SXSW Review: The Arkells, March 15, Belmont

The Arkells are pretty big in Canada. I know this because they recently played the Sound Academy, which must be some sort of beacon that signifies they have made it. I have never really examined them because of their crappy band name. It’s a stupid reason, but I also judge a book by its thickness so I’m probably a dumb ass to some extent. Either way, as part of my #occupybelmont night at SXSW, I was able to see and hear these Hamilton upstarts for the first time.

While I found Arkell’s brand of gang chorus meets middle class story telling aggro rock isn’t my type of music, I can see how they appeal to the masses. First off, they have all the moves of a good live band. The three guitarists attack the stage with relentless aggression, taking turns going from the back of the stage to the front of the crowd either with their voices or their guitars. The timing of these surges was quite impressive as well, making it like they are doing synchronized moves. They also play with nice swagger and confidence. They EXPECT the audience to answer to their calls, and expect them to sing along. It exudes a certain amount of cool. I can definitely see this appealing to a certain demographic of people, most likely they drink 50s and have tattoos and a backwards hat.

The Arkells also seem to be dabbling in the Titus Andronicus/Hold Steady vibe, where lead singer Max Kerman almost preaches some middle class spewings over aggressive rock. He’s pretty good at it, but I’m not quite sure the message is quite there. Maybe I don’t identify with sayings like punch it out punch it in. The band seemed quite eager to let the crowd know they are from Hamilton as they mentioned it several times. Not quite sure if most people in the crowd know where that is, but it was kind of endearing.

I can see why the band has become popular in such a short period of time. Their honest to good blue collar rock doesn’t really come up too often in the hipper than thou Canadian indie scene so there’s definitely a market for it. I like my music to be a little more melodic (with a synthesizer, perhaps) but I did appreciate their cover of Spoon’s The Way We Get By

The Arkell’s Michigan Left is out in the states on April 10th.

Posted on by Ricky in South By Southwest

About Ricky

Britpop lovin Chinaman, consumer of all things irrelevant. Toronto Raptors fan.