Concert Reviews

Failure at The Mod Club

Photos By Olivia Leung

Failure haven’t toured in 16 years, not since their few albums in the 1990’s. They made a name for themselves in the alternative rock world, with music that would be as heavy as Nine Inch Nails but could also ascend into the starry night above. They were fixated on interstellar capabilities and the boundaries of the human body. Needless to say, their music garnered a huge cult following over the years even after their break up. They played two shows at The Mod Club as the sole act of the night, and there were many people of different ages and different crowds there talking and making friends. It was a night strictly for Failure fans to celebrate the band.

The wait was a bit long, and it was made even longer by a collage of clips before the show that must have gone on for at least twenty minutes (or so it felt). It was a collection of clips from the bands’ most inspirational sources. This ranged from a series of Tarkovsky films (The Mirror and Solaris), The Spy Who Loved Me (with the iconic ski slope chase scene), 2001: A Space Odyssey (the tragic “I’m afraid, Dave” part) and even Ren and Stimpy. All of these scenes tended to show fragility within both humans and technology, as well as the advanced capabilities we now have and should be using correctly, whether it be through positive enlightenment (using a ski pole as a gun) or through cautionary warning (Ren going stir crazy in space). The message was creative, the sources were delightful, but the best intentions of this pre show video seemed to disconnect fans from the show a little bit (again, the possible downfall technology can have on human connections). Some fans were engaged and reenacting the clips (such as someone yelling that their soap bar was an ice cream bar as they knew the Ren and Stimpy clip), but many ended up just talking about their lives. 

It did work as a nice introduction, though, as the band came on stage behind a closed curtain, and the drumming began before the same curtain was opened. Revealed was a very stunning futuristic stage; Each drum, amp and microphone stand bordered by bright white lights. There was nothing more than a blank projector screen behind the band and this took on whatever colour was tossed onto the stage (which started out as solely white but ended up going into the kinds of colours you’d find in the climax of 2001: A Space Odyssey). Visually, with the drum kit in the middle and both guitar players on either side of the stage with their Sunn amps behind them, it was as if we were on a space shuttle and in a music video. It was very nicely done.

The sound was not nearly as delicate as Failure put on one of the loudest sets I have ever been to. I understand that some sets need to be loud to get certain guitar tones (think My Bloody Valentine and Sonic Youth), and a lot of the guitar solos in Failure’s set were effects ridden screeches that soared off into oblivion, but I’m not entirely sure if their set had to be as loud as it was. Nonetheless, I had my earplugs and so I could still enjoy the show. The set may have been teeth shatteringly loud, but the instruments were still clear and nothing was muddled, so at least the intense volume didn’t affect the quality of the music.

With Greg Edwards and Ken Andrews swapping their basses and guitars throughout the set, it was a true testament of their passion for the band’s catalogue of music. They treated each song with a lot of care and fond memory of how each song was created, as almost every song had a different guitar (with different tuning and different make). This isn’t unusual, in fact, it’s more unusual to use the same guitar for an entire set nowadays. However, everything about this concert felt precise and about the band’s history. You could tell they reformed the band for good reason. Kellii Scott’s drumming was a tom filled extravaganza with so much exploding but a clear distinction of where the path he should be sticking to was. Everything about this show was an attempt to reach the stars above but without forgetting those they have on earth waiting for them.

With a fifteen minute intermission, perhaps Failure’s intention with the opening film was to get Failure fans talking. Their best intentions for this set was to bring together every Failure fan in Toronto to spread the good news that Failure was back. With the band in their mid 40’s not looking a day over 30, the band clearly know how to take care of whatever means a lot to them. This day, it was their music; The music that fans loved for years. When fans would barrage Failure with enthusiastic banter the entire set, they couldn’t help but respond at least once. That one time was a reply to the statement that the band should release more albums, to which we got the answer “We’re working on that”. With people yelling “Don’t leave us ever again”, I don’t think Failure plan on that anytime soon. They came with the goal to park their space shuttle in Toronto and to leave a marking on the ground. Failure fans will now be waiting for that mysterious encounter again, because Failure’s bizarre yet articulate set is one they could have only dreamed about.

About author

Former Film Editor & Music Writer at Live in Limbo. Co-host of the Capsule Podcast. A Greek/South African film enthusiast. He has recently earned a BFA honours degree in Cinema Studies at York University. He is also heavily into music, as he can play a number of instruments and was even in a few bands. He writes about both films and music constantly. You should follow him on Twitter @Andreasbabs.