Meet Exclaim!'s Class of 2024: Rachel Bobbitt, Life in Vacuum, Dermabrasion, His His

Week 2 of our annual concert series brings indie rock of all varietals, alt-pop and folk to the Monarch and Longboat Hall

Photos (from top left): Rachel Bobbitt by Daniel Topete, Life in Vacuum by @svensmilk, His His by @wonderboywitdabread, Dermabrasion by Shelby Wilson

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Jan 9, 2024

The energy in the room was electric at Monarch Tavern last Friday (January 5) during the first show of the Class of 2024 concert series, proudly supported by Mary Brown's Chicken. Bestfriend, nodisco., Thermal and Camille Léon gave it their all — and it was a grand, pop-tastic start to the series.

This week, we're riding that high into the next two shows this Friday (January 12) and Saturday (January 13), which promise to bring indie rock in just about every varietal — celestial, gothic, punk, psych — and a smattering of alt-pop and folk.

January 12: Monarch Tavern

Life in Vacuum

Life in Vacuum are hard to pin down. Formed in Ukraine, the music the Toronto-based trio of brothers Sasha and Ross Chornyy and Alex Clark make has been described as everything from post-hardcore to sludge punk to noise rock. In their own words, Life in Vacuum make "punk rock songs that are breathing with chaos, melody, grit and melancholy." Packing a discordant punch, they'll light up the Monarch ahead of a six-week North American tour behind 2023's Lost, making a stop at SXSW along the way. Sasha is excited to finally take the stage with the other bands on the January 12th bill, and to check out Sun Junkies, Cam Kahin, WEBB and Shiv and the Carvers later in the series.


Adam Bernhardt and Kat McGouran are ready to scream songs in people's faces and resurface skin all 2024, with the upcoming release of their debut album, Pain Behaviour — produced by Class of 2022 grads Breeze's Josh Korody — on Hand Drawn Dracula later this month. If you've been looking for a grimy gothic punk soundtrack to your "high-fantasy wizard rave," as Bernhardt puts it, your search is over. In addition to their own pending domination in 2024, Dermabrasion are envisioning the presence of Mary Brown's at the Polaris Prize gala, as well as emo nights being on the outs in favour of indie sleaze.


Emerging out from under a rock, SLUG are the musical result of the probably non-existent cosmic event: Dead Moon and the Runways meeting "in an alley while taking a piss," frontperson Nicole Maxwell tells Exclaim!, while bandmate Michele Galay says she's been told it's more of an AC/DC-on-their-period situation. Either way, it's clear that SLUG embrace the blood, sweat and goo of bodily fluids in their high-intensity approach, which they'll showcase later this year on some new live tracks recorded with Sam Rodgers. Maxwell also foresees a huge slime trail of pedal steel across the Canadian music industry in 2024; Galay agrees, "Pedal steel is weeping its way into the mainstream!"


Even if you think you know Silks, you probably don't. "We are beyond excited by this new batch of songs we're writing," guitarist Eric Berall says of the material they'll be taking into the studio in 2024. "They're moving us in many different directions and expanding our sound to places we didn't expect to find ourselves." Allow them to reintroduce their brand of fuzzed-out, psych-tinged, guitar-driven alt-rock when they kick off the night at the Monarch on Friday (January 12), finally sharing the stage with Life in Vacuum after years of being fans. "We're just so excited to celebrate Toronto's amazing music scene with some incredible acts," Berall added.

January 13: Longboat Hall

Rachel Bobbitt

Over the past couple of years, Nova Scotia transplant Rachel Bobbitt has released stellar EPs back-to-back, with last year's The Half We Still Have landing among Exclaim!'s Best EPs of 2023 and "More" from The Ceiling Could Collapse being included on our Best Songs of 2022 list. In that time, I have tried — and struggled — to encapsulate how special her music is, and she probably got to the core of it better than I did: "I want to create emotion with more than just lyrics," Bobbitt says, intent on embodying the sonic qualities of overwhelming feelings like nostalgia and loss. In addition to carrying forth that thread on a new project in 2024, the singer-songwriter predicts, admittedly wishfully, that we'll see an influx of shows in unconventional settings.

His His

Aiden Belo's guitar-forward indie folk project is ready to give the crowd at Longboat Hall a warm send-off, with latest single "Ford Econoline" quite literally being built around the repeated refrain, "We're almost at the end." But it's only the beginning for His His, with plans to release a sophomore EP — recorded entirely to quarter-inch tape — and join Life in Vacuum at SXSW in 2024. "Since the first Class Of I attended (2018), it's been something I've always looked towards to see what cool, new artists are on the rise," Belo says, adding that he has a lot of friends playing this year that he's excited to see perform. The singer-songwriter is also a strong proponent of Winnipeg expanding the triangle of hubs for Canadian music (Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver) into a square.

Jay Feelbender

Jacob Switzer is a staple of the local music scene, having met his Goodbye Honolulu bandmates while they were all still in high school. Like in the band's genesis, where they all started different projects before eventually coming together, Switzer is currently seizing the moment — and bending feels – as Jay Feelbender. After releasing EPs in 2022 and 2023, he says this is the year of returning his focus to live music. "I'm planning on grinding out as many shows as possible, in as many places as possible," Switzer tells Exclaim!, adding that he's equally excited to catch his contemporaries (including Goodbye Honolulu bandmates in Thermal and WEBB) in action across the Class Of series.

Essie Watts

The sound of Essie Watts — the solo project of Jess Burgess — is something she and her band describe in an instructional format: "Set your ballet slippers on fire and sign your divorce papers." The inherent possibilities and freshness of finally getting through a bitter end are what Burgess and co. aim to harness in the rolling hills of their soundscapes. She says to expect more dance music from Essie Watts in 2024, which will also mark the first time the full band records together, as well as merch tables full of baby tees and bumper stickers so you can do your fire-setting and papers-signing in style.

Check out the Facebook event links for more information on this week's shows and the rest of the Class of 2024 concert series, presented in partnership with the City of Toronto's Music Office. Advance tickets are on sale now via Showclix, and you can also enter to win your way in.

Next up:
01/19 Sunnsetter / The Royal Family / Westelaken / Burs - Monarch Tavern
01/20 La Sécurité / OLGA / StillWaves / Arenas - Monarch Tavern


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