The Besnard Lakes Keep You Guessing

October 5th, 2009

The Besnard Lakes – Mercury Lounge – October 3, 2009

The Besnard LakesWe used to play this game at summer camp called Indian Chief. Everyone sits in a circle following what the chief does while someone else tries to guess who the leader is. Watching the Besnard Lakes Saturday night at the Merc was a similar experience. Though it was clear enough who leads the band—the tall dude up front who did all the talking between songs. I had more trouble trying to figure out what was driving the music. Was it the screeching two-guitar onslaught that characterized the opening songs? Was it the husband-wife duet angle: The Mr.’s falsetto ranging an octave or two over the Mrs’? Was it the lyrics that disappeared between the cushions of bass, drums and guitar? Was it that bass playing, the thread of lucidity in otherwise conflicting points of view?

Whatever it was, the music kept me on my toes. Switching between new ones on the “test audience” and older, more developed songs, the Besnard Lakes were loud, rocking and utterly, refreshingly unpredictable. Every song seemed to have a passage of gloriously sustained rocking out, either parallel or perpendicular to the predicted direction, and each boasted of one moment where the band swerved unflinchingly into a left-hand turn across oncoming traffic. This was the late set, post midnight, so the rule of anything goes was in effect. They took full advantage, stitching 12-string guitar, flute and falsetto prog with ethereal brain creepers interspersed with metal raging. For the last number, the entire band simultaneously started on a single, sustained, humming note—ensuring that I would leave pleasantly confounded. —A. Stein