Chad VanGaalen is more than just your average guitar-toting indie rocker — he's a seriously weird dude with a brilliantly twisted mind.
This much became clear from his between-song banter at Lee's Palace: at one point during the jam-packed Thursday night (November 30) show, he went on an extended rant about how scientific advancements meant that ethical human meat would likely soon be available for cannibals; at another, he spoke graphically about how cremated remains are a hodgepodge of different people's remains. Even when talking about recently burying his dog, he toed the line between horror and shock-comedy, saying, "Putting a shovel full of dirt on your buddy's face fucking sucks."
These macabre monologues were some of the memorable highlights from a night that featured no shortage of curiosities. It was a quirky evening from the start: following a messy and unengaging jazz set from Un Blonde (aka Montreal's Jean-Sebastien Audet), VanGaalen and his three backing musicians took the stage and opened with an extended noise jam that was the epitome of self-indulgence.
It was a confrontational, alienating start, but once the band settled into a string of cuts from this year's Light Information, they hit their stride. Guitarist Scott Munro (Preoccupations) did an excellent job of coaxing otherworldly tones out of his six-string, taking the place of the synths and sonic trickery that sometimes mark VanGaalen's studio output. The singer's impassioned vibrato and psychedelic lyrics added another layer of strangeness, as the songs frequently touched on sci-fi themes and surreal imagery.
The performance was heavy on new material. Aside from the occasional back catalogue selection like "Peace on the Rise" (from 2011's Diaper Island) or "City of Electric Light" (from 2008's Soft Airplane), the setlist was dominated by garage rock cuts from Light Information, with pop-friendly closer "Static Shape" standing out as a particular highlight. Although it would certainly have been nice to hear past faves like "Willow Tree" or "Sara," this night proved that, well over a decade since his debut, VanGaalen remains at the top of his game.