Published Jul 15, 2018Partner and U.S. Girls are two of independent Canadian music's most vital voices, and though their sounds are vastly different, their MOs are the same: infusing genres of old with new life through sharp commentary — U.S. Girls makes disco music that grapples with today's fraught sociopolitical climate, while Partner give classic rock a refreshing queer makeover.
The workshop band, which found Partner co-leads Josée Caron and Lucy Niles on guitar and bass, respectively, joining U.S. Girls mastermind and vocalist Meg Remy, keyboardist Geordie Gordon, drummer Evan Cartwright and guitarist Kassie Richardson, largely centred around riffs invented from musical notes that were shouted out by the audience on Remy's suggestion. It showcased the innate strengths of Partner and U.S. Girls in a new context: Niles, Partner's sturdy rhythm guitarist, was similarly dependable on bass; Caron's seemingly endless stockpile of hooky riffs does, indeed, seem limitless given the way she effortlessly conjured one up for each improvised track; and Remy was a bandleader extraordinaire with her distinctive voice, literally and figuratively.
The set ended with the band asking for an audience member to join them on stage and perform one of their own songs. Local folkie Ivan Rivers took them up on their request, offering up a version of his track "On Pharmacy" while the Partner-U.S. Girls hybrid band enveloped him with a snug backup track. It was a powerful embrace of Hillside's community-minded philosophy, and also showcased just how adept Partner and U.S. Girls are at sussing out a live show's atmosphere, changing their tune to strike the mood perfectly.