Saturday, December 17, 2011

A Tres Bien night at The Sister

The Legendary Dirtbikers
The Ultimatemost High
Tres Bien Ensemble
I last saw The Legendary Dirtbikers two months ago, but jumped at the chance to spend time with some friends and watch the Toronto band again on Friday night within the welcoming confines of The Sister.

The set was similar to the last one, but the Dirtbikers didn't need any prompting to showcase their "First Dog in Space" single this time out. And the band's rendition of "Let's Get High and Fool Around" may have been the best that I've heard it do.

Guitarist/singer Fred Robinson (who last night was wearing a Hilarious House of Frightenstein T-shirt I was coveting) put it well on a Facebook post I read this morning: "I play in a band with some nice dudes..this makes me happy. We are not about to change the world but we will have a tonne of fun trying."

The only thing I knew about The Ultimatemost High was a YouTube video I checked out earlier this week to see if I'd like it. But what I witnessed in person from this Oshawa, Ont. quartet was much better.

The Ultimatemost High plays a blend of old school punk and vintage garage rock and at times I heard elements of The Damned, The Stooges, Dead Boys and very early Replacements. The group even threw in a Seeds cover for good measure.

Charismatic singer Ben Lee combines the moves and actions of some of rock and roll's great frontmen, but adds his own fresh spin to it. This included  lying on his back on the table in front of me and putting the microphone in my face so I had to sing the chorus along with him. Luckily, the lyrics weren't too hard to pick up.

Wayne Omaha was one of my favourite local bands through the late '90s and early into this century, but the band dissolved and its bass player moved away. The group has largely been resurrected, however, under a name borrowed from The Beatles' "Michelle" that I much prefer: Tres Bien Ensemble. The quintet has flown under my radar but when I read the concert listing with the bracketed notation "(formerly Wayne Omaha)," I figured I should see what the new incarnation was like.

I liked what I heard, but wasn't completely sold early on. But as the set of instrumental and vocal tracks evolved, I started appreciating the versatility, diversity and dynamics of what I was hearing from these very talented musicians more and more. It's art rock meets rawk and roll in places, and it draws you in further the more you hear it. I'm not usually a fan of extended jams, but I even liked when the second last song of the night morphed into one.

I've always liked the guys in the band and am pleased that I'll likely see them more often now that I know who Tres Bien Ensemble is. Beauty on.


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