Water began dripping from the ceiling midway through Black Pistol Fire’s Starlite Room set Tuesday night, pooling at centre stage and temporarily halting guitarist Kevin McKeown’s theatrics.
So, having literally rocked the place apart, McKeown did as any rock star would when faced with free-flowing on-stage liquid — tilted his head back and took a drink.
A few towels were thrown down and the show went on. But heavy drops splashed on the stage throughout as the Austin, Texas-based two-piece (originally from North Toronto, where they were kindergarten friends) continued their rock assault.
Bandana protruding from his back pocket, with dog tags hanging amid a black outfit and bang-covered face, McKeown presents a stylistic mix between Jack White, Jake Orrall and local Tooth&Nail lead/Upsidedowntown bassist Terjn Wolskyj.
Displaying a topless whirl of long-haired thrashing in tight jean shorts, drummer Eric Owen is a cross between John Bonham, Jamin Orrall and the Muppets’ Animal, famed drummer for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem.
And there was mayhem on display from the start. Suffocation Blues and Pick Your Poison set things off before chart-topper Lost Cause sent a ripple through the crowd. Picture an unpretentious Death From Above, stripping out the pouty punk in favour of heavy blues and head-down, hard-charging garage rock.
Openers Blackillac — a rap duo who also call Austin home, made up of Zeale (Valin Zamarron) and Phranchyze (J.J. Shaw), themselves friends since middle school — brought plenty of energy and smooth delivery on bangers 6 Ringz and Dank before closing out their set with the bouncy Juice It Up.
At the end of it the duo recapped where they had been recently — Calgary and Red Deer — and where they were headed next — Saskatoon and Winnipeg — the only moment of the night that drew lusty boos from the Edmonton-proud crowd.
But despite vastly different genres the two groups complemented each other well, particularly when they appeared together for a song that had us reminiscing about the famed Aerosmith-Run D.M.C. collaboration from long ago.
And maybe we’ve attended too many outdoor music festivals lately, offering the freedom to swing limbs and meander across open fields, but the Starlite’s cramped confines mainly limited the crowd to head-bobbing and raised fists.
McKeown compensated for the crowd’s immobility, bouncing around the stage like a hopped-up ballerina — lithe and striking in boots that stomped and spun across the room. He descended to the Starlite Room floor more than once for extended solos, swarmed by the same fans who held him up for a crowd-surfing jaunt toward the end of the show.
Owen kept impeccable time throughout, setting the backdrop for his bandmate’s gravelly vocals on Hipster Shakes, Hard Luck and Run Rabbit Run.
Wrapping things up with Bully — the “like it when you play too rough, so tell me when you’ve had enough” line offering the evening’s most vocal clarity in a call-to-arms chorus — McKeown capped things on the Starlite bartop, slamming a drink before an extended breakdown brought an end to the wet and sweaty adventure.
And then, presumably, someone called in a plumber to patch things up, Black Pistol Fire having left a trail of destruction in their hard-rocking wake.
Black Pistol Fire
Where: Starlite Room
When: Tuesday, Aug. 13