Kittens / KEN Mode / Velodrome Collective Cabaret, Winnipeg MB

After close to eight years of absence, the return of Winnipeg noise rockers Kittens made for one of the city’s most exciting shows in 2006. Velodrome started off the evening with an impressive set of intricate bass and drums rock, while KEN Mode blew out eardrums with a strong performance that seemed louder than a jumbo jet. Following the opening groups, Kittens took to the stage inside the sold-out venue and reaffirmed why they were one of Winnipeg’s pre-eminent heavy bands throughout the 1990s. From the thundering rhythms and razor-blade guitar lines of epic opener "Butterfly,” the group’s material sounded as vital as it did when first released years ago. With trademark black cowboy hat firmly in place, vocalist and guitarist Shawn "Pony” Fedorchuk howled and lunged at the microphone, while drummer David "Bazooka” Kelly furiously hammered away at his kit. KEN Mode’s Jesse Matthewson also did an admirable job filling in for absent bassist Jahmeel Russell. Despite their extended absence from the stage, Kittens showed few signs of rustiness. The group treated fans to a wide variety of material, ranging from early track "Totem” to Tiger Comet’s "Cougar” and the group’s later day cowpunk songs such as "Fright Night” and "Piccolo.” On both their hypnotic, slow dirges and more frantic blasts of sound, the group played with an unrelenting energy. Kittens ended their regular set with the lengthy "The Waterskiers,” and drew a boisterous response from onlookers. The band returned to blast through encore versions of "Hornet” and "Jack Knife,” which created a large mosh pit in the crowd, turning the area in front of the stage into a swirling sea of colliding bodies. With this first show in nearly a decade, Kittens cemented why they’ve consistently served as one of the most compelling live bands from Winnipeg. Now, fans can cross their fingers and hope that the rumours of new material in the future from Kittens prove true.