A Place to Bury Strangers Festival de Musique Émergente, Rouyn-Noranda QC, September 1

A Place to Bury Strangers Festival de Musique Émergente, Rouyn-Noranda QC, September 1
Photo: Stephen McGill

Oliver Ackermann's guitar strap disengaged on the first assaultive note of set opener "We've Come So Far," and that was it. Unwilling to be contained, the guitarist used the opportunity to accentuate every noisy progression with expressive flails, and soon he was hacking at the stage floor like a lumberjack and hurling the instrument in the air to let it come crashing down in calamitous, fuzz-covered explosions. He held it closer for "Deeper" and its blackened introspection, but its minutes were numbered, and all it took was one more extended noise jam before that first Fender was a crumpled mess of string and shrapnel.

Between their violent noise clinics and the sheer volume (branded earplugs available next to the Death By Audio fuzz pedal at the merch table, mind you), there was a palpable sense of danger cutting the atmosphere at A Place To Bury Strangers' FME performance, and it didn't stop there. Every structured release gave way to a volatile moment of improvised action, so at one point, Ackermann's (second) guitar and Dion Lunadon's bass would meet neck-to-neck in a muscular faceoff resembling some kind of quarterstaff battle, and the next, Lunadon was stomping stage perched beers on his way into the pit for a solo that ended with a bass toss landing it back onstage, La Simone Braswell holding everything together from behind the kit.

One last freak out had Ackermann ravaging his fretboard with a strobe light, and then the band took things to another plane of sensory excess and brought out Elephant Stone sitarist Rishi Dhir and a sax for a groove-locked finale that really dug into the power of repetition. Over the course of their set, the band progressively checked off all the boxes of the mythos that's followed them their entire career, but they executed it all with a tempestuous unpredictability, and it made them a festival highlight.

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