Carbonleak, Serenghetto, Unfun, Canadian Rifle
By Kendra Sheetz
Photos by Patrick Houdek
On Tuesday May 7th Vancouver natives Unfun played Chicago’s Ultra Lounge. After missing them the last time they came through Chicago and also when I lived in LA, I wasn’t about to botch attending this show. They played third in a lineup of four more localized bands in what suddenly became the second to last night of their tour…
Carbonleak is a newer 3 piece from Lansing, Illinois. The first thing I noticed about this band was how somber they appeared onstage. Their music mirrored this as well. The songs are slightly longer than the typical “one minute thirty second” punk song. And they are much more intricately crafted. The lead singer, sounding very similar to the late Ian Curtis, maintained a uniformly solemn expression as his guitar wailed through short solos. Carbonleak’s bassist, ex-bassist in Chicago’s Like Bats, tended to play with his back to the crowd, facing only the drummer and guitarist. This set a very intimate mood, almost as if we were viewing the band in a much more personal setting, such as their practice space. Although the tempo of some of the songs sped up, the vocals remained steady and relentless. This is a musical phenomenon that I have only heard with a few bands, including Joy Division. If you like Dinosaur Jr. or even the bass lines of Rudimentary Peni, definitely check out this fuzzy dark post pop band.
Serenghetto is also a 3 piece band, hailing from Minneapolis. Alex, the female bassist, and Matt, the male guitarist, trade off vocals on songs much faster than those of Carbonleak. Having the dichotomy of both sexes as vocalists made the live set stronger. When she was singing, he was able to give his full attention to his guitar and solos and vice versa. Although the songs are not catchy in a pop punk manner, they were definitely able to hold my attention. For some reason, this did not seem true of the rest of the room. The thinning of the crowd was noticed by the band members and even affected the performance of the next song. There was a bit of a struggle, as both the guitarist and bassist looked at each other quizzically. But the drummer held the beat steady, and in turn held the song together, and the band was able to end the set on a positive note.
Unfun: this was it. This was what I had waited for. And my god, they did not disappoint me! Fast, distorted, gritty punk rock poured out of the speakers and within moments, the energy in the room picked up threefold. The un-miced bassist took center stage, rocking back and forth. He stared up at the ceiling, eyes rolled back in his head. It was as if he felt what we were hearing – a band teetering on the brink of spinning wildly out of control and yet somehow keeping that force of chaos harnessed. The guitarist/lead singer placed himself on the far right side of the stage, in the shadows. He adjusted his mic stand to face inward towards the other band members, reiterating that intimate show feel which Carbonleak started hours before.
What has always stuck out to me about Unfun is the tone of the vocals. The instrumental music can be described as punk, hands down. However, the vocals have a much more hardcore sound to them. It’s almost as if a talented hardcore singer realized he could do better, left his world of spin kicks and camo shorts and found a punk band to play in instead. Unfun was loud. Unfun was gruff. And they more than lived up to my heightened expectations.
Hometown heroes Canadian Rifle ended the show on a strong and guttural note. Beneath their “No Dreams” and “No Goals” banner, this 3 piece delivered such a full sound, that my drink propped on the edge of the bar looked like that scene from Jurassic Park where the T-Rex is approaching. They were so physically powerful, in fact, that guitar strings were broken only a few songs into the set. The crowd barely seemed to notice as the drummer Josh changed them out during a brief pause. Just like that, the show was back on. Jake moved around the stage playing his guitar like a man welding a chainsaw. He crossed the stage with a wide legged stance, moving one leg then the other, planting them onto the stage with sheer aggression. Josh drummed so intently that, by the second song, his shirt was drenched. All the while, Tim was feverishly head banging while playing amazing bass lines throughout. The sound that arises is a mix between Leatherface, Dillinger Four, and even a little Husker Du. Keep an eye out for a possible national tour from Canadian Rifle later this year along with their new album which will be on Dirt Cult Records.
A day after the Chicago show, Unfun was hit by a drunk driver. Their van was totaled. Two of the members ended up in the hospital with nonfatal injuries. The rest of the tour was cancelled. Due to the accident, they are stranded in the US with no van, hospital bills, and no way to get home to Canada. If you would like to help out, please feel free to donate at www.unfundraiser.blogspot.com. If you buy anything from www.hahahacool.com 100% of the total sale except shipping will go to Unfun. Also, you can always buy their albums on Bandcamp at www.unfun.bandcamp.com.