I have found that every so often in my life I have reached a musical turning point. A moment when I have heard something that has opened a completely new front in terms of what I listen to. I find this exciting because all of a sudden there are a whole raft of new bands to hear and new music to experience. This also opens up new routes into the past, discovering influences on these bands of which I was previously unaware. This happened when I heard the Pistols’ Pretty Vacant for the first time (on a crackly Radio Luxembourg), and not long after that Gangsters by The Specials, and then less and less often over the years. When it does it is usually at a quite unexpected moment.
One such time was back in 2010. My wife and children were out of town, the World Cup was all but over and so I scoured the Leeds gig listings for somewhere to go. As I recall there were only two events on on the night in question: Paolo Nutini at the O2, and a double header of Sleepy Sun and the Besnard Lakes at the Brudenell; unsurprisingly I plumped for the latter.
As I remember it now it was a warm evening and the inside of the venue was quite sticky as we waited for the start of the gig. As Sleepy Sun sound checked the voice of Rachel Fannan, who sadly left the band soon afterwards, wafted out across the room like a siren calling people in, and causing most there to break their conversations (something quite unusual during a gig these days, never mind during a sound check). It was a really amazing moment that told me that I might be in for a pretty good evening, and so in proved as Sleepy Sun took us through a blistering set from their two then extant albums Embrace and Fever.
Sleepy Sun were quite an act to follow that night, but The Besnard Lakes were equal to it. They were similar bands in many ways playing amazing psychedelic music, very much located in the West Coast tradition, with a mixture of male and female vocals. It was a real wig out which left me quite wrung out, yet inspired, by the end. It also took me off to many new bands such as Wooden Shjips/ Moon Duo, Tame Impala, Wolf People, Hookworms, and many more. It also gave me a new found respect for psychedelia, which I had been having a bit of a downer on up to that point.
So it was with great hope and expectation that I went to see The Besnard Lakes at the same venue, particularly as their latest, fourth, album Until in Excess, Imperceptible UFO is in my opinion their best yet. Like the other band I saw last week (The Handsome Family), the Besnard Lakes have a married couple as their main songwriters. Jace Lasek and Olga Goreas are a very different proposition however and, although their sound is dripping with West Coast psychedelia, they actually hail from Montreal.
Thoughtfully coming on just as the Champions League Final finished, they kicked off with my favourite track of theirs, Devastation, from their 2007 album, The Besnard Lakes are the Dark Horse. From there they could do no wrong for me as they proceeded to tear through a set which provided a great balance between material from the new album and older tracks, the former gelling very well with the latter. They were great, and took me back to that moment three years ago when my mind was opened to tranches of rock history that I had previously ignored. So thank you Besnard Lakes for helping me to experience new things, and seemingly getting even better in the process.