The Ostrich / The Funfuns / The Hazard Lights The Castle Pub, Calgary AB January 11

Compared to some of the city’s other venues, the Castle Pub is a seedy, dilapidated hole-in-the-wall. Cramped and dirty, it’s the ideal backdrop for some messy punk rock. As Edmonton’s Hazard Lights set up, however, messiness was the last thing that came to mind. Decked out in skinny glam jeans and meticulously straightened hair, the three-piece gave off a punk-by-numbers vibe one reads about in the Chapters bargain-bin. It came as a surprise, then, that their take on three-chord punk was so sloppy and haphazard. Despite some decent ideas, their songs were strenuous and forgettable. Fortunately, the Funfuns were there to turn the night around. A guitar-and-keyboard pop punk trio featuring past members of Sudden Infant Dance Syndrome, Suicide Wrists and Cryptomaniacs, they stole the show with their catchy choruses and all-around charm. Though their set was interrupted by some fighting crust punks, they took it all in stride with a spirited Pointed Sticks cover. Only a few months old, the Funfuns’ playful keys and straightforward guitar meet a perfect crossroads between garage punk sloppiness and infectious power pop, while their excited drummer spurs them forward. By making the most of their songs without breaking the formula, their songs are simple and instantly likable. Adding a darker touch to the night, the Ostrich brought their brooding garage tunes to the stage just after midnight. Truly eclectic, the group treaded through sludgy post-hardcore, riled-up punk rock, and even some Doors-y blues dirges. Their front-man, a normal looking fellow who might be seen as an accountant on the street, flailed maniacally as he poured himself into the mic, while his four musicians thrashed into their guitar, bass, drums and synth respectively. Though decidedly murkier than their openers, the Ostrich’s set was a fitting conclusion before we filed out into the unforgiving cold.