Home Music Montreal indie staple Homeshake delivers a performance more vague than entrancing

Montreal indie staple Homeshake delivers a performance more vague than entrancing

by Simon New March 26, 2019
Montreal indie staple Homeshake delivers a performance more vague than entrancing

Lo-fi lethargy

“Feels like a loosely-packed living room in here,” said Peter Sagar, Homeshake’s frontman. The crowd didn’t know whether or not to take it as a jab. It didn’t matter.

Homeshake, for those who don’t wear Vans in the winter, is a project started by Sagar, former Mac DeMarco guitarist. He left the band when Homeshake started to gain traction. Based out of Montreal, Sagar’s brand of concerningly chill, stumblingly smooth indie-rock has become omnipresent in the city’s lo-fi circle. Fresh out of DeMarco’s band, Sagar’s sound started similar to his prior squad’s, but has gained gained a more hazy and abstract R&B bent with each of his four albums since In the Shower in 2014.

That distinction could have been refreshing if the haze hadn’t obscured any clear direction or trail for the band to blaze. Melodies never quite get fleshed out and Sagar’s lyrics rarely stray from the mundane and the faux-profound. The result, in the form of their latest Helium, is an album that knows it wants to be chill but not much else. Critics of DeMarco have levelled kindred complaints with his music, but his live shows are notoriously raucous. He got detained by the police at his own UCSB show in 2014. Sagar, emancipated from DeMarco, arguably toned down his set for Wednesday night’s Théâtre Fairmount crowd.

Sagar was set behind a buffet of effects, an SP-404 sampler, and a pitch shifter for his voice. His falsetto vocals wavered between what felt like two notes. The bassist was centre-stage most of the time and provided some movement to an otherwise standstill set. The drummer, equipped with a kick, two cymbals, a snare and a drum pad, was on point, but the percussion was expectedly sparse.

Sometimes though, a woodblock on the 2 and the 4 is all you need, and Homeshake posted deep in a groove, locking the audience into a real trance at moments. Everything coalesced into something tangible that the band should have showed more of; music that was inconsequential by design but served a very specific purpose to a select group of people on a single Wednesday. Mostly though, the melodies were vague and Sagar’s R&B crooning lyrics even more so. Even some of the band’s more musically defining tracks like “Give It to Me” and “Call Me Up” lost some of their character; the lack of animation and Sagar’s bizarrely quiet stage presence revealed how similar all of the songs really were. The main riff on “Give It to Me” was still hard as nails.

Photo by Simon New.

The audience was riding a thin line between vibing and boredom. Sagar was aloof to a degree that his level of fame doesn’t usually allot for. After an opening track, the audience applauded and he visibly shrugged. “You’re fuckin’ quiet, I like that,” he said. But they weren’t in some deep reverie as much as they were just looking for something to latch onto onstage. Homeshake could be excellent as a house band; people in the back of the venue were catching up and talking shit. This show could have been a 5-star Off The Hook employee networking event; Homeshake was a stellar soundtrack to chat with acquaintances to. Unfortunately, the music was just as surface-level as some of those catch-ups.

Homeshake closed with “Every Single Thing,” and just as they started to bring the energy up, they left without a word. “Peter! Peter! Peter!” A group of girls started a chant in the front row. But Sagar is known to be anti-encore. It might have been the strongest stance he took that night.

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