Written and Photographed by: Julie Ann Shaw
Cleopatrick is a Canadian rock duo currently on tour with Royal Blood throughout Northern America to promote their album, Bummer, released in June 2021. I would never have guessed that they were the supporting act by the way the venue quickly filled with fans who knew every lyric to every song and shook the floor with their screams of excitement every time the first few notes of each piece were played.
Cleopatrick, Luke Gruntz (vocals, guitar), and Ian Freser (drums) opened with “Sanjake”. This song, which they describe as both stupid and fun, was the perfect way to open the night. It was written as an ode to their friends, Sanjay and Jake, and all those “…who find their own friends in the mosh pit, and a spit in the face of conformity and those who force it upon musicians in the name of profit over content quality.” I don’t know who Sanjay and Jake are, but they inspire musicians to write a song about them, and their friendship speaks volumes about their quality of character.
As expected from anyone familiar with Cleopatrick, each song in their setlist felt like a hand being held out in solidarity with those who feel lost in the world, struggle with life, self, and identity, or only find solace on the floor of a music venue. Every aspect of Cleopatrick’s performance mirrored their desire for honesty and connection, especially their lighting design. Gruntz and Freser were mainly lit with a white spotlight, making them visible and accessible; they did not hide behind the harsh colored lights that would otherwise make it feel as if they were behind some kind of barrier. The colored lights mainly illuminated the sides of the stage, surrounding Cleopatrick in colors that signaled their set’s brutally honest range of emotions. It was beautifully thoughtful and created a complete emotional experience.
“Good Grief” was written during the pandemic, during a time of heightened solitude, loneliness, and fear of an unforeseeable future. In a single song, Cleopatrick is simultaneously comforting and reassuring their friends of the good times to come and warning all their “enemies” that they are not to be reckoned with. “The Drake” was written about the worst performance, in their own opinion (not mine), that they had experienced up to that point at The Drake Hotel in Toronto in 2017. Immediately before the performance, they looked out into the crowd and saw a group of the type of boys that had made their lives miserable in high school. The kind that made them ashamed of themselves as people, music lovers, and musicians. I know I can relate all too well to this experience. To be proud of what I have learned, or created, or achieved, and then to crumble as Cleopatrick did that fateful night in Toronto at the reminder that there are people out there who not only know your insecurities and weaknesses but relish in using them to make you feel small and worthless. To feel the slightest bit of shame that even after I have grown to be proud and strong, my legs still give out from under me instead of holding me up.
The set continued with the depths, followed by hometown, an honest confession of fear of never being heard, stemming from growing up in a small town that was devoid of all artistic muses or mentors. “No Sweat” came next, their anthem for those who feel perpetually lost and the fear of never fully being who you know you were meant to be.
“Family Van” is “an exercise in anger” over a larger band stealing one of their songs. Still, they chose to persevere by touring as nothing less than their honest selves in Fraser’s beat-up old minivan, knowing that phonies will always be found out and eventually forgotten. Then came bernard trigger, which concluded with the most fantastic sort of musical battle between Gruntz and Fraser, a back and forth between guitar and drums that made the entire world disappear as I got lost in fascination, and the fear that I would miss a single second of the impressive live version.
Gruntz took to the mic to announce that they would perform their last song, youth, which triggered the disappointment of the entire audience. When I walked into the venue at the beginning of the night, I was not expecting the whole experience that I had gotten. Hearing Cleopatrick through speakers is a compelling experience in and of itself; however, there is always the question of true honesty when music is delivered in a certain manufactured way, such as on YouTube or even Spotify. Experiencing Cleopatrick live is not the same as digitally; the experience is much better. I was not expecting the sound of one guitar and drums and one man’s voice to fill the venue so wholly and entirely. It indeed was an unforgettable night.