Roaring through the night: The Besnard Lakes @ The Black Cat - 5/12/11

It took till nearly the end of the set, but the journey to the cathartic “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent Pt.1 & Pt.2”, the opening track of the Besnard Lakes 2010 release, The Besnard Lakes Are The Roaring Night, was well worth the wait. Downgraded to the back room of the Black Cat due to poor ticket sales (shame on you DC), the quartet from up north (Montreal to be exact) took it all in stride delivered a scorching set that was as epic as it was sublime.

Centered around the husband and wife team of Jace Lasek on vocals and guitars and Olga Goreas on bass, the group’s atmospheric wall of sound can run right up to the line of 90’s alternative stadium rock but then miraculously reverse course into something that is as beautiful as it is earsplitting. It’s a deft balancing act on the bands part, and would be more than enough reason to love this band as is, but on top of everything that is just right about The Besnard Lakes there is one thing that has to be talked about if you’re going to talk about this band: The secret weapon that is Jace Lasek’s voice

Sure he sounds just like an extra in The New Pornographers  most of the time, and that’s not a bad thing. The Besnard Lakes play, at times, typical “Canadian” rock so the comparison is to be expected. What isn’t expected is the dreamy, logic-shatteringly pure falsetto that Lasek summons up, seemingly at will.

 In songs like “Ghost Train”, whose ethereal beginnings give way snarky indie pop of the highest degree, or “And This Is What We Call Progress”, a straight up banger from Roaring Night that swings up into that falsetto as if Lasek were jumping off a cliff after it, his voice brings a more organic feel to the Lakes’ music that is at first unexpected, but that unexpectedness quickly turns to understanding, and suddenly the songs just feel better. They breathe and live in a way they don’t seem to be able to on record. As such each song that the band played Thursday night was like rediscovering The Besnard Lakes all over again. Which brings us to “Like The Ocean, Like The Innocent”.

Those two songs are the first music I ever heard from The Besnard Lakes. They are the perfect openers to one of the very best albums that 2010 produced, and I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in thinking that. Judging by the reaction as the first notes began to drift out from the stage on top of the staccato recorded radio signals taken from the The Conet Project, I ‘m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one waiting for the songs either. Noticeably thinner (again, shame on you DC), the crowd pulled in around the stage as if they were embracing the band, only to be blown back as the guitars kicked in and The Besnard Lakes roared out at the diminished crowd as if they were playing to a room 5 times the size. It was, for lack of better description, a moment.  But only one of many great moments this particular night.

Hands down, The Besnard Lakes are the best band I’ve seen in DC this year. They aren’t magic, or from another world, or whatever other lame description I could come up with here. They are just a great band with a unique, yet familiar vision that not only met all expectations I could have had for this band, but created new ones. So thank you Besnard Lakes, for a remarkable evening. We’ll be seeing you next time, and we’ll be bringing our friends.

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