The sparse attendance Tuesday night (Dec. 6) at Schubas confirmed my suspicion that few Americans know anything about the French-Canadian rock band Karkwa — despite the fact that the group won Canada’s prestigious Polaris Music Prize in 2010 for its fourth album, Les Chemins de verre. (Previous winners: Final Fantasy, Patrick Watson, Caribou and Fucked Up.)
About 40 people showed up to hear the band at Schubas, and singer-guitarist Louis-Jean Cormier sounded almost apologetic as he explained that he was about to — gasp! — sing lyrics in French. The fans in attendance clearly didn’t mind, of course. Karkwa’s art rock sounded even better in live performance than it does on record, with sophisticated but not overly fussy layers of guitar, keyboard and percussion that sounded a bit like early Radiohead at times. When the band returned to the stage for an encore, at the insistence of the crowd, Cormier seemed surprised to hear a few people calling out requests for songs. Yes, there are at least a few Americans who’ve caught onto Karkwa.