The Pack AD have been at this for a while now- roughly eight years, during which they have released five long play albums, the most recent of which is titled Do Not Engage, and which was released exactly one month prior to their tour-launching show at one of the band’s familiar haunts, the Rickshaw Theatre, a venue located roughly four doors east of the Main and Hastings intersection, an area long considered the poorest postal (zip) code in all of Canada.
For readers who haven’t yet discovered The Pack AD, the band formed in 2006, they are an all woman two piece outfit, and they occasionally draw comparisons to contemporaries such as The White Stripes or the Black Keys. The Pack members are Maya Miller on drums, and Becky Black on guitars. Becky handles all the lead vocals with Maya harmonizing. In person, both artists are about as earthy and grounded as they come. In talking with them off stage, both ladies come across as likable, genuine, and lacking any pretension.
Do Not Engage presents an ongoing evolution of sorts for the duo- a shift from the stripped down, uncompromising bluesy garage rock aesthetic of their first two albums, Tin Type and Funeral Mixtape, and an expansion of the bigger sounds presented on most recent two, We Kill Computers and Unpersons. Do Not Engage is the band’s first album released by Nettwerk after several years with Mint records, and the sounds on the new release are perhaps the most “arena rock” of their career- signalling the The Pack’s readiness for the mainstream, but not in a way that specifically seeks mainstream. Rather, think of Do Not Engage as The Pack AD’s willingness to be embraced by mainstream rather than vice versa. Perhaps the title says it all: DO.NOT.ENGAGE!
On this particular evening The Pack AD invited two other local bands, Dead Soft and The Courtneys (more on both groups later this week) to open up the evening but for the sake of this review, let’s just say that they were both bands were fantastic pairings for the headliners. By the time The Pack AD walked onto the stage, the room was packed, the incited and excited crowd ready for a great show, and the Pack AD were fully up to the task, tearing into a set list comprised of tunes from their past three albums, along with a couple of very well appointed covers. Here is the set list from this show:
2. Animal *
3. Deer ***
4. Haunt You **
5. Loser *
6. Ride **
7. Lights **
8. Positronic **
9. Big Shot *
10. Cobra Matte ***
12. Creeping Jenny *
13. I Was a Teenage WW (Cramps cover)
14. Battering Ram *
15. Sirens **
16. Needles *
17. I Got You (Split Enz cover)
18. Nightcrawler (Thee oh Sees cover)
* Do Not Engage (2014) ** Unpersons (2011) *** We Kill Computers (2010)
The band did not perform any songs from their earlier albums such as the very sublime Wolves and Werewolves, and this realization may come as a small disappointment for long time fans, but the focus of this tour is on the newest material. The live set, which has seemingly progressed in tandem with each subsequent release, points to a band nearing (and possibly, beyond) the cusp of what it takes for a band to break big.
And what a excellent, captivating, live show it is that the Pack AD put on- something which is not easy for a two piece band. Unlike other duos such as the Black Keys (who we love) the Pack AD do not have additional musicians dressed in black and wearing balaclavas to fill in their music with additional layers of guitars or depth via keyboards. As such, garage rock purists can rejoice. The strength of the show, then, falls to the abilities of the two muscians alone and in this regard, The Pack AD have learned to excel.
Photographs and words © Gerry Toews / anditrocks.com All Rights Reserved