Culture  A poetry set to roaring music

Speedy Ortiz at La Sala Rossa

Speedy Ortiz, the indie rock band from Northampton, Massachusetts, boasts an eclectic roster. Sadie Dupuis, the band’s frontperson and best-known member, has a delicate voice, a somewhat gloomy demeanor, and a hip appearance. Darl Ferm, an electric guitarist, sports, perhaps unintentionally, the early-1990s, all-American grunge look (flannel, jeans, no real edge). Matt Robidoux, yet another electric guitarist, seems to have been taken right out of an English rock band. Mike Falcone, a hard-hitting drummer, with his oversized t-shirt and a heavy flow of hair, could have been part of a heavy metal band from back in the day. Together, they form a bit of a ragtag ensemble. It isn’t hard to imagine them practicing in your basement or garage, rather than up on La Sala Rossa’s stage.

Musically speaking, Speedy Ortiz is definitely different than almost everything climbing the charts today. There are times when Dupuis’ voice is struggling to be heard, and it occasionally seems more like she’s visiting from another, quieter act. At other times, the four are in perfect sync, each contributing to an unpredictable musical dynamic, as if each were responsible for pulling the show’s tone in a different direction. The crowd seems intrigued.

La Sala Rossa is filled with a casually dressed crowd in their late 20s and early 30s. Some rather large beards and grungy ensembles can be spotted in the crowd, here and there. It is clear that the majority of the crowd is here for headliner Chelsea Light Moving, a New York City band featuring alt-rock legend Thurston Moore. But Speedy Ortiz still manages to pique the audience’s curiosity. The band continues to lead the crowd into song after song, Dupuis seemingly guiding the other band members with less than a glance at the audience. Her melodic vocals begin to carry the room away, only to be submerged by a tangled mix of beating drum and guitar clashes.

So much so, that the music makes her words inaudible and incomprehensible. From what the audience can hear, her lyrics are choppy and poetic, a mix of the singer’s personal anecdotes and her stream of consciousness. Left to interpretation, they could mean just about anything you would like them to, or, then again, nothing at all. Dupuis continues singing, fixing the crowd with a doll-like empty stare; her demeanour is oddly fitting for her indiscernible lyrics. At times the music is so heavy and distorted that it seems to create glitches in the sound system – although it was hard to tell whether this was Speedy Ortiz’s doing or an issue with the venue itself.

Between Dupuis’ indiscernible lyrics and the band’s roaring sounds, there are times when Speedy Ortiz is downright hard to listen to for those uninitiated to the indie or punk scene. But the band doesn’t seem to be aiming to appeal to those who aren’t already into the scene. It’s the few instances in which you can actually hear the band’s new wave experimental sounds, or see Dupuis smile behind her dark expression, that may just keep you searching for more. Otherwise, they carry on as if to say, ‘this is us, take or leave it,’ and they do it well.