steering clear of the mainstream
since 2001

june 2010

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info opinion


Don Caballero

Aug 26, 2008

@ Lee's Palace
Toronto, ON


Not to knock on modern music, but a lot of it could use some serious balls. Sometimes it takes a band that's been around for 17 years to show the rest of us how it's done. And sure, Don Cab's only got one member left from their heydays, but that one member happens to be Damon Che, more or less indie rock's best drummer ever.

The Don Caballero experience is an interesting one, to say the least. Bounded on both sides by guitarist Gene Doyle and bassist Jason Jouver, Che comes across as a bratty child being babysat - his baffling outbursts precede each song, met by barely tolerant glances from his bandmates, who remain almost entirely silent throughout. As the set wears on, Damon becomes incrementally drunker, spinning off nonsensical rants about Mel Gibson, toothpaste, and so on. An exceptionally jubilant fan supplies some back-and-forth banter, and at one point Che points to him and looks to the audience, spinning his finger around his ear as a mime for "cuckoo!" The rest of the crowd is left pondering which one is the saner.

But despite the virtuoso's non-sequiturs and excessive intoxication, Don Cab's music rips some serious ass. Che's drumming is obviously the main spectacle here, and he and his over-the-top drumset (five cymbals, count ‘em!) provides a sonic onslaught that's equal parts technical miracle and pulverizing onslaught. And that isn't to discredit the other musicians, both of whom play their part terrifically - Doyle is a formidable (if quieter) partner to Che, belting complex melodies in time with the percussive mayhem, whilst Jouver's stirring bass provides a kick you don't hear too often in today's timid scene. These three have made Don Cab into quite the metal band, but the indie rock influence is still half the bulk of it - if other math-rock bands could make music this enthralling, there'd probably be a whole lot less bitching about the genre. Even the more straightforward rock moments of this show - including a song for which Doyle and Che trade instruments (!) - turn out solid, in an unusual (for Don Cab) melodic way.

From the opening minutes, where Che quickly asserted his intentions by calling everyone who once liked Don Cab but has since turned on them "fecking nitwits," it felt as if this was a band eager to prove itself. And that these three did, because this show was seriously impressive - the type of performance that, unlike a lot of music that claims the same, really needs to be witnessed live. By the time midnight rolled in, an explosive encore made something adamantly clear: Don Caballero has balls, and six of ‘em.

Matt Shimmer