Billie Dre & The Poor Boys / Harley Alexander / The Grubbies The Seahorse, Halifax NS, October 18
Published Oct 19, 2014Originally promoted as the Seahorse's last weekend in its Argyle Street basement — it will soon be taking up shop in the basement of the Marquee Club (the former Hell's Kitchen), but it's staying put through Pop Explosion, at least — Saturday night celebrated another recent relocation: Billie Dre and the Poor Boys, a garage rock trio whose local reputation felt like it had just begun to boom when its members decided to pack up last year and give things a shot in Toronto. Their album release show for 2013's Garlic Fingers LP, also at the Seahorse, featured a high-energy crowd and copious boxes of the album's title food passed out around the crowd.
There were no late-night munchies to be had at Saturday night's homecoming gig, which is probably for the best: the fevered audience likely would have torn them to shreds, and maybe eaten the boxes, too.
"This is the most insane night I've ever been at the Seahorse," proclaimed frontman William Dray as the show wound down. I've seen crazier, but the crowd was clearly amped to have the boys back in town. That enthusiasm was present from the night's start, when openers Harley Alexander and the Grubbies received strong responses despite being quite different acts than the headliners. The Grubbies are a '60s-inspired pop trio who are quickly becoming one of my favourite Halifax live acts, while the smooth, leisurely sounds of Harley Alexander owe an awful lot to 1980s soft rock. Yet both acts had the crowd up and dancing.
Not quite to the level of the Poor Boys, mind you. Garlic Fingers was a promising debut album but didn't fully translate the band's live energy. There's a sharpness to their guitar sound, and a shred to Dray's voice, that their recordings haven't quite captured yet (though their new single, "Gold Fang" comes the closest yet). Plus, like many good live performers, much of their appeal is visual: Dray's wide-eyed menace, bassist Corey Henderson's all-smiles enthusiasm and the focus with which Dylan Ryan races through the drum parts. There's something of a sameness to the material when it's all thrashed together, and it still feels like the band are figuring out just how heavy (or melodic) they should be, but they've become a solid live act and the crowd ate it up.
Bodies flew across the dance floor, the kids slamming into one another in time with every razor-sharp guitar riff, while others crowdsurfed or hung onto the ceiling for as long as they could until venue security reached them. The chaos had the band taking on the role of both crowd control — making sure people looked out for one another — and, endearingly, lost and found supervisors. Dray made announcements for items that people had misplaced in the madness and helped deliver items back to their owners. "We have glasses!" he cheered when someone's eyewear was successfully located.
Despite the band now living in Toronto, the entire evening felt very Halifax — and if that was the last crazy mosh pit the Seahorse's Argyle location ends up seeing, it was a pretty good one to go out on.