Bison / Black Thunder

Upstairs Cabaret, Victoria BC, October 19

BY Alan RantaPublished Oct 20, 2019

It's been slow going for Vancouver's Bison (aka Bison B.C.) since they were unceremoniously (and unjustifiably) dropped from Metal Blade after their solid 2012 album Lovelessness. The band's original drummer Brad Mackinnon went deep into the restaurant game, while his replacement, Matt Wood, wandered off on a personal journey, leaving Black Wizard's Eugene Parkomenko behind the kit. Original bassist Masa Anzai walked away from the music business entirely, replaced by Shane Clark (formerly of 3 Inches of Blood), and, for this show at least, the bass was provided by fellow Black Wizard terrorizer Evan Joel. Having developed osteoarthritis from so many skateboard bails, guitarist/vocalist James Farwell recently underwent hip surgery. But, hey, Bison are still here, and they're still bad ass.
Setting the stage for the early show was Regina's Black Thunder. The power trio of Tony Frank (guitar and vocals), Neil Lutz (drums), and Dustin Wiebe (bass) invited the crowd to "get weird" with them, and weird they got. Since Frank was wearing a Goblin shirt, that particular influence seemed quite relevant as they churned out their math-sludge madness, but there was a lot going on in their sound. At one point, Frank's guitar tone was so processed it sounded like a modular synth, and later it aped Mellotron strings. I certainly wasn't expecting that smooth bossa nova breakdown near the end of their set, but given the woos it received, I wasn't the only one impressed by it.
By the time Bison took the stage, the Upstairs Cabaret was respectably packed. Unsurprising considering that there was a 9:45 curfew, it took a few minutes for the energy to spike, but it happened as the band took a round of shots heading into "Anti War" from their 2017 album You Are Not The Ocean You Are The Patient, their most recent full-length. That was when the mosh finally started getting rowdy, around a half-dozen younger people playfully shoving while helicoptering their shoulder length hair, and they would keep that momentum simmering for the duration.
Any health problems he may have had in the recent past were far from the minds of those watching James Farwell this evening. He was a stocky powder-keg, scraping out righteous elongated soloing, sawing away at lead riffs, and delivering his vocals with soulful conviction. His eyes have seen some shit, and he ain't takin' it laying down.
Dan And had a look closer to possession than conviction, his vocals like evil spirits escaping, and he was no slouch on the guitar either. Up the middle between them, bassist Evan Joel held down the rumbling rhythm with Black Wizard bandmate Eugene Parkomenko pounded away, the pearly whites under his handlebar moustache revealing pure joy as it felt like his kicks were kicking you in the gut and his snares were right in your face.
Before capping their set off with "These Are My Dress Clothes" from their 2008 album Quiet Earth, a bottle of Jim Beam in his hand, James lamented the impending dance party, or Bison may very well have played their entire repertoire. They certainly showed no sign of fatigue after an hour of shattering skulls with their sonic attack.

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