Published Apr 08, 2015Sheer Mag belong to a growing number of DIY bands whose guitarists remember their guitar lessons. Not unlike Tony Molina, they appeal to a broad spectrum of punk and hardcore kids and regularly circle the continent playing dives and punk houses, but still manage to grind out crowd-pleasing guitar solos in every song. They're hard working, they're memorable and, to put it in industry jargon, they're going places.
Though they've released records on hardcore labels like Static Shock and (soon) Katorga Works, there's no question that labels, marketers and PR people are surely courting Sheer Mag. They were a major talking point at this year's SXSW, their new tracks are proving that blog buzz is still a valuable currency and someone's currently trying to sell their readily available seven-inch for $92 on Discogs.com.
It's hardly their fault — Sheer Mag don't give off the impression that they're trying to do anything other than write and perform DIY arena rock anthems. As evidenced at The Palomino, that's something they do extremely well. The aforementioned guitar riffs were piled on top of one another with perfection, the rhythm section was at once unassuming and forceful, and it all simultaneously supported and competed with frontwoman Tina Halladay, whose timeless, soulful growl is even more commanding in real life.
Showing their hardcore-scene roots, there's a sense of impatience to Sheer Mag's music; every song is arranged with deceptively complex guitar parts, eschewing standard verse-chorus-verse structures for something a little more engaging. Though their set felt a little same-y after a while, there was always lots to focus your ears on.
Sheer Mag were preceded by Calgary locals Glitter, a noisy, raucous hardcore band that are likely too difficult to score exclusive blog premieres or official SXSW showcases, but that's part of their charm. When they play house shows, they always deliver a spectacle, and on a real stage with real sound gear, they proved that they're entirely viable as a "professional" band, too. Heavy riffing, noisy psych passages, d-beat blasts and throat-shredding vocals are Glitter's oeuvre, and when they're onstage, they always prove themselves to be one of Calgary's best. It was a perfectly strange choice to open for Sheer Mag.
The next time out, there'll likely be industry vultures creeping around, but for this tour, we got to enjoy Sheer Mag alongside fans that'd normally listen to Cro-Mags. Whether or not they blow up, implode or miraculously manage to stay exactly the same is yet to be seen, but there's something special about enjoying a band before the industry machine snatches them up.