It would not be an overstatement to say that the stoner rock mothership dropped off some of its elite crew at The Hard Luck Bar in downtown Toronto on 10 August 2022. The bill was headlined by the Los Angeles rock veterans Sasquatch, who have been cranking out nitrous-fueled music with industrious consistency for two decades now.
Supporting acts were Portland’s Hippie Death Cult, quickly establishing themselves as a must-see live band in this tight, communal, and established music scene, and Low Orbit, a hometown quartet that is really coming into its own with its savvy amalgamation of psychedelia, fuzz, and doom.
Sasquatch, Hippie Death Cult, Low Orbit
The Hard Luck Bar, Toronto. 10 August 2022
Words: Sunil Singh
Photography: Melanie Webster
The venue, aptly named and dimly lit, was the perfect setting of grit and grime for all the bands to call home for a few hours.
Low Orbit came on promptly at 9 pm, with an infectious enthusiasm that would continue with the following bands well past midnight. Opening with Dead Moon, a crushing number channelling Black Sabbath and Low Rider, the band quickly took command of the stage and set the blistering tone for the entire evening.
There was no let-up for the next 40 minutes. Even still, the highlight might have been when the band showcased its deep library of influences by playing Empty Space and Monocle back to back. It was a satisfying joyride through a soundscape that felt like an asteroid hurtling towards a planet, carrying the debris of ’70s muscle cars and sci-fi films.
Hippie Death Cult
Hippie Death Cult, paying close attention to Low Orbit’s high-energy set, wasted no time getting right down to the emotional stretching and pummeling of their music. Due to the limitations of the stage, all three members occupied the front of the stage, adding to the cohesiveness of the band, visually and sonically.
HDC effortlessly plays in so many styles and genres that it is easy to get musical whiplash as the band shifts gears–often within one song! A perfect example was the new and unreleased song Arise, which starts off with a clear ode to Leslie West and Mountain and then jets off to the meat of Sabbath’s ’70s catalogue before getting off on the muddy offramp of today’s doom.
Very few bands could create such a delicious distillate of so many different sounds and deliver them with a timestamp that is 2022. Count HDC in that exclusive club.
Taking vocals now is bassist Laura Phillips, as their former lead singer departed somewhat abruptly in 2021. This is turning out to be a blessing, as the radiant Phillips now gets to unleash her well-suited vocals in a live setting. That was made evident when they played Hornet Party, a frenetic number that begins with a moody tempo akin to hanging around a witches’ cauldron.
Which is perfect, considering Phillips sings like a bad witch onstage but is the most delightful good witch off. The set closer, Circle Of Days, was a tasty bouillabaisse of ’70s guitar mastery–Robin Trower, Allman Brothers, and Pink Floyd. The net effect was a musical exit that was bluesy, bordering a trance-like state. Brnabic must be experimenting with his pedals non-stop to deliver such a seductive guitar tone.
The overall chemistry between guitarist Eddie Brnabic, drummer Ryan Moore, and the aforementioned Laura Phillips is special and only translates into live performances which are electric and wholly memorable. A special band that is outgrowing its cult following quickly.
This was my first time seeing Sasquatch, and all the hype that has dotted their long, six-album career was justified. The studio and live consistency of the band reminds me of The Hellacopters, delivering high voltage rock with uncompromising, sweaty diligence.
The driving force of Sasquatch is composed of the powerful, Chris Cornell-like vocals of Keith Gibbs, who also masterfully handles guitar duties. Jason Casanova on bass and Craig Riggs on drums is the ridiculously tight rhythm section–constantly in beast mode to support the distinct howls of Gibbs.
Sasquatch plays with this paradoxical style of not being in a hurry to get anywhere but, at the same time, making sure they are barreling down the highway at top speed in their Mack truck. It’s like a perfect, cruising velocity for head-noddin’ and fist-pumpin’. The Sasquatch catalogue runs deep, and their latest album, Fever Fantasy, just might be tied as my favourite with III.
Unlike most bands, their setlist varies every night, feverishly sampling their entire output. In spite of being heralded veterans of the stoner rock scene, Sasquatch refused to rest on laurels tonight, still pushing themselves live. New songs like It Lies Beyond merged unsurprisingly with the signature, thunderous groove of older songs.
Their music is so memorable that a song like a Destroyer from the 2017 Maneuvers album just pops even more when played live. After two and half hours of fuzzed-out and tripped-out music on high volume, even the most veteran fan is ready to call it a night.
Sasquatch, being the bloody hot yoga of rock and roll, still had the audience demanding more after their last song. And more is what the grateful band gave them. A rare encore that ploughed its way through some tech issues with the instruments.
Barrel Of A Gun is a catchy, rumbling number played with energy and enthusiasm as if it was the night’s first song. Sasquatch, as they have been doing since 2004, simply stomped and crushed. Decades on, prisoners are still not taken at their live performances.
For all those who came out for a midweek show for some of the hardest rock and roll going, they were fully rewarded with sonic wizardry of the highest pedigree.
As well, watching all the preshow and post-show mingling, the generosity of all the bands with their fans was fully on display, only highlighting the communal experience of being thoroughly thumped around by some of stoner rock’s finest offerings.