Concert Review: Misstress Barbara/Pilot Speed at Berkeley Church, November 2009

Berkeley Church, Toronto, ON
November 13, 2009


by Aaron Binder

Red is a bad, bad, bad colour. Photographers both adore and abhor the hue. When shooting live concerts, it is absolutely the last colour they want to see as red muddles the settings of a camera and makes a show generally difficult to shoot. Red is also one of the most ambient colours in the palate; it can evoke hatred, fury and most importantly, passion.

Berkeley Church is one of the more underground venues in the city of Toronto and undeservingly so. The building is one of the older buildings in the city, dating back to 1871. The interior is what makes this by far one of the best venues in the city; carved stone, upper-level standing area, and gigantic gothic arches create an environment you won’t see anywhere else.

Red may be a terrible colour for photographers, but washed against classic gothic arches behind the stage the view is incredible, grandiose and makes for a passionate performance. The atmosphere was melancholic but excitable on that Friday the 13th of November, 2009. The concert hall owed much to this chilled mood, the red-washed background a perfect drop for the musicians that would soon enter.

Misstress Barbara

Misstress Barbara (yes, the typo is intentional, she is one worrisome woman) is a bit of an enigma. She is a well-renowned DJ in the electronic world. She is able to pack clubs with her hard-hitting, four on the floor beats and serious demeanour. A demeanour that is prone to the occasional smile when she knows that she has hit a note perfectly and has mixed something better than anyone else could ever hope to.

Her new project is a step into the unknown for the beautiful temptress, and Berkeley Church was the perfect venue for her to exhibit herself to the city.  The sheer beauty of the spectacle exhibited throughout her set was nothing short of jaw dropping; the visual element became a religious experience unto itself; Misstress and her band (Ducati Girls) the prophetic harbingers of a red dawn that engulfed the whole crowd.

Her music is a downbeat style of House that has been fused with Rock, a sound that often comes off as brooding and depressive. However her composition skills are so adept that she turns this style into a blend of contemplative bliss that is diverse enough to bring a new element to each song. Her vocals can be a bit shaky at times, but this is her first time opening up her voice to an audience in the almost 15 years she has been on stage DJ’ing. With time she should be able to improve the less confident parts of her set.

The impression left by this newcomer to the rock-style performance world is extremely positive. Her transition from DJ to front-woman may take a little more time to perfect, but she seems like exactly the type of woman that will prevail against any type of adversity that may come about.

Pilot Speed

It has been a long journey for the band once known as Pilate. Unfortunately, like most bands, when a name changes, people fall out of the loop. 2006 brought a year of change for Pilate as they became Pilot Speed and began the musician’s way from a clean slate once more.

Berkeley Castle seemingly became their salvation; the once saviours of buzz-scene music have become reborn themselves into something greater than before. Even though they have been around for a while, not every release of theirs has been universally acclaimed. But with two releases to the Pilot Speed name, they have quickly grown into more than buzz-worthy.

Outfitted in modest dress clothing, the quad of musicians were in top form all night. They invited listeners to enjoy music from their entire catalogue with the ever-present ambient red light in the background. Their years of experience ended up shining through the red wash and playing out a full spectrum of musical colour. The crowd had gathered to have their minds opened to something so few before have experienced in a venue almost a century and a half old, and the band delivered.

The cathartic and pristine sound of an acoustically perfect church aided in bringing forth the sublime mid-tones that Pilot Speed seems to favour, soaking straight through to the souls of many. They played through a wide variety of material, guitars and bass and effects and drums constantly building on top of one another only to explode into a cacophony of sound. Their perfect execution of a build-up is the musical equivalent of a building being levelled, absolutely chaotic but controlled and impossible to turn away from.

Pilot Speed is a band that has completely grown up; they have matured to a level that is professional in every regard. There may have been a few small mistakes, but that is vastly overshadowed by their improved song-writing, engaging live show and the confident air they have acquired. The showcasing of their rebirth may have only lasted an hour, but a bigger and better band came out of the red wash, the full spectrum of light their new playground.


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