Concordia Alumni Front and Centre as July Talk and Metric Take the Stage

The Women-Fronted Bands Invite Dialogue and Connection

  • July Talk’s Leah Fay attended Concordia’s contemporary dance program. Photo Bree Rockbrand

“I’m warming you up for July Talk and Metric,” said local musician Murray A. Lightburn as he gazed over the audience—the acoustic set struck a chord, bringing a certain softness that curbed the edges of a crowd ready to rock.

Hailing from Toronto, the band Metric has been climbing the Canadian music charts since their formation in 1998. Yet, the band has its roots in Montreal as frontwoman Emily Haines graduated Concordia in 1997.

Co-member of indie rock band The Dears, Lightburn sang songs of love, heartbreak, and sadness. From the jamming “Centre of My Universe” discussing love lost and found to the self-explanatory “I’m Not Broken,” Lightburn serenaded the audience with music that humble the heart and soothe the soul.

The concert was stylized as July Talk x Metric, implying that both bands were headlining and sharing the stage, but July Talk, the newer band, was up first.

July Talk

What makes July Talk so fascinating—and awesome to listen to—is the contrast between Leah Fay’s soft songbird vocals and Peter Dreimanis’ rough, tousled voice. The two sang in styles so different, producing a sound that challenges expectations.

Their music comes across as a dialogue; the singers create an exchange between masculinity and femininity, light and dark, tender and tough.

Forming in Toronto in 2012, July Talk is an alternative rock band that rose to fame quite quickly. In 2014, they were nominated for Breakthrough Group of the Year at the Junos, and the next year they won Alternative Album of the Year.

July Talk’s Peter Dreimanis and Fay shine for their live theatrical affair and play of tension and connection. Photo Bree Rockbrand

Dreimanis and Fay shine for their live theatrical affair and play of tension and connection. The May 5 show marked a hometown performance for the band—Fay told the audience she attended Concordia’s contemporary dance program.

Her background in dance made its way into her live performance. She moved across the stage with grace and poise, often stretching herself into exaggerated poses in a way that seemed almost alien.

July Talk challenged the era of Instagram and internet fame with the ballad “Picturing Love.”

“I’m tired of seeing pictures on a screen / I’m tired of picturing love.”

Other themes included toxic masculinity and authenticity. The group’s second and most recent album Touch, released in 2016, discusses the importance of human connection and physical touch, a theme Fay and Dreimanis explored in their on-stage performance.

“This is a song about consent,” shouted Fay over the crowd before launching into the heavy, cutting-edge and bass-filled “Lola + Joseph.”

“Joseph, you can look but don’t you touch / When I want your hands on my skin, I’ll ask,” sang Fay.

The ominous “Strange Habit” contrasted the pop-rock riffs of “Push+Pull,” which ended their performance in a haze of white smoke and a beaming audience.

Metric

Metric followed with a blend of indie-rock riffs and Haine’s versatile voice. From the band’s 2008 popular single “Help I’m Alive” to last year’s “Dressed to Suppress,” Metric had a flair of synth-pop for that new-wave edge.

Opening with the upbeat and fast-paced “Dead Disco,” Metric arrived on stage in a chorus of cheers. Haines was sporting a bra adorned in glittery spikes.

“For some reason, I feel called to wear weapons on my breasts,” she said.

“The good, the bad, the ugly—you can feel it all at a Metric show. Be brave.” — Emily Haines

Metric has been voted one of the Rolling Stones Best Female-Fronted Rock Bands, and is an inspiration for July Talk’s own Fay. Haines has a way of putting into words all of the emotional whirlwind we feel on a daily basis, and pairing it with a beat that allows for a cathartic release of emotion.

“Dressed to Suppress” explores insecurity and social impressions. “We reach for the things we idolize / But the rings are just for show / Her beauty is a form of charity / Dressed to suppress all kinds of sorrow.”

The band played a set that appeased both long-time and new fans. “Who says old is better?” Haines shouted jokingly, referencing the popularity of their 2009 album Fantasies, as she dove into the newer, tension-fuelled “Risk.”

Metric took time to focus on the ideas of vulnerability, openness and honesty. “Sometimes, I feel I am breathing underwater,” Haines explained. The singer reminded us that it’s OK to feel all of your feelings, not just the positive ones.

“The good, the bad, the ugly—you can feel it all at a Metric show. Be brave,” she reminded us before launching into “Breathing Underwater,” a track that explores the darker sides of the psyche. “Is this my life? Am I breathing underwater?”

Metric was energetic, playing a surprisingly long 19-song set with an encore that included fan favourites “Black Sheep,” and “Help I’m Alive.” The songs discussed feelings of isolation and humility threaded into addicting indie-rock riffs, thundering distortion, and new-wave elements that balanced Haines’ powerful vocals.

She absolutely owned the stage, captivating her audience with her charismatic presence and realness. “Gimme Sympathy” had the whole venue grooving, singing, and dancing along to the 2009 synth-pop dance track.

At the end of the night, Metric thanked the crowd for an exciting end to their Canada-wide tour. Both bands challenged expectations, urging their audience to take a look around, and appreciate the present moment. They invite dialogue, and to realize that connection and love is to be found even in the darkest spaces.

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