Published Nov 02, 2016A funny thing happens when there's no stage at a show; a thin invisible barrier between the crowd and performers forms, an unspoken platform rises. So it was when Moneen took to the corner of Cuchulainn's Irish Pub in Streetsville (now a neighbourhood of Mississauga), a pillar that bisected the performance area serving as the line in the sand.
Yet, the barrier nearly ceased to exist as the band played, as eager fans thrust their cell phones across the invisible barrier to film and the crowd swayed under the weight of crowd surfers and ceiling crawlers. Yes, the small pub was ill-equipped to handle a band like Moneen, but that's exactly what made it the perfect venue for their return. Less than 24 hours before the event — a party for tattoo shop Skintricate's fifth birthday — started, the previously public show went guest list only due to immense interest threatening to fill the venue and then some.
And filled it was. From the second Moneen began "Don't Ever Tell Locke What He Can't Do," they were thrashing about their makeshift stage and sometimes off of it, with vocalist/guitarist Kenny Bridges taking the explosive opening like a race's starting pistol, bolting into the crowd and stomping at (not quite on) the errant balloons that sometimes made their way into the band's space. As it was on their excellent 2006 album The Red Tree, they followed with "If Tragedy's Appealing, Then Disaster's An Addiction," continuing the energetic emo.
The band didn't just play off the crowd, though; Bridges and guitarist/vocalist Chris "Hippy" Hughes (henceforth referred to as Hippy) traded chanting "We want it all!" back-and-forth during "Are We Really Happy With Who We Are Right Now?", accentuating the importance of dual-vocals (even tri- sometimes, when bassist Erik Hughes chimed in) in their music. Between Bridges and Hughes nearly colliding as they bounced around, Hippy whipping his guitar off and spinning it on the floor, drummer Peter Krpan's focused flailing and Bridges literally headbanging his hat off before rolling around on the floor, the visual chaos stood in stark contrast with the tight tones coming out of the speakers.
As promised, the band went way back in their discography and brought a song from debut EP Smaller Chairs for the Early 1900s, "This Year I've Had Enough," to life, alongside "What the Weatherman Forgot to Tell You" and "No Better Way to Show Your Love Than a Set of Broken Legs" from followup LP The Theory of Harmonial Value. It all led up to the release's quintessential track, set-closer "The Passing of America," during which touring member Haris Cehajic relieved Bridges of his guitar so the singer could disappear into the throng.
Impromptu covers of Green Day's "Basket Case," some Nirvana and an a cappella cover of Backstreet Boys' "I Want It That Way" followed — Hippy was at the bar, having exited midway through a cover of Jimmy Eat World's "Bleed American" — and were performed to various stages of completion. It may have taken away some of the performance's cohesive magic, but it certainly fit in with the party vibe.
But the party wasn't just for Skintricate; 10 years since their now-classic The Red Tree album, it was a celebration of Moneen that demonstrated, by pouring sweat and emotion into their performance, why they've stood the test of time better than so many of their peers.