Published Sep 17, 2013Making their first Ottawa appearance in over twenty years, Cleveland art-punk pioneers Pere Ubu drew together a sizeable Monday night crowd composed of hip and curious youngsters, post-punk survivalists and pre-Gen-Xers still dressed in their government office bests. Wrapping up a recording session with kraut-rock legend Damo Suzuki, local sextet the Band Whose Name is a Symbol warmed up the audience with a set of instrumental experimental rock that resembled Glenn Branca explaining No Wave to Acid Mothers Temple. Adding a relatively conventional backbeat to each song, thanks to their sonically-tight bassist and drummer, the Band Whose Name is a Symbol's guitars, keys and electric violin were free to craft noisy ebbs and flows that rarely strayed from their rock-leaning foundations.
"You've all been sleeping for the past 35 years; I'm the only one who's been awake," Pere Ubu founder David Thomas addressed the crowd, seated in a red wooden chair while his four-piece band walked onto the small Mavericks stage. Giving the audience an alternate history of his band that included tales of number one hits and sold-out stadiums, Thomas led his band through a raucous version of their 1989 single, "Love Love Love". Focusing on tracks from his most acclaimed (The Modern Dance), most successful (Cloudland) and latest LPs (The Lady from Shanghai), Thomas grinned and gritted though a hour-plus set that found him only opening his eyes to peek at his binder of lyrics. From Robert Wheeler's analog synth and Theremin noise bursts to Thomas' arbitrary usage of a Boss sampler and freestyle between-song ramblings, so much of Pere Ubu's performance relied on the same random, unstructured and eccentric energy that has kept his band wide awake for so many years.