Destroyer Plays an Intimate, Sold-Out Set at Bar Le Ritz

Dan Bejar’s Destoryer is one of Western Canada’s biggest names in indie rock. Recording music for over twenty five years, Destroyer’s lush instrumentation and whimsical lyricism has seen many different genre shifts over the years, spanning from indie-folk to synth-heavy art pop, as Bejar and band navigate shifting inspirations and moods. 

Opening for Destroyer was fellow Vancourverite band, Lightning Dust. The duo consists of Amber Webber and Josh Wells, both members of heavy rock band Black Mountain. Lightning Dust, the musicians’ more synth-focussed effort, provided an atmospheric and calming start to the show. Webber and Wells’ vocals interwove and harmonized beautifully over their heavy guitar petals and moody synth passages. 

Destroyer kicked off his set with “Helena” off 2001’s Seahawk: A Seduction. This acoustic track worked well as the start to this show, as Bejar was performing with only his frequent-collaborator David Carswell on electric guitar. Just guitars, no synths, drums, or any of the layered and lush production one comes to expect from a Destroyer record. However, Bejar’s unique, highly-annunciated voice and complex lyricims more than made up for the sonic differences, as the audience was forced to pay extra attention to every lyric uttered. 

This tonal difference was especially felt in the back to back “Cue Synthesizer” and “Your Blood,” two of Destroyer’s more upbeat songs, the former losing its titular instrument in favour of a more slowed down acoustic tone, while the latter got a more heavy guitar-pedal treatment from Carswell. 

During Destroyer’s set, Bar Le Ritz began to pack in. The sold-out show truly felt it, as Bar Le Ritz tends to become rather claustrophobic even at partial capacity. Between songs, Bejar mentioned that the show felt like one he played twenty-three years ago at Plateau institution Casa Del Popolo. He asked the crowd if anyone here was also in attendance all those years ago, a small pocket in the middle-back of the venue cheered. His nostalgic memory of that Casa show is likely what drove him to play at a small venue such as Bar Le Ritz. Destroyer can obviously sustain a larger venue, as he has played Theatre Fairmount in years past. Yet, Bar Le Ritz, despite how uncomfortably packed in, did give the feel of a more hard-core-fans-only atmosphere, where the excitement was deeply experienced. 

Bejar’s idiosyncratic, at times elusive stage presence was on display that night. In a few instances, he’d pause between songs, as if to start on a typical bit of stage banter, maybe an anecdote, just to instead leave the audience hanging in a sort of ironic anticipation. In one instance of this, Bejar paused while tuning his guitar to say, “Seems nuts not to mention the eclipse,” and stood there for about fifteen seconds before just jumping into his next song, getting some knowing chuckles from the audience. 

During the show, “Painter in Your Pocket” was a highlight, as the already acoustic guitar-driven and lyrically-dense song fits well with this style of show, and the audience sang along to this fan-favourite tune. 

With no encore, Destroyer ended on a deep-cut from the band’s early discogragrphy, “Don’t Become the Thing You Hated,” which Bejar described as a lullaby. Whether this is literally true or a joke about its slowness, the song did act as a soothing closer to a sweet, intimate, Bar Le Ritz show.

Aviva Majerczyk is the magazine editor at CJLO 1690AM. She is also the host of The Alley, a folk-rock show airing Fridays at 11:00 AM.