The Dirty Nil are a rare local band I fell in love with just through hearing their recordings. Usually I see a band live first to decide if I’m interested (there’s nothing worse than loving an album just to find out they suck live), and if I love what they bring to the show I’ll make it a point to get my hands on whatever they have available for at home listening. Also, it’s rare for local bands to afford a good producer/studio, meaning what they have recorded is generally not a great representation of their talent the way that seeing them live can be. So when I saw The Dirty Nil open for The Sweet Mack’s EP release show back in May, I was hoping their live set would live up to what I had already heard and adored.
It most definitely did.
They are known around town as “The Dirty Motherfucking Nil” because their music inspires that kind of young, authentic, visceral reaction in people. Watching them take the stage, I thought they looked like the kind of adorable 18 year old boys I had crushes on in high school. Maybe that’s why I was so impressed, they don’t look to be out of their teen years just yet (I could be wrong) but already, their songwriting skills are tight and memorable. And to my delight, their performance skills matched (no, beat) the energy I felt just from listening to their EPs.
When they opened up their set with The Kids In The Hall theme “Having an Average Weekend” I think I officially fell in love. Referencing the golden age of Canadian comedy will always score you points with me – and they played it perfectly. That song is synonymous with “this is gonna be a good show” so you have to have a lot of confidence to open with it.
Shorty after, they went into a cover of David Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream,” as if I needed more reasons to love them.
Despite the great covers, I was couldn’t wait to hear their fantastic originals. Singer/guitarist Luke Bentham dedicated the next song, the snarky “Cinnamon,” to his “bitch of an ex girlfriend” (not an exact quote), and proceeded to release all his frustrations from that relationship onto the stage. The audience felt the catharsis. When he screamed “you can be pissed off if you want to” there was not a person in the room who couldn’t relate.
Next came “Verona Lung” which is the song that instantly sold me on them the first time I heard it. Hearing it live was even more impressive than it sounds on the EP, because as great as their songs are recorded – this is a band that exists for the experience of them – you come to see The Dirty Nil to scream your frustrations out along with them and have a great night.
Another familiar track – “Bruto Bloody Bruto” came next, followed by “Zombie Eye” which I can only assume is a new song, as I can’t seem to find it anywhere, unfortunately.
Then came my absolute favorite track from their Saccharine Visceral EP, the gorgeous “Caroline.” I’ve said it before – the slow burner is always my favorite song from any band (does that make me a predictable “girl”?) – and it’s no different in this case. Watching a band perform a slow song as intensely as they can do their heavy stuff is the mark of a great band for me, so I’m always disappointed when these songs are left off a setlist. “Caroline” is the kind of song that reminds you of what it feels like when great love turns sour because of betrayal – it pulls your insides out and puts them on display to the whole fucking world. The song begs Caroline for forgiveness, and I don’t think there’s a Caroline out there that could resist after hearing it.
They ended the short set with what has to be considered their definitive track, “Fuckin’ Up Young.” There’s really no other song that sums up what their music is all about more than this gem. It’s a perfect, pulsing song that demands you scream along and release any guilt for those days where you did too much (insert drug of choice), threw up in public, punched someone at the bar, woke up in a stranger’s bed, and crawled home in shame just to do it all over again the next night. It’s a right of passage, one that the band is currently in the middle of, and they want you to embrace it.
If there was anything wrong with their set, it was that it was too short. I wanted to hear “Broken Slinky,” “Panzer,” “Raygun,” “Yeti” and the sexy as fuck “Into The Sun,” but I may get that chance tonight, as they are playing NXNE today at Detour Bar at 11pm – so you can come see how great they are live for yourselves.
At this point I’d say they are my favorite discovery of 2012.