Chad VanGaalen / Cousins Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, May 24

Chad VanGaalen / Cousins Lee's Palace, Toronto ON, May 24
Photo: Shane Parent
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"We wanna take a minute give a shout-out to Chad VanGaalen and his band. We've been touring with them for a few weeks now. We love those guys. They're good buds of ours and super nice people." This heartfelt moment from Halifax garage-pop duo Cousins is what began a night of perfect riffs, weird stories and some of the best stage banter you'll ever hear last night at Lee's Palace. Before the notorious homebody and his live band took the stage, fans seemed super pumped not only to see Chad, but to see Cousins, as well.

No stranger to a Toronto crowd, the duo took the stage and were greeted with big applause from the crowd. Their set began with a lot of crisp chords and light hi-hats, allowing the front section to swoon and bob their heads along to the tunes. The later half of the set found the group shifting from jangly guitar pop to giving the audience a full-out rock show, introducing two new songs with a lot of crashing cymbals, big vocals and enough shredding to tear the whole venue apart. Before their last song, drummer Leigh Dotey asked to blow her nose, revealing that she'd been sick recently. The crowd gave the thumbs up for the nose blow and applause to Leigh for playing while sick. The last song started with VanGaalen popping on stage with a red side bag and ball cap to assist the band with a psychedelic new track.

Chad assisted on vocals, drums and giving big brother vibes while the duo got the crowd head-banging to this anthemic new tune that ended their set with a big ovation and even bigger hugs from VanGaalen at the end. About ten minutes passed before he emerged again with his band. "I'm getting bad electric shocks up here," he said with a look of concern and frustration, as the band prepared for the eager crowd awaiting them. Chad and his band gave the thumbs up and the band started their set with songs from the new album, Shrink Dust.

Chad's first real rock record translated perfectly on stage. Being long time friends and bandmates, Chad and his band demonstrated great chemistry on stage, delivery each creepy tune with big sounds, harmonizing riffs and lush, cosmic effects. Before introducing the track "Lila," VanGaalen treated the audience to an unsettling account of how he put his old dog to rest. "We left her body out back when she died. One day I was taking a walk with my two daughters and we found Lila, still not fully decomposed. I think my daughter found her jawbone while she was playing," he said to a crowd that laughed hysterically, slightly weirded out, but not surprised in the least.

The group proceeded to play five songs from the highly acclaimed album Soft Airplane. This blast from the past had the whole room dreamy and starry eyed as they sang along and swayed back and forth. VanGaalen ended the night with "Rabid Bits Of Time," a sad finale that continued the singalong until the end of the set, giving him enough to time to quickly retreat with the band and return for an epic encore. After making some funny and disparaging remarks about Stephen Harper, he dedicated a song to the Prime Minister after a comedic retraction of his previous comments. About halfway through the song, Chad stopped to deliver a message most Canadians might actually stand by. "Don't vote for Stephen Harper! If everyone in this room doesn't vote for him, we can finally get that guy outta there. Just vote you guys!"

Chad's unique sense of humour, big heart and introspective look on life left the crowd charmed and filled with joy. It's clear the guy doesn't get out much, but that only heightened the sense that this night of weird tales and tunes was a treat for everyone in attendance.