Every once in a while I stumble across a band that completely changes my understanding of what music can be. Holy F*ck are one of those bands.
I discovered them wholly by accident whilst making lunch at a friend’s house. I wandered into the living room take sandwich orders as they watched MTV. As my eye caught the screen, the sound caught my ears and everything other than the music ceased to matter. Entranced as the musicians swayed and pulsed over their tables, I pulled up a seat to find out who was responsible for the magical tones coming out of the TV, not uttering a word until the video ended, informing me I’d just experienced ‘Lovely Allen‘ by Holy F*ck.
A quartet from my hometown of Toronto, Holy F*ck are a drummer, a bassist, and two guys with a table full of machines each. They have a unique blend of semi-experimental noise, dance-ably groovy rhythms and melodies catchier than swine flu that has been branded “lo-fi experimental”. They’ve been selling out venues across Canada and the world making a name for themselves.
Unfortunately, that name has landed the band in some rather predictable controversy. As well as the usual squares who see past the use of “The F Word”, the band’s name has been used as the Federal Conservative Government’s excuse to cut $4.7 million in funding to the arts. Among other artists such as Tal Bachman, the Tories called Holy F*ck, “not exactly the foot that most Canadians would want to see put forward”.
The Tories’ continued attack on the arts are another matter, but it does demonstrate just how out of touch The Man really is. Here is a band with a genuine, unique sound who are at the forefront of a rebirth in the electronic music scene. Holy F*ck are one of the pioneers who are not only finding and exploring the middle road between traditional instruments and digital music, but making it sound damn good. They easily land in the same class as giants like Björk and Nine Inch Nails who are exploring the outer limits of what sounds can be made into music.
I’ll admit I was somewhat disheartened at first, thinking of buttoned-down friends who’d be put off before ever getting to hear the band, but then I got the joke. I had walked into that living room and the first thought I’d had as the music reached my ears had been, “Holy f*ck!”. There really could not be a more appropriate name for this band.
Rocking The Baseball Diamond
When Kellie and I caught wind that Holy F*ck were performing at the local Wolfe Island Music Festival in Kingston, we snapped up tickets and invited our close friends Jonny & Kirstie. The show happened to be during the same week we attended the Tool concert at the KROQ Center. Holy F*ck did with a few hundred people, a baseball diamond, and one firework what Tool was unable to do with lasers, light rigs, videos screens and several thousand fans.
They Tore. It. Up.
The band were the last of several to play the stage set up in a baseball diamond on Wolfe Island, just across the water from Kingston. We arrived just as the band before were finishing their set. We decided to stay towards the back of the crowd to keep a good view of the whole experience. The stage setup was simple: a single row of coloured lights and a black backdrop with subtly pulsating LCDs, resembling stars.
The band took the stage and ran through a set of about a dozen songs, performing brilliantly. They played songs of the new record in totally new ways. They played old songs and made them sound brand new. They tried out a few new songs and sounds that really showed how much this band challenges themselves. The songs I’d been listening to on repeat all week to pump myself up for this were suddenly alive, living and breathing and growing into familiar but still totally new songs right in front of us.
This was what live music should be! Where Tool’s performance had been staid and routine a few days before, Holy F*ck pulsed with energy. The drummer and bassist kept a fantastic backbone to the music, over which the others laid layer after layer of sound.
Unable to help ourselves, we moved closer and with the better view came the realization of just how many weapons these guys have in their arsenal. We could see them working furiously, pulling tape, tinkling keyboards, adjusting dials, scratching on a turntable, even using delay-slathered vocal noises, all in addition to the myriad noise-boxes on their tables. Often one musician’s hands flew so fast that he simply stuffed the microphone into his mouth rather than spare the time to put it down
As the introductory bars of Lovely Allen began to play we plunged into the crowd, whose bouncing and jumping had reached a fevered pitch. Just as the song reached its’ mid-way crescendo, someone in the crowd set off a Roman Candle. As if by conspiratorial magic, the fireworks launched in time with the music. They arched lazily over our heads, bathing us alternatively in red and green light. Hundreds of feet left the ground, seemingly suspended in the air and time slowed to a crawl for one of those rare, timeless moments we spend our whole lives hunting for.
After the show we stumbled home, elated and drained, drunk on the experience. As we reached the ferry that would take us back to Kingston, I turned to Jonny and asked, “So what did you think?”. He raised his eyebrows and shook his head, still floored by the show, and replied with two simple words: