Chastity Was Voiceless but Vivid in Winnipeg

The Handsome Daughter, April 19

Photo: Mike Thiessen

BY Myles TiessenPublished Apr 20, 2024

The one who belonged most at Chastity's Friday night Winnipeg show was the kid standing by himself smoking a cigarette 15, maybe 20 feet away from the rest of the congregation outside the venue doors. He looked to be, at most, 19 years old, with his worn Adidas sneakers, once abattoir black, reflecting the dull grey smoke he exhaled through his stringy bleached hair, falling out of his camouflage hat.

You could pin him immediately as someone who probably drove here from his parent's house in one of the city's starkly middle-class neighbourhoods. Maybe River Heights or Charleswood, but most likely, the cul-de-sac dotted Linden Woods. Unlike a lot of people at the show — who seemed content to be at the Handsome Daughter regardless of the band — this kid existed for the music of Chastity.

Emotional revelation is the touchstone of Chastity's music. Led by Whitby, Ontario's very own Brandon Williams, the band's unique blend of post-hardcore and emo has evolved since the release of 2018's Death Lust. Their shimmering indie power-pop guitar mixed with candid, arrestingly vulnerable lyrics have helped make each of their albums an exciting musical adventure.

Between the trilogy of Death Lust, Home Made Satan, and 2022's landmark Suffer Summer, Willams has pushed Chastity beyond their misanthropic beginnings, responding to the universality of pain and recognizing that healing, if it can come at all, comes from a community of support and love.

This show, on a particularly blustery and cold April night, came following a string of Canadian gigs for the band's monolithic tour. It's a particularly ambitious tour, not only for the fact they're playing over 30 shows across North America in just two months, but because of its ambitious exhibition of music and film.

With a specially curated film synched to the music of all three of thee band's LPs, the show's intention is to embalm the crowd in the atmosphere and environment of Chastity's music. Unfortunately, the insane touring pace proved to be a little too much for Williams's vocal cords, and the band had to end their specially timed 66.6-minute set early after only making their way through Death Lust.

With his broken voice, Williams sang most of his lyrics in a hushed gravel, only letting the screams out during the most heartfelt moments. He was sure that "Children" got its due and ended with a monstrous wail on "Chains."

The aphotic set was lit only by a projector screen behind the band. Maybe it was the bashfulness from his lost voice, maybe it was an intentional decision to shift the focus from the band to the film, but Williams mostly stood with his back to the crowd in a heavy wool overcoat, face covered with a dad cap pulled down low to conceal his eyes.

Behind him, the film opened with a girl singing the lyrics to "Come" while driving a cop car, slowly picking up friends in suburbia toward an unclear destination. As the album and film progressed, shots of joy rides, make-out sessions in the back of the car, and midnight dips in swimming pools encapsulated the malaise of suburban life and the desire to break free from an inescapable stasis. For these people in the car, that freedom meant driving off a cliff into a lake some 100 feet down.

Williams undoubtedly felt terrible for cutting the show short, but with a heart as true as his, it's easy to forgive him, and no one could hold it against him. His continuous apologies to the crowd about his voice were filled with the same sincerity and directness as his song's lyrics.

By losing his voice, Williams became a character in one of his songs: A man tormented by the lack of control in his own life, all agency stripped away, making escape only a hopeful fantasy.

It's easy to dismiss this type of music initially. Overt sincerity can feel juvenile at times, but the most likely reason is because staring such vulnerability in the face is uncomfortable. But, with Williams stripped of his voice, he met the crowd on the same emotional plane. He was no longer a rock star, touring musician or bleeding poet. At his most bare, you could see reflected in his face that kid with the camouflage hat who stood stone-like outside by himself. And to that kid, an existence without Chastity's music would be tantamount to a world empty of oxygen. At its best, isn't that how music is supposed to make us feel anyway? 

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