Having a reputation as one of one Australia’s most electrifying acts, six-piece band Saskwatch had some high standards to live up to when they took the stage at The Basement this past Thursday night. There aren’t too many bands that can capture my attention from the get go - usually there’s a little banter, maybe a tune or two before I’m hooked – but straight away Saskwatch were a blazing wall of sound that blasted me full in the face. The only thing I could do was pick myself up, dust off my dancing shoes and get ready to endure all that they could offer.
The band opened with the first song from their latest album, “I’ll Be Fine,” a powerhouse number of soaring guitars, thumping kick drums, dueling keyboardists, and blaring horns. It’s a fight for domination, yet somewhere amongst it all there is order to the chaos.
Saskwatch decided to then take us in another direction, and diverted back to their soul and rhythm and blues roots. I found myself swaying along to “Into Your Arms.” A word of warning if you ever (and god I hope you do) get to see this band live: be ready to have your heart in a vice, as vocalist Nkechi Anele croons her way into your heart and holds it captive until she’s done with it.
I found it difficult to take my eyes off Anele. In her soulful, sensual voice, the influence of such greats artists as Diana Ross and Aretha Franklin can be heard. Multi-instrumentalist Liam McGorry, must also be noted. He did an amazing job of switching up between keyboards, guitar and brass section and at many times through the night playing all three interchangeably within the one song. He had the audience in awe as they cheered him on.
“Spitting Image” had me floating in the sea of bodies that surrounded me and it was clear that I was going nowhere fast. Closing my eyes I could happily contemplate sinking amongst the crowd. Then Robert Muinos’s distorted guitar brings us back to life - paired with Ed Crocker’s pounding drums - we start fighting above the waves and away from the sentiments that hold us bound.
One of the best and most refreshing things about Saskwatch is how humble they are. At many times through the night they would thank the audience and at one time Muinos was flabbergasted that audience members where singing along to the lyrics. Its nice to see a band not be jaded and still get a kick out of little things like us as listeners and fans are engaged in their craft.
“Time to Let You Go” was hands down my favorite track of the night. It’s a Winehouse inspired throw back to the 60’s girl group sound. With its vintage jazz sound, distorted guitars and smoky vocals resulting in a smooth and loose sense of rhythm that was truly captivating. As the song played out Anele let us know, it’s “ Time to let you go.” I almost felt at the end of this song I just wanted to plead with her, I wasn’t ready yet.
There are just so many highs of the incredibly varied performance that I sadly can’t write about all of them. “Blind,” had you swaying and felt like you were wrapped up in the arms of music itself, “Hands” was a happy and fun number that had you jumping around and clapping along.
This would have to be one of the first times that I’ve gone home after a gig and jumped straight online to purchase the album (and on vinyl) myself as I just couldn’t get Saskwatch’s songs out of my head. I think my partner is actually sick of me raving about them and telling her how she missed such an amazing gig. Truly though, Saskwatch are a breath of fresh air - at times I didn’t know who was having more fun, the crowd or the six musicians on stage. You can’t pigeonhole this band; they are constantly full of surprises and always wanting to experiment with their sound.