Hardcore punk and noise rock hooligans Fight Amp kicked off the show with a lean, taut set. The New Jersey-based power trio drew heavily from their latest release, Birth Control, and also played the track "Shallow Grave" from their more recent split seven-inch with Toronto's own hardcore psychopaths Burning Love. They played with both precision and power, displaying a tendency towards artful destruction, allowing the songs to break apart as the internal tension became too much. Their set was an act of controlled demolition, effectively levelling the audience with metaphorical wrecking balls and pneumatic drills.
Winnipeg Juno-winners and metallic hardcore road warriors KEN Mode displayed the complete focus and abandon that comes only from a band who have spent months and years touring relentlessly. The set, unsurprisingly, drew heavily from their exceptional new record Entrench. The chemistry between the Matthewson brothers and relatively new permanent bassist Andrew LaCour cannot be denied, as all three members have an innate, almost preternatural sense of each other's energy and on-stage needs, while at the same time seeming entirely isolated from each other. Drummer Shane, wearing nothing but bicycle shorts under the heat of the lights, struck like a predatory bird, sharp and graceful; bassist Andrew LeCour handled his bass like a great bear, with a meditative, mauling violence. And vocalist/guitarist Jesse Matthewson played like something unhinged, unbalanced, a monster with scraps of humanity barely concealing what was underneath.
Compared to the incredibly degree of high-strung tension displayed by he two opening bands, Cleveland, Ohio's sludgy mathcore group Keelhaul were positively serene, even slovenly. They were intensely relaxed onstage, teasing themselves for their "unconscious decision to ignore the digital age" by only offering t-shirts and vinyl for sale. Their music completely belied this sense of ease, composed of complex, even violent structures and fat, roiling tones. Their most recent release is still 2009's Triumphant Return to Obscurity, but they seem anything but bored with the material, instead taking advantage of their familiarity to inhabit and embody the material entirely. They play with incredible presence and focus, as though the act of performance takes them to an ego-less state.
Avant-garde noisecore giants Today Is The Day, led by the aggressive music juggernaut Steve Austin, took the stage well after midnight, but injected the crowd with a fresh jolt of high-voltage energy. The current incarnation (since 2010) of Today Is The Day is a potent one, featuring Curran Reynolds (Wetnurse) on drums and Ryan Jones on bass, both exceptional musicians in their own right and able to stand their ground in the presence of Austin's palpable stage presence. Drawing deeply from 2011's exceptional Pain Is A Warning, Today Is The Day's set demonstrated brilliantly that progressive music need not be over-intellectual meandering, but rather can be immediate, acidic, violent, and even dangerous. It is a rare show that discomforts as much as it entertains by introducing a genuine sense of risk by sheer virtue of the menace of the music.