​Superheaven / Diamond Youth / Rozwell Kid / Iris Hard Luck Bar, Toronto ON, May 20

​Superheaven / Diamond Youth / Rozwell Kid / Iris Hard Luck Bar, Toronto ON, May 20
Photo: Kevin Jones
Shoegazing locals Iris set the bar for the night with a brief, powerful set that had the audience entranced from the start. Drawing influence from bands like Whirr and Nothing, the four-piece led their sonic assault with humming feedback and crashing walls of sound amidst brief moments of respite during slower, bass-driven verses. This effect was most prominent during "Ragdoll," from the band's second EP Haunt Me, which was, like the rest of their set, tight and robust.
Rozwell Kid took the stage next, and delivered a raucous, hyperactive set of grungy slacker-rock tunes from their LP, Too Shabby, and their latest EP, Good Graphics. Frontman Jordan Hudkins' lighthearted stage banter kept the crowd thoroughly entertained between songs with over-the-top audience participation bits, and demanded their attention with his eccentric stage moves. The band's timing overall was incredibly precise, dropping in and out during "Weirdo" and perfectly harmonized solos in "Sick Jackets," which they played with headstocks pointed to the ceiling, while bouncing around the stage.
Diamond Youth brought a change of pace with their pop-infused brand of heavy alt-rock. Delivering a nine-song set mostly from their recently released album, Nothing Matters, the Baltimore unit went back and forth between punchy, punk-inspired verses and moments of subtle, sweet melody. Justin Gilman's falsetto croon came through perfectly in the mix and was especially effective on "Cannonball," during which most of the hook was reliant on his higher range. Diamond Youth's performance of "Can't Shake the Feeling" was particularly clean, the stop-start jangles of the verse lines perfectly synchronized throughout.
Superheaven vocalist/guitarist Taylor Madison quickly muttered "Hi, we're Superheaven and we're not as dirty as we look" as the headlining grunge revivalists hit the stage, the first of many dry quips to come, before they blasted into "I've Been Bored" from their latest release, Ours Is Chrome. Madison's raw, gravelly vocals were even more powerful in a live setting than they are recorded, adding extra layers to the cacophony of the band.
Following this, they immediately transitioned into the pounding intro beat to "Sponge" from their debut LP Jar, Jake Clarke's reverb soaked guitar leads cutting through the mix and beautifully sustaining long into the verse. Clarke took over vocals for the next few songs, making for a nice contrast to Madison's grit with his cleaner, mellow delivery. This combination was especially effective for "Leach," during which the vocal focus switched from Clarke to Madison just as the twang-y, echoing verse dropped like an anvil into the crunchy, massive riffing of the chorus. The quartet's stage presence would put metal bands to shame, as they whipped their mops of hair and vigorously headbanged to every fuzzy, chunky riff they sling.
Madison's intentionally awkward stage banter and witty retorts to audience members kept the mood light and enjoyable between songs, but the highlight of the night might have been the most emotionally charged song in their set. Madison's ode to his mother, "Hole In The Ground," is a downtempo stretch that remains relatively similar throughout on record, but Superheaven's live rendition was dynamic, sounding much heavier and filled out, and carried at a brisk pace. Closing off the set with the crowd favourite "Life In A Jar" they wrapped up a well-executed performance.