To anyone who’s stepped into House of Targ, even just once, it takes about a fraction of a second to conjure up an accurate image and sense of what the atmosphere might be like at a show there on any given night.
When you descend into the dimly lit basement, you are immediately hit with an assault to several of your senses, in the best possible way. The walls are lined with bright pinball machines, vintage and modern, as well a variety of classic and unique arcade games that flash in a way that is both pleasant and nearing the border of seizure inducing. The air is teaming with collisions between loud music and the smell of perogies. Pinball, perogies and punk are the specialties of Targ.
I was there on Wednesday to catch The Motorleague, with Safety and Double Experience. I had been anticipating the show for the last couple weeks, as The Motorleague are a band I’d seen countless times throughout high school back in Moncton, New Brunswick, and it had been a while since I’d last caught a show of theirs.
The band made their way to the city after a few shows in the states, playing in Philadelphia, New York and Boston before returning to Canada. With them was Brooklyn’s Safety. Starting the night off, however, were locals Double Experience. The crowd at Targ was thin, but it was acceptable for a Wednesday evening and increased slowly as the night progressed.
All I knew about Double Experience beforehand was that they were definitely nerds and that they were definitely more than alright with that fact. When I think of nerdy bands, I either picture of annoying synth-heavy bands or Devo—the latter my preferred version. When the band took the stage, I was pleased to hear that this was not the case.
The chunky trudging of the instrumentals immediately threw me off, as I wasn’t expecting a stoner-rock band necessarily, but when the bassist/vocalist started singing, I realized they weren’t stoner-rock at all. He sang with a very clean, falsetto range that contrasted with the classic, crunchy, stoner riffs to create something unique and original. Another element in the instrumentals that kept things fresh was the unlikely marriage of epic and melodic swells that would transition back into those sludgy tones.
Verifying my “nerd” suspicions, they began and closed an original song with Darth Vader’s theme, the Imperial March, and I couldn’t have been happier about it. In addition to their set of mainly original music, they also included a cover of Blue Oyster Cult’s Godzilla, which was fitting with their stoner vibe, especially considering there is also a Fu Manchu version.
Safety was up next. The power delivered in the threesome’s performance sounded like there were twice as many members on stage. They immediately began with a burst of energy, ripping into fast-paced riffs that held a hard punk edge. There was a masterful trading off of vocals in the songs, and it struck me at one point that there wasn’t necessarily a dedicated frontman. They existed and performed as a solid unit, which added to the power they exuded.
There was an eclectic and almost indecisive bouncing between genres and styles in their music. It was somewhat all over the map, but in a really enjoyable and interesting way that they managed to keep cohesive throughout their set, executing seamless transitions between the majority of their songs. This aesthetic reminded me somewhat of the band Thrice, who similarly will often jump between melodic and punk riffs and metal breakdowns. Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed their set and will be checking out their album.
Finally, The Motorleague took the stage. As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t exactly a packed house, as is to be expected for a mid-week show, but you wouldn’t have known it from the immediate energy the band threw into their set. They’re a band that pulls zero punches, whether they’re playing to 10 or 200-plus people.
I was definitely hit with a strong sense of nostalgia, watching a band I had seen at some of my first-ever shows, but there was also something different about them now compared to back in 2006. These dudes know what they’re doing. There’s such a precision to their set, but you still get the sense that they’re really just having fun up there.
The songs were catchy and poppy, but also moved with a forceful momentum that was impossible to ignore. The vocal work and harmonies were so crisp and well executed that it almost felt as if they should have been pressed on vinyl right there. They engaged the crowd between songs but also demanded their cooperation in singing along with their closing song, “Every Man Needs a Cape Breton,” which could almost be considered the band’s mission statement. It was the perfect closer and summary of what The Motorleague are.
I was extremely satisfied with the night. It was a great line-up of high-energy, hard-hitting rock. I grabbed myself a vinyl copy of the Motorleague’s first release, Acknowledge, Acknowledge, and have been happily listening to it all day. The band deserved better than the small Wednesday crowd, but the handfuls of people that showed up were more than appreciative.