Saturday February 27, 2016. At The Horseshoe Tavern. $10 tickets.
My friend picked our tickets up at the last minute for what ended up being a sold out show. Although I had not harbored much anticipation before receiving the tickets, I now felt the giddy exuberance one feels before a second date; you assume it is going to end well but there is still so much sudden anticipation that you are now recklessly excited and fear showing it.
I had not seen The Dirty Nil play in several years, since my undergraduate years in Waterloo ON, where lead singer/guitarist Luke Bentham and I were friendly acquaintances. The band has certainly grown in popularity since then, having gone on the Warped Tour as well as touring all over North America. Their garage rock, lo-fi style has set them apart from other newer bands, not by doing anything completely different but by being able to produce catchy classic sounding rock music. Sticking to the very basics of putting out songs for download, releasing 7″ records, and rampant touring has finally paid off some with their signing to local Toronto label, Dine Alone Records.
At this point a small tinge of nostalgia surfaced within me as the band took the stage, lit brashly and brightly, without any of the razzle dazzle of a larger venue. They came out loud, screeching almost, as they played old favourites like “Fuckin’ Up Young” to an appreciative audience. The cheers heard after those first chords were cathartic and palpable, as it was obvious I was not the only one bursting with enthusiasm before the show.
Over the next few songs there was audible singing along amongst the audience as the band grinded through a few more classics like “Little Metal Baby Fist” and “Cinnamon”. As the show plowed ahead with the ferociousness of Imperator Furiosa’s war rig in Mad Max, my friends and I pushed through closer to the front of the stage. The mob at the front had grown increasingly lively and the inklings of moshing we previously saw were turning into a full blown mosh pit, albeit a friendly one. Head bobbing turned into dancing and skanking, and the rambunctious front line had begun stage diving to cheers and crowd support as the band ripped through a slower jam version of “Hate is a Stone” that culminated in furious aneurisms of musical joy.
At this point the immense amount of sweat dripping from the faces of Luke and bassist/vocalist Dave Nardi became magnified under the hot heat of the blunt white stage lights. In its own weird way this made the grungy dive bar that is The Horseshoe Tavern a little bit cozier. This was helped by the less violent nature of the moshing of the mob, who were pushing, shoving and flailing without the requisite punches and elbows seen at more hardcore shows.
At this point the band was going through songs off of their new LP, Higher Power, of which I only knew the single “No Weaknesses”. It appeared that much of the crowd was also less familiar with the new material, unless it was just the copious amount of beer, sweat and energy that subdued much of the singing along heard earlier in the show. As the last trails of the caterwauling vocals rang out, the question of an encore was all but settled by the impatient excitement of the crowd. The band were offstage no more than a minute while the chants of “Dirty Nil!” reverberated through the crowd.
The boys came back on stage with a cover of “The Boys Are Back in Town” by Thin Lizzy that was met with just as much fanfare as their original material, if not more, as singing and shouts of recognition could be heard amid the music. As the final notes of feedback and reverb died out, Luke thanked Toronto for being like a second home to the band, and from the crowd side it certainly felt like they had played to a hometown audience.
The Dirty Nil are currently touring the north eastern United States in continued support of their new LP, Higher Power, which can be purchased online from their label, Dine Alone Records.
You can listen to some of the band’s music here.