USS makes Edmonton happiest city on Earth

USS GigCity EdmontonIf you didn’t know any better, you might think USS was from Edmonton.

The mutual love affair between this city and the Toronto duo officially named “Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker” has existed since at least 2008 when they first started playing here. USS got huge airplay on Sonic radio, which also launched the radio career of turntablist Jason “Human Kebab” Parsons, who hosted the late night remix show SubSONIC for three years.

He referred to Edmonton as home throughout the band’s performance Saturday night at the Shaw Conference Centre, for a crowd of 2,000 fans.

“This is the biggest fucking show on the tour,” Kebab said. “You bet your balls it is.”

USS opened strong with high-energy favourites like Anti-Venom and Laces Out. Frontman Ashley Buchholz danced wildly around the stage, swinging his acoustic guitar around with remarkable speed. Meanwhile, Kebab traded between scratching turntables, doing headstands and dancing the robot. He then informed the crowd, “Now we’re gonna do some crazy shit.”

What separates a USS concert from your typical rock n’ roll show – aside from their ridiculous name and Parsons’ eye for eccentric outfits – is the sense of chaos the two bring to the stage. One moment Parsons was zipping around and into the crowd as a Skrillex sample blared from the speakers, the next he was asking the crowd to put up their cellphones as they paid tribute to the late George Michael with a short snippet of Careless Whisper, which then segued into a remix of Gangsta Paradise.

USS kicked off the second half of their set with a couple of tracks from their latest album New World Alphabet. Work Shoes was propelled by catchy “ooo-ooo-ooo” chants, Us by pulsating synth sounds.

USS GigCity EdmontonA large portion of the alternative outfit’s discography is comprised of upbeat numbers like these but they also have a softer side – one they revealed as the stage faded to black. Only Buchholz remained on stage, standing in silence amid overlapping chants of “USS!” He took this moment to liken himself to Canada’s national animal, the beaver: In the same way a beaver needs to keep chewing things to stay alive, he must play music. His following performance of the song K.I.T. was the most serene moment of the night. As he strummed his guitar, belting out the words to a song about his insecurities as an artist, he closed his eyes tight. Watching him consumed by passion, it became clear that the beaver analogy hadn’t been so far off from the truth. This moment felt markedly intimate for a big rock show, ending with the singer crouched at the edge of the stage.

The rest of the band returned to the stage for three last songs which then gave way to an encore interlude that sounded like Star Wars’ opening credits.

That crowd was filled with hardcore fans, too, some of which were wearing tour merchandise all the way back from 2013. There was even an audience member who created a Twitter account for the sole purpose of asking USS to play their early song Pornostartrek, which they play at almost every show anyway. If it’s possible to make a song of that namesake even weirder, USS are the ones who could do it.

Before closing with Yin Yang, the hit that started it all, Kebab exclaimed that Edmonton and the way it supports rock n’ roll has made USS “the happiest band in the world!” From the moment USS had rocketed onto the stage, the crowd had given as much as they could back. They were, perhaps, the happiest crowd in the world.