Touché Amoré / Mewithoutyou / Seahaven Mod Club, Toronto ON, February 24

Touché Amoré / Mewithoutyou / Seahaven Mod Club, Toronto ON, February 24
Photo: Stephen McGill
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Never let it be said that punk bands — even indie, DIY ones — don't understand their brand. For their tour in support of last year's excellent Is Survived By, Burbank, CA post-hardcore crew Touché Amoré stacked their shows with likeminded bands, most notably idiosyncratic Philly genre-benders Mewithoutyou.

After a short set by Caravels, Los Angeles crew Seahaven took the stage, its five members (the four core members were rounded out by a fifth touring multi-instrumentalist) forming a wall of plaid across the front of the stage. After a meandering opener they moved into "Black & White" from their Winter Forever album and settled into a groove of loud-quiet-loud rockers. Although clearly pulling from the post-rock and hardcore worlds, the band had a vague '90s alt-rock vibe, particularly laconic singer-guitarist Kyle Soto's gravelly voice. The result was an unflattering amalgam of Brand New and Puddle of Mudd. Still, they had a dedicated contingent of fans in the crowd, a few of whom took the opportunity to stage dive into the tiny mosh pit up front. Soto finished their set with a low-key solo number before finally exiting the stage.

Although on the surface Mewithoutyou seem like an odd choice as tour mates, the Philadelphia band's sonic restlessness is clearly in line with Touché Amoré's similar unwillingness to be pinned down. The band's vaguely proggy approach to punk and indie rock coupled with Weiss' uncompromising vocal delivery might be a deal breaker for some, but it's also what's endeared fans to the band for over a decade.

With the whole show running late, much of the band's soundcheck was done on the fly, resulting in an irregular amount of feedback and volume fluctuations throughout the five-piece's set. Anticipating potential problems, vocalist Aaron Weiss prefaced their performance with a shrug, saying "Here goes nothing…" He flitted about the stage in a knit hat, delivering stream-of-conscious screeds like a beatnik Tim Harrington, while drummer Rickie Mazzotta, drenched in sweat just a couple songs in, appeared to be operating in his own little world. Sound problems were exacerbated by Weiss's need for two mics — one distorted, one clean — which he often used concurrently. Still, he brushed off any problems, thanking the venue's staff while remaining dedicated to the band's heartfelt performance.

After the relatively cluttered sound of Mewithoutyou, Touché Amoré looked and sounded lean and mean. Frontman Jeremy Bolm, clad in a plain black t-shirt with short hair, looked more like a UFC fighter than punk singer. Working through tracks from across the band's short but productive career, Bolm's strained vocals were pitch-perfect throughout their 45-minute set. He regularly shoved his mic into the crowd for the band's ravenous fans in the pit to sing along.

After their initial blast of fury, the band paused briefly to catch their collective breath before delivering another collection of pummeling tunes. Bolm took the opportunity to say hello, his polite, earnest tone a stark contrast to the frightening scream he's associated with. Touché Amoré are a tightly honed band, able to start and stop on a dime. The relentless energy of their records is amplified onstage by its members' enthusiasm for playing. Even an errant stage diver knocking into Tyler Kirby's bass mid-song couldn't dampen the mood.

Visibly spent, the band ended their set with fan-favourite "Honest Sleep," the crowd signing Bolm's a cappella lyrics that finish the song. Eschewing an encore, Touché Amoré left their fans literally screaming for more as chants of "one more song" could still be heard as they emptied out into the cold night air.

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