As I pushed through the crowded doors of Chicago’s Empty Bottle Friday night, I could already hear the thunderous sound of Controller.Controller forcefully moving through their wildly energetic set. Having witnessed the band’s performance the night before during a special presentation with the Life During War Time DJs, my expectations for the Empty Bottle were nothing less than what I knew the band was capable of achieving. I couldn’t help but feel like kicking myself in the back of the head for having shown up slightly late, but it appeared as though I had arrived at a perfect moment. Front woman, Nirmala Basnayake, was poised on stage, as were her musical counter parts, and it was obvious Controller.Controller had reached that critical point in the night where an opening act finally breaks the ice. The room was densely populated, but there was still a steady flow of fans spilling in through the venue’s glass doors. Opposed to moving immediately to the front, I chose to linger in the back in an attempt to observe everything, not just the band but also the way the crowd was reacting to their performance. Controller.Controller’s vibrant five-piece is made not only of innovative young musicians, but of charismatic performers who exhibit the finest in rock & roll showmanship. The band is a crowd pleaser and they have a way of making you take notice whether you’re ready to pay attention or not.
Hailing from the Toronto area, Controller.Controller first formed in 2002 and early incarnations of the band included the fierce and fiery talents of guitarist Ronnie Morris, drummer Jeff Scheven, and Colwyn Llewellyn-Thomas. But it wasn’t until the addition of a second guitarist, Scott Kaija, and Morris’s switch to bass that the band was able to establish their definitive sound. The icing on the cake, however, came in the form of vocalist Nirmala Basnayake, whose melodic resonance and alluring body provided Controller.Controller the edge needed to advance beyond their practice space. Having made a name for themselves within the Toronto scene and garnering acclaim for their performance at 2003’s NXNE festival, the band soon signed to indie label Paper Bag, who released their first EP, History, in 2004. Since that point Controller.Controller has spent considerable time touring both the US and Europe, opening for bands such Franz Ferdinand and fellow Toronto based band Death From Above 1979.
The release of Controller.Controllers debut album, X-Amounts, is a serious musical achievement and helps to establish the band as more than just another dance-rock act caught up in the current trends of popular music. The driving elements of the band’s compositions are developed by the rhythm section and are supported by precise guitar crescendos. Dance-rock might accurately describe the band’s musical genre, but the abundance of intricate bass licks and an absence of jarring angular riffs sets the band apart from popular groups like Bloc Party. Where as other bands appear to be emulating the repetitive nature electronic music to the extent that they may as well employ a programmer, Controller.Controller forges ahead, retaining essential rock elements that defy stereotypes of genre. It’s a fusion between genuine guitar rock motifs and a retro disco break beat.
At The Empty Bottle fans cautiously eeked forward between songs, trying perhaps not to stand out in a crowd, though still eager to fully experience the show. The awkward crescent shaped half moon of people gathered around the stage continued to grow smaller as the audience became more encompassed by the vitality exhibited before their eyes. Since having first witnessed Controller.Controller almost a year ago, I have always considered its members to be unpretentiously stylish. Morris’s bass strung high across his chest, Jeff Scheven’s colorful wool ski mask, and Basnayake's gorgeous smile. Controller.Controller is dripping with talent and their approachable attitude to an often callous scene only reaffirms that the release of X-Amounts is truly about the x- factor. The variable element that is capable of changing the outcome of the equation. Friday night that variable was the audience, who at last was forced to succumb to the awesome power that is Toronto’s finest - Controller.Controller.