There will always be shows that you kick yourself for missing and hope that you can catch that act the next time they roll through town. That was the case with The Dirty Nil and their previous visit to the 2037 Gottingen complex in 2016 where the band headlined The Seahorse stage in support of their album Higher Power. While the band did return to the city in early 2017 as the opening act for Billy Talent on the Scotiabank Centre stage, it only furthered the commitment to see the band in a more intimate venue. The Hamilton trio finally made their long overdue return to Halifax in early December and put on one of the loudest and most energetic shows of the entire year.
The promoters (Red Tentacle and Morbid Entertainment) not only brought back The Dirty Nil to the Marquee Ballroom (the main stage of 2037 Gottingen) but also stacked the bill with a trio of acts that would certainly rile up the Thursday Night crowd ahead of The Nil, including Halifax favourites Customer Service and Electric Spoonful, alongside Moncton rockers Diner Drugs. It was a night that certainly drove a ton of business to the maritime Audiologist community if ear protection was not used.
It was a night that started with an infectious grunge-leaning set from local pop-punk outfit Customer Service who sounded fantastic on this my second time seeing the band in recent months. So much so, that you can be sure I’ll be making it a point to catch these cats throughout 2024. Then the dial was cranked up for local favourites Electric Spoonful who got the mosh pit fired up with their unabashed hard-rock tunes, and it was easy to see why they are adored by many in the Halifax music scene. It was then time to crank things up to 10 with Moncton’s punk-infused metal act Diner Drugs, whose wall of sound kept the festivities rolling along with unrelenting fury. It was a set loaded with intensity and searing guitar work, that kept folks riled up in the pit. Then it was time to make way for the lads from Hamilton.
For a stage such as the one in the Marquee Ballroom, which has played host to thousands of acts over its life, not many have made such effective use of the space as The Dirty Nil. At points during their headlining set, both Luke Bentham (vocals, lead guitar) and Sam Tomlinson (bass) showed off their airborne aptitude by loading their performance with several impressive leaps, one of which made some think that Tomlinson might just soar on out of the venue on his bass.
While the band brings a fair amount of bombast with them to the stage, it almost belies the infectiousness of Bentham’s songwriting, for the casual listener The Dirty Nil sounds noisy and chaotic, but for fans of the band that noisy chaos fades away almost immediately and lets the listener hone in on the catchy and energetic pop infused hard-rock that these lads have crafted.
The set list on this night put the focus firmly on the most recent pair of releases Free Rein to Passions and Fuck Art with over half of the set being culled from those records, while some deeper (and well-known) cuts made the list, such as “That’s What Heaven Feels Like” from 2016’s Higher Power. After a lengthy 2023, this was a much-needed show that allowed the Marquee Ballroom patrons a catharsis to exorcise a demon or two with a mosh pit that ebbed and flowed all night long, slowing at points to pass along the occasional crowd surfer.
In thinking back on The Nil’s setlist, it was so chock full of heavy hitters that the band didn’t break out bangers “Zombie Eyed” or “Done with Drugs”, but to close out their main set, the band went back to Master Volume for “Evil Side” a subdued number that gently let the crowd down to catch their breath before coming back to close out the night with their cover of Metallica’s thrashy “Hit the Lights” (the closer to the aforementioned Master Volume). This was a show that lived up to every expectation I could have had going in and solidified my love of The Nil’s material, and I’ll be sure to be there next time Luke, Kyle and Sam roll through.