First, an apology. You'll notice there are no photos of this gig. Somehow, I lost the photos. Just how is a mystery to me (and I'm a pretty techie guy), but they're gone. Apologies to both bands, and especially to Tallies who were kind enough to put me on their list in anticipation that I would deliver them pretty pictures. I did not. Sorry.
Emmaline Twist started right at 8:00 to a mostly empty room. By the time it finished nearly an hour later, the dark club still concealed no more than 25 fans. Monday nights are hard, but Emmaline Twist plays a lot of weeknight shows, as it's tapped as support for just about any shoegaze (or adjacent) band that tours through. Musically the band is more "adjacent" than "shoegaze," preferring dark and moody post-punk over either the airy bliss or oppressing crush that count as shoegaze.
The band has been around since 2016, and not much has changed since then. Its sound has always been defined by the low voice and cold delivery of Meredith McGrade. On this night they were in particularly good form, elevating recent single "Drugs" to something divine. Curiously, the whole band sounded amazing. On a Monday? It's possible the band got a different mix than usual. McGrade's rhythm guitar was mixed lower, the leads of guitarist Krysztof Nemeth were up, and the foundational keys of Alex Alexander were higher than usual as well. Or maybe it was just where I was standing.
McGrade is never a dynamic frontperson. Not much motion. Not much to say. Not their bag. Instead, the banter comes from the mic of convivial bassist Kristin Conkright, aided by Nemeth who shouts color commentary from his position in the wing. There was plenty of Monday-hating commentary at this show. When McGrade had heard enough of that duo, they reeled them back in, joking "Is this when we play our Bangles cover?" Conkright seemed game. Spoiler, they don't have a Bangles cover. Just before the band's final song, Conkright thanked the crowd and told everyone to stick around for the headliner. Then, upon learning from Nemeth that the headliner was Canadian, she added "Oh then they're probably nice, I'll try to talk to them later." Again McGrade reeled things back in, "Is this when we play George Michael's Faith?" "Oh, I want to!" Kristin quickly replied. And then they didn't. Instead, they closed with the expansive "Empires." The long song was extended further with a big ending that had Nemeth, Alexander, and drummer Jonathan Knecht each egging the others on. Neither Conkright nor McGrade looked impressed. When the trio of boys delivered the final hit, it was a disjointed mess. A curious ending to a set that had been so tight all night. That's a Monday for you.
The members of Tallies took over the stage quickly, and then negotiated with the sound engineer for nearly ten minutes. Eventually it was good enough, and the Toronto dream pop band began its set just after 9:15. The band is fronted by vocalist Sarah Cogan, flanked by guitarists Dylan Franklin and Andrew Wilson, and supported the rhythm section of bassist Cameron James and drummer Cian O'Neill. The band is unapologetic about its influences, and its official biography name drops The Smiths, The Sundays, and Cocteau Twins. That makes things easier for me – no need to dance around it. Cogan's voice is ethereal, and when it visited the top of its range, it was thrilling. She writes the band's lyrics about love, longing, and the search to find one's place in the world. Lead guitarist and backing vocalist Dylan Franklin provided chiming leads that made the songs bright, buoyant, and interesting. Drummer Cian O'Neill intrigued me by establishing an interesting pattern for each song and then letting it play out without change for that song's lifespan. Those core members were joined by touring musicians Andrew Wilson whose rhythm guitar provided the necessary jangle and Cameron James who delivered the simple bass lines, always watching Wilson for the changes. Paradoxically, those two provided most of the motion on stage, with Wilson being the only real dancer of the night. There were times when Cogan gave in to the music as well, stepping back to swish around in her skirt and chunky-heeled Mary Janes, but for most of the set she clung to her microphone stand with both hands. Mondays be like that, don't they?
Tallies' short 40-minute set focused mostly on its 2022 album Patina, delivering standouts like "No Dreams of Faryes," "Am I the Man," and "Special." Sadly, that album's closer "When Your Life Is Not Over" was absent. That song's gloriously pushed vocals and 4AD-styled washes must not be easy to replicate live. The remainder of the set was pulled from its 2019 self-titled debut album. The setlist has been pretty static for most of its current tour, and the band wasn't interested in trying out that new song or attempting an Aztec Camera cover for the small Kansas City crowd. Instead, the quintet delivered its excellent songs with the appropriate amount of energy, and no more. Maybe next time the band will come through on a Tuesday and I'll get to hear all my favorites and the band will get their pretty pictures. Mondays, am I right?