Alvvays’ show at the Casbah on Oct. 5 was a flash in the pan. I stepped in from the cold five minutes before their set started and barely had time to break a sweat before lead singer Molly Rankin was announcing that they were about to play their last song of the night.
My experience wasn’t any different from the one I have when listening to the Toronto jangle-pop band’s infectious debut record — I didn’t want it to end and was left a bit put out when it did.
Like any show happening in the cozy venue just off Main Street, it was an intimate affair. Standing only a few feet from the eager crowd, Rankin thanked everyone for attending and asked if the sole three people who attended their last Hamilton show were in the audience. The blonde songstress was greeted with peals of laughter at such a suggestion but adamantly insisted that it had really happened. The rest of the band — Kerri MacLellan, Alec O’Hanley, Brian Murphy, and Phil MacIsaac — seemed equally happy to be past that “real dark shit” (in Rankin’s words) and in a phase of their career where they would draw a capacity crowd on a Sunday.
While their debut was dropped in the summer and shares certain elements with fellow female-led surf-rock outfit, Best Coast, Alvvays’ material is imbued with a much more emotional depth. The self-titled album’s strength lies in Rankin’s exquisite lyrics that marry well with the simple song structure created by the band and made rougher around the edges by producer Chad VaanGaalen.
The set was a tight one, running only ten songs and leaving everyone pining for more as the characters in Alvvays’ songs so often are. Rankin was comfortable on stage (which might have something to do with her lineage) and her radiant smile seemed to be meant for everyone. Much of the stage banter was left to her and she made sure to inquire if all the short people could see and implored everyone to help them out. Being 6’3 myself, I always feel a healthy amount of guilt for being #bornthisway, but I encountered no derision from the dwarves around me.
The odd time that guitarist Alec O’Hanley interjected with his own witticism, I get the feeling he wished he hadn’t. O’Hanley went to thank opening act Heat for “heating things up” but immediately regretted his pun and apologized for not being able to concoct something more elegant on the spot.
Not willing to leave one of their own out to dry, the rest of the band launched into album standout “Party Police”. I must confess that tears were shed on my part as Rankin’s angelic voice pierced through the air and stabbed repeatedly at my heart, which felt like it was under attack by a dull kitchen knife for the song’s entire four-minute duration. The band closed their all too brief show as I dried off my face with ‘”Archie, Marry Me”, another banger that had the audience packed around the stage both bobbing their heads and shouting out the lyrics. While Alvvays might not be back in Hamilton for a while, they’ll always be in our hearts.