Review: NOBRO show their time is now with excellent Garrison gig

Montreal punk powerhouse deliver stunning set at first headliner show

Where: The Garrison, 1197 Dundas St. W.
When: Sat., Jan. 27
Vibe: Punk pop empowerment
Highlight: Let’s Do Drugs early in the set sets an energy level that never abates
Rating: NNNNN (out of 5)

THIS MAY BE Montreal punk rockers NOBRO’s first headlining tour, but they still self-roadie. Mesmerizing front person Kathryn McCaughey carefully picks her way across a darkened, cluttered Garrison stage, in front of a room jammed with people and excitement, to fuss with a monitor just before showtime.

Even in the dark, her massive smile is evident — she seems as excited about the show to come as we are. She briefly contemplates breaking the fourth wall and saying something into a mic but wisely decides to save it for the show and disappears back into the shadows to await the start of the gig.

And once the gig starts, NOBRO will deliver what we are calling one of the best shows of the year — even though it’s only January. All expert players, NOBRO’s powerful quartet of women deliver a punk-pop masterclass filled with raw power, irresistible hooks and catchy choruses, all done with irrepressible urgency — and smiles.

Chants of “NOBRO” precede and then greet the band and continue to erupt throughout the night.

When the band storms on stage and rips into their anthemic Where My Girls At?, the crowd, that’s about 60 per cent women emphatically lets the band know “Right here!”

Keyboard player and percussionist Lisandre Bourdages whips up a bongo beat that she maintains unrelentingly throughout many of the songs, her energy inspiring the crowd.

McCaughey proves an irresistible front person, her smiles and enthusiasm never leavening the power of NOBRO’s tracks, just creating a safe space for the band’s urgent and sometimes angry messages.

They play most of their excellent new album, Set Your Pussy Free — 5 out of 5 Ns in NEXT — launching into their massive banger and crowd-pleasing singalong track from the release, Let’s Do Drugs.

The crowd, now in a frenzy, is launched into outer space when the band tears into another singalong, the urgent anthem and (not quite) title track Set That Pussy Free.

It’s a relentless show with the band bounding from track to track effortlessly, each player highly skilled. Karolane Carbonneau sizzles on lead guitar all night, regularly stepping up for scream-worthy solos.

McCaughey eventually peels off her Bad Brains T-shirt and performs the rest of the sweat-inducing show in a black bra and jeans. Following the example of an over-heated fan, McCaughey leaps into the crowd for some surfing of her own.

Eat Slay Chardonnay turns into another massive singalong with the crowd shouting the chorus/title on cue to the delight of the band.

The show is a nonstop energy blast —McCaughey has superstar charisma and stage presence — serving notice that NOBRO’s time is now and their days of patiently opening for other acts are behind them.

After a brief departure from the stage followed by room-shaking “NOBRO” chants, the band plays the perfect encore, closing out the night with a searing and energetic cover of punk pioneers MC5’s Kick Out the Jams.

A massive, post-show line at the merch table is another sign that NOBRO are ready for the next step after years as an emerging band.

Their songs are smart, catchy as hell and fuelled by punk-pop power and expert players. Their next show in town will no doubt be in a significantly larger venue — count on it.