The Montreal music scene is exploding, and newcomers Panacea seem to be tailor-made for it. The four-man Montreal band has only been gigging since August, but their performances are utterly intoxicating.
“We started as an experiment,” said Ben Dodds, the band’s drummer. “It was weird at first, but we connected and let the band flow; we let the music do talking.”
Panacea is a result of a chance encounter, as Ben and his twin brother Josh put some posters up around McGill and Concordia that were answered by trombonist Eli Chalmer and keyboardist Greg Burton.
“Panacea is not funk or classical music: it’s improvisational,” said Chalmer, the band’s de facto frontman. “It doesn’t fall into a category. It’s not jazz or anything like that.”
“After eight bars of their first song, I was like, ‘You guys are staying here forever,'” said Ronee Nurse, owner of the Crescent Street Pub. Panacea picked up a regular gig at his bar after opening for another band.
Burton is from Wolfville, Nova Scotia, and when he plays, he burns. Studying at Concordia, Burton’s background is a Phish-Zappa fusion smoothed over with classical piano harmonies.
Funk-rockers Josh and Ben Dodds hail from Edmonton. Ben plays drums and Josh plays upright bass and bass guitar.
A southpaw, Josh started playing guitar at 14, flipping the axe upside down, Hendrix-style, rather than attempting to restring it. “People think it’s this amazing feat, but it’s just the way I learned,” he said.
Josh’s brother, Ben, has been beating the drums for 19 years. When he’s not practicing or performing with Panacea, he also plays in a jazz combo.
Studying at McGill, Chalmer rounds out the foursome. A Vermont native, Chalmer has studied classical music since age three.
“You can’t label them. They have too much creativity and too much power,” said Nurse, adding that it hurts artists when people assign different categories to creative works. “It discredits music. If I say funk, what’s funk? I think it’s unfair to pigeonhole music.”
Panacea’s powerful songs can stand alone, but together they send out a decree; they force a reformation of thought, and their sets become musical narratives.
Songs like “Blade,” “Firebird,” “Your Momma Does Acid,” and “Succubus,” reinforce these earthly wills. Their rhythms emotionally climb and hit breaking apexes. They collectively beat back their combined power and, after brief downpours of pace and pattern, keyboards and brass cut through the air, charging full tilt into frays of drums and bass.
When they explode into these funkadelic trips, Chalmer’s brass trombone sweats and his ballooned cheeks squeeze into the bristling four-way encounters of strings, skins, brass, and keys. Add the Dodds’ convulsive tempo coupled with Burton’s electric virtuosity on the keyboards, and Panacea transmits their music as a funk doctrine renaissance.
Named after a medieval female sex demon, their song “Succubus” is a groovable feast of funkatory delights that is pure aural hedonism. The tune begins with a slow, even pulse as Burton reconciles the beat with some erotic key work. After two minutes at a feverish level, Chalmer floats in with a caressing freefall of smooth swells from his trombone.
For Josh Dodds, music is his “Succubus.” “I relate it to sex. I love the way it makes me feel,” he said. “It makes me feel great: I’m addicted.”
According to Ben Dodds, disappointment is the only emotion you won’t experience at a Panacea show. “We’re not another cover band. We don’t play the same stuff over and over,” he said.
Full of sonic genius, Panacea asserts old style emotion crashing into futuristic frenzy. These guys are their own heirs to a new force in music – the new force Panacea is creating.
Panacea plays Thursday nights after 9 p.m. at the Crescent Street Pub, at 1221 Crescent St. No cover. If you want some free downloads, the band’s website is odetoanuglypig.com
The band also has a gig this Monday, April 10, at Jello Bar, 151 Ontario East.