No one wants their favourite obscure band to get popular, but fans of Thee Oh Sees should be thankful that they aren't too underground. After all, if they weren't popular enough to warrant a fly-out, there's no way they would have made it through the snow for their Calgary performance.
Newer Calgary quintet Occupied Europe opened the night with the raw post-punk suggested by their Swell Maps-referencing moniker, as they brought along frenetic bass lines, scrappy guitar work and a constant but not overbearing saxophone. Lethbridge, AB heroes Fist City are always an impressive live act with busy instrumentation, intense vocals and well-crafted poppy punk songs, but with the fullness of the Republik's huge sound system, they were transformed into the kind of loud rock band that could have been a comfortable headliner.
No one complained that they weren't, however, as Thee Oh Sees took the stage and essentially destroyed it. In a live setting, they possessed a particularly muscular sound, as frontman John Dwyer's 12-string guitar and Petey Dammit's six-string baritone worked together for a humming, heart-pounding low-end, made all the more intense as drummer Mike Shoun beat his skins to a pulp. The only solace from their rhythmic intensity was the sparse keyboards and sugary vocals from Brigid Dawson.
The bass-heavy sound worked well with Dwyer's infectious songwriting, inspiring the audience to lose their minds in a frenzy of dancing. Far from sold out, the Republik felt packed as bodies swarmed the stage and Dwyer fed off the energy, swinging his guitar and dropping gobs of drool down his chin as he belted out the hits.
The band proved that their growing popularity could not be more deserved. As the garage trend slowly dies down and people move on to whatever comes next, Thee Oh Sees will stay vital thanks to their passion, talent and, most importantly, their sheer volume.