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FEVERS at Mavericks- Ottawa Live Review

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WHO: FEVERS

FROM: Ottawa, ON

WHERE: Maverick’s

WHEN: Saturday, August 24th 2013

TOTAL SCORE: 8.5/10

[starreviewmulti id=3 tpl=20]

Style: Artpop, cerebral dance

Ottawa outfit FEVERS let loose to cap off their 24-hour album release party, which started the day before with an acoustic set at Mugshots and ended with a strobe-infused climax at Maverick’s. Their debut LP, No Room For Light, is available as of today on CD and for download on iTunes.

Crowd: After delaying the original, early start time for the show, Maverick’s cozied up to a decent capacity, with enough people to create an energetic atmosphere and enough space to let the energy out. A few crowd members danced avidly throughout the night, while a few others stood right up front and soaked up the sound, moving more tamely in a captivated sway. The atmosphere was warm overall, the band receiving unanimous support on their big night.

Technicalities: FEVERS are the most technically-endowed Ottawa band I’ve encountered thus far. The synth-heavy group stood behind layers and layers of equipment; each member had at their disposal a veritable palette of sonic power. Synth player/guitarist Martin Charbonneau effortlessly switched between the two instruments, employing a pedalboard the size of which would impress an exclusive guitarist, let alone multi-instrumentalist like himself. No doubt his intimate knowledge of the synth helped him in using the board to create slices of their overall sound. Vocalist/synth player Sarah Bradley worked a two-tier Roland/MicroKORG stand, all while belting out in a big voice that took their already impressively girthy sound up a difficultly-attained notch. Colin MacDougall, on the guitar, second mic and occasionally on the synth, provided solid vocals of his own which well complemented Bradley’s; they hit goosebump-inducing harmonies that came through the clamour of instruments and filled one with an out-of-place sense of calm among the otherwise hard-hitting, blood-pumping music. Bassist Jim Hopkins laid down a solid foundation in combination with drummer Mike Stauffer, who employed a kit comprised of acoustic drums, electronic triggers, a multi-pad and woodblocks. His crisp hi-hats cut through the rest of the sound and his innovative use of electronics (including a gut-rumbling kick trigger) gave the whole set a certain consistency. The few technical hang-ups in the set (missed cues, beats and instruments) didn’t take away from the overall vibe, which was numbingly powerful.

Image: Image-wise, FEVERS are a squeaky-clean band. Their novel use of lights is something rare in a band having just released their debut album, and not to be underestimated. The combination of projectors located on either side of the kit and pointed upwards just above stage front, smoke machines set behind the projectors and three LED-boards laid across the front of the stage and pointed vertically upwards was evidently fine-tuned and very well thought-out. The smoke swirled kaleidoscopically through the projector light while the LEDs created a wall of light that translucently concealed the band from the crowd, the whole coming together in a gorgeous visual display which perfectly complements their sound. If their music were a plate of veal, their visuals would be a finely-aged chardonnay.

Memorable Moment: During the last song in the set, FEVERS went into a lulling few minutes of down-toned, mainly guitar-and-vocal work before completely erupting into an outro that blew hair back, the finale to their spectacular visual show coming in the form of a powerful strobe blast that brought the whole set home. Suddenly, the “WARNING: this show contains flashing lights” signs placed at the front of the venue seemed very appropriate.

Overall: FEVERS are labeled everywhere as “synthpop” or “electronic”, which (though genres are in general an inadequate form of description) certainly does not do them justice. Though I was acquainted with the group and was aware of a certain strange sense about them (which I’ll try to explain momentarily), seeing them perform really reinforced the notion that there’s much more going on here than a dance group. This comes through in their general aesthetic; setup, arrangement, coordination, demeanour, but mainly in their songwriting. It is not, as with much of the genre, a means for cheap, easy relatability to an audience seeking only to gyrate, paying little attention to what is being said farther than what they can directly understand and immediately draw on for validation. They strike a balance here — more-than-faintly reminiscent of groups such as Miike Snow or Purity Ring — between a complex musical structure that happens to lend itself easily to dance and an even-more-complex lyrical and emotional structure that is very hard to come by, not only within their genre but their locale. They are a band that drips with sincerity, who have things to get out and who use their music for a means of creative expression. This starkly contrasts the majority of their scene — Ottawa being full to the brim with barroom cover singers, vapid, gimmicky indie and decades-late blues-rock groups who recycle tired old songs and call them their own for the sake of being in a band. It’s hard to find the kind of integrity that FEVERS possess without delving into the earnest but esoteric scene of lesser-known Ottawa groups who do music from the heart. Becoming aware of their presence in the scene is like having someone lay a cold compress on your forehead as you lay in bed with — wait for it — a fever.

Review by Adam Finlay

Photo by Ming Wu

The Scene