as I impatiently, boredly stared at my watch. Their riffs were creative, but droning, the occasional vocals incomprehensible growls. Sorry, metalheads. I grew out of that phrase a good decade ago.

Finally, the set ended and the band begin to pack up their gear. They couldn’t really leave the stage — there didn’t seem to be one. Just a portion of the room dedicated to the musicians and their instruments. The Rest stepped through the crowd and begin to set up. After some technical problems prolonged the beginning of their set, the band opened with their (at the time) upcoming album, Seesaw‘s opening track, Who Knows.

It was clear right away that frontman Adam Bentley was under the weather. His vocals were raspier and lacking the strength and range I’d grown accustomed to, but to say he under delivered would be an injustice. Adam barked and wailed and pushed even harder than normal, and even if the results weren’t always technically perfect, they were still full of heart.

Furthermore, the nature of the small room meant it was an unusual mix. Of course, one couldn’t expect pristine sound in a room that was, essentially, a small eatery that features (really) small live performances a couple of nights a week. Thus, the guitars — all three of them — where undecipherable from one another. But that’s not unusual for a The Rest set, where the guitars, drenched in distortion and delay, create a wall of noise that the other instruments weave their way in and out of.

Really, the most unique thing about this room’s mix is that is was SO SMALL they didn’t seem to need to run the guitar amps through the PA system much, if at all. Straight from the amps, the guitars were able to fill the room and often UNDER-mixed instrumentation took the shining spotlight out of the PA. The audience was therefore treated to a mix that allowed for unusual clarity in vocals, cello, keyboards and samples.

The setlist didn’t have any real surprises, although it’s great to see the band has found a way to get comfortable with performing John Huston live after having some difficulties synchronizing with the drum samples, but with a list of such great songs, this taper sure isn’t complaining. The back half of Innocent Fools still never fails to absolutely floor me, but there’s hardly a weak moment amongst the bunch. Another great set, but due to the unusual mix and somewhat restricted vocals, it’s difficult to recommend this recording as a starting point for new potential fans. Existing fans will definitely get a kick out of this one.

The Rest’s new album, Seesaw is available to pre-order now at Auteur Recordings, and comes with an instant high-quality MP3 download of the album.

01. [introduction]
02. Who Knows
03. [banter]
04. Hey! Is For Horses
05. Walk On Water
06. John Huston
07. Innocent Fools
08. [banter]
09. Coughing Blood, Fresh Mountain Air
10. The Close Western

[info.txt // flac fingerprint ]
[ Request FLAC or MP3 Download ]

John Huston (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to The Rest and Abyssinia Bar and Restaurant!

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