More is Less is More

Maxi Dadd stage Maxi Dadd
with Helen Keller and Puncture
The Starfish Room
Vancouver, B.C.
Friday, November 29, 1996

Review by Kevin Templeton
Photography by Rodney Gitzel

Puncture's Meegan Ever had that nagging feeling when a band's name is filed away somewhere in your brain, but you can't seem to place their sound or where you've heard of them? Me, too. I suppose it's telling, then, that I know very little of Maxi Dadd, other than what I had read in Drop-D (not very favourable) or from what I heard on the way to the Starfish from an old aquaintance on the Hastings bus about that same show (very unfavourable). But, despite the lukewarm expectations swirling in my head, I was determined to find my own truth by witnessing firsthand the exploits of three very different, and lesser-known, local acts.

Helen Keller percussionist A positive release of negative energy is the intent behind Puncture's divine metal/core angst, and with titles (stolen from their setlist) like "Muzzle," "Fist Magnet" and "Slaughterhouses" anchoring their set, one might suggest that the four-piece (two girls, two boys) have some serious emotional ground to cover. Vocalist Meegan was her usual empassioned self, perhaps not quite as spirited or focused as she has been in the past, but confident and strong nonetheless. It's interesting to watch her cathartic stage presence soothe to a halt in between songs, as she chatted with friends in the (meager) audience and jokingly compared her group's sound to "Brooklyn hardcore" one minute and "heavy metal" the next. A few bolder-sounding riffs wouldn't do the band any harm -- nor would increased energy from the guitarist -- but overall Puncture impress me in a primal sort of way. Now only if people would get up and dance...

Helen Keller keyboardist Helen Keller weren't exactly the life of the party this Friday night, but having said that, they still entertained many of the club's patrons with their atmospheric, Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii-ish sound collage. Heavy on both the percussive and electronic fronts, Helen Keller's ambient "structures" seemed at times both awkwardly contrived and beautifully transcendent. The crowd seemed transfixed with the band's set-up, which included dual percussionists, a sampler/keyboardist (who added some cool vinyl scratching with a turntable) and an occasional vocalist and pipe blower. This style of music often runs the risk of resembling one long soundcheck, but Helen Keller's surrealistic meanderings never came across as pedestrian, and for that alone they must be commended.

Maxi Dadd vocalist Have you heard the phrase "less is more" lately? Well, if Maxi Dadd have a slogan (and they probably do), it should be "more is more." This seven-man-and-one-woman ensemble are unmistakably excessive and calculated, what with silly masks and everything (though the masks didn't last long). Televisions broadcasting old Canadian Film Board footage sat along the sides of the stage while two large screens at the back were showing projected... stuff. A lot of time and money seems to have gone into Maxi Dadd's onstage manipulation, which is positive (and unheard of, these days), but they almost seem to be trying too hard at times, with different members pulling in different directions at different times. Different, huh?

Maxi Dadd vocalists Ah, yes, the music. Think of your basic groove/grunge rock sound complemented with nuances of Mr. Bungle (erratic, drug-addled loathing) and E.L.O. (triumphantly keyboard-prog). I really impressed with the tightness of the band's inner core -- the guitarists, especially -- and I was somewhat surprised at the amount of conventional rock 'n roll found in the majority of the songs. Which only indicates that, beneath the masquerade, ambition and cockiness that is Maxi Dadd's trip, lies a promising group awaiting a reaction from the local music fan. And I, in turn, react to Maxi Dadd by awaiting their next step forward.

First published in Drop-D Magazine on December 7, 1996

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