Oh, the Casbah. So small and sweaty. Perfect for smashing into people during the set of a Born Ruffians concert.
I arrived at the Casbah with my friend Maria and her freshly legal brother at around 8:30, since doors were at 9. Little did I know that instead of being allowed to wait in the warm, cozy Casbah Lounge, we would be forced to stand around in the freezing cold for forty minutes. After that, we had to line up inside the Lounge for another unknown period of time. By the time we got inside, we were very ready to listen to some good, live music.
So we grabbed a few beers ($12 for two bottles; yikes!) and staked out an area close to the half-foot high stage. At this height, you can basically make creepy eye contact with the band. Which is exactly what we did.
The first act was a local act called Blackburn. They weren’t anything special, so I went to the back of the room to rest on my laurels for a bit. At this point, I grabbed another beer from the bar. While I was trying to wedge my lime into the neck of my Corona, I came this close to squirting Mitch Derosier in the face with a lime. He was fine about it; I guess his parents were half Tequila.
I moved to the back of the room near the merch tables to find a seat. Noticing that Mitch and Andy Lloyd were manning the tables alone, I decided to introduce myself and ask them to do a phone interview for CFMU 93.3. They were incredibly friendly (Andy was particularly bashful) and Mitch gave me his contact info.
I made my way back to the front of the stage to wait for First Rate People to start. I’ve been following this particular band for the past year, so I was super stoked to hear that they’d be opening. I whispered to Maria, “I think I’m the only one in the room other than the band that knows every word to their first EP”. She nodded her agreement.
The band took forever adjusting their levels, and even when they began to play, something seemed a bit off. The mic for their female drummer was too low and the overall sound was a bit more crude than clean. This is abnormal for a band who comes across as crisp and polished on their recordings.
They played a few new tracks, a few tracks off their EP (Dress So Fine and Orion were standouts), and closed with Girls’ Night. Solid, but not perfect. Also, their lead guitarist seemed a bit uptight and unfriendly; kind of like how Cameron starts off at the beginning of Ferris Bueller.
At this point, the audience was foaming at the mouth for Born Ruffians to start. Since it was an all ages event, naturally there was an old woman (I’m talking Titanic-Older-Rose) and some youngsters who still had their baby teeth. It was cute seeing them lose their concert virginity to a band like Born Ruffians.
When Born Ruffians took to the stage, it was already pretty hot in the room. But after their first song (Foxes Mate For Life) , the air was positively sticky. It was so packed that going to the back was quite difficult. If only one could drink one’s own sweat without throwing up.
Unlike their openers, the Ruffians’ levels were perfect. However, about three-quarters through their set, Steve Hamelin’s mic malfunctioned and didn’t work for an entire song. He looked fairly pissed and I would be too.
The crowd was so wild that several young ingenues in skimpy fur vests and paisley dress shirts were pushed/took the opportunity to jump on stage and do some botched dance moves. They were pulled back down into the moshing masses.
The band played almost every track off of 2010’s Say It. I particularly enjoyed Nova Leigh, mostly because it’s my favourite song on the album. The crowd went wild for the bass solo in Retard Canard.
Finally, after a very sweaty and satisfying 1.5-hour set, they closed with I Need A Life. The crowd was hoping for an encore, but with a set that long, it wasn’t surprising when one didn’t come. Maria, Stephen, and I left to go grab burritos at Jimmy Gringos and rehash the best elements of the evening.
Going to more than a few Born Ruffians concerts has made me realize that they’re almost like a nuclear family.
Luke Lalonde is the prodigal son. He writes and arranges the songs, he’s worked on the film score for German film Snowman’s Land (see if you can pin down what song he’s basing it off of), and he’s just oozing everything that screams “talent”. He has a side project called Skeleton Me for when he just wants to do his own thing. He makes some pretty great playlists on his personal blog, (I’m listening to PRETTY AS FUCK). But the main reason he’s the prodigal son? He just writes good, catchy songs overflowing with hooks.
Mitch Derosier is the protective mother. He keeps the band’s website updated when they’re on tour and watches over everyone to make sure they’re ok. On their website, he mentions that he felt like a stage mom while watching Luke sing live vocals for Caribou’s Jamelia for the first time. I suspect that he might be protective of Luke simply because they’re cousins.
Andy Lloyd is the shy dad. We don’t know too much about him; he sticks to himself. He’s pretty content just doing his own thing, as long as his family is happy.
Steve Hamelin is the boisturous second-born. Smash-happy, he looks pleased as punch to just bang on his drum all day.
Here’s a super old track (circa 2004) from back when the band was still called Mornington Drive. I think that they actually sound a lot like Tokyo Police Club here. You can really tell how much tighter their sound has gotten over the last few years; particular Steve’s drumming and Luke’s vocal flexibility.
All in all, Born Ruffians have never once disappointed me in concert. Their sound is consistently tight and bouncy, and most importantly, they know how to choose a set-list to suit the audience.