White Lung The Garrison, Toronto ON, June 29

White Lung The Garrison, Toronto ON, June 29
Photo: Shane Parent
Last night, White Lung played a ripping set to an audience that seemed to be there for the wrong show. Did someone mix up the sign outside the venue with another bar hosting an acoustic open mic? Because that's the only way to explain a couple hundred people standing still, arms at their sides, as they absorbed such an intense sonic assault. Low audience energy at rock shows is a well-trodden issue and normally not worth complaining about, but with White Lung, the contrast with their high energy performance was so stark, it reached a new level of absurdity that didn't do the band justice.

White Lung have experienced a surge in popularity recently, following the release of the excellent Deep Fantasy on Domino Records, and they came off as a band playing to new, bigger crowds. This show would have gone over better in the basements and lofts that are the hallmark of the DIY punk world.

That aside, the factors that made Deep Fantasy such a triumph were apparent throughout the night. The band managed to created a wall of noise while keeping the chaos together with catchy melodic hooks. Lead singer Mish Way channelled a combination of Courtney Love and Stevie Nicks, both in sound and attitude, as she propelled the songs forward with a certain edgy, dangerous glamour. Guitarist Kenneth William played with more layered intensity than five other musicians put together, filling the room with sound and rendering Way's lyrics indecipherable. This was a bit unfortunate, as Way's lyrical themes are part of the band's appeal, but excuse White Lung for being more into energy than subtlety in the live environment. The quiet hero of the group (if we can say anything about White Lung is "quiet") was bassist Hether Fortune, whose full and busy playing style added a both precision and nuanced counter melodies to the band's already thick sound.

Their songs are short, their albums are short, and last night demonstrated that their shows are short, too. After playing for about 40 minutes — which, admittedly, is a lot of material for them — the band left the stage without coming back for an encore. Maybe they didn't like the crowd's vibe. Maybe they just couldn't hear anymore. Whatever the case, White Lung gave us enough to chew on until they come back.