By contributor Sarah Togerson

The Nanaimo music scene has been evolving over the past few years, and Thursday’s show was a true testament to the
positive changes downtown is witnessing. On November 19, The Cambie welcomed the Born Ruffians, a post-punk indie band from Midland, Ontario, who have met great success in the music industry. The band, formed in 2004, has risen from having a small online fan base in Ontario, to touring with Hot Chip and Franz Ferdinand.

The Cambie’s doors opened at 9 p.m., and I arrived around 8:50 to get a good seat. Sadly, arriving early meant waiting an hour for the first opening band, Coal Moon, to take the stage. I found a seat up front and studied the lovely satanic carvings engraved in the wobbly, timeworn table.

When the band finished smoking and socializing on the patio, they began their performance. The crowd in front of the small stage seemed to be comprised solely of the band members’ friends—15 or so people yelling conversationally to the lead guitarist and bassist, and one comrade slamming his fists on the stage while head banging without musical accompaniment.

Coal Moon has a unique, fresh sound; they weave a number of styles into their music, creating a grungy, bluesy sound, with just a hint of Neil Young-esque harmonica-playing flare. At times, their sound even borders on psychedelic with a touch of folksy twang—perfect music to pair with a beer or two.


Bedazzled Young Rival attempts to convey their Interior Light.

Young Rival was next to grace the stage, donning sequined apparel and fake flowers to spice up their mic stands. Though a bit showy, the Hamilton, Ontario band proved to lift spirits, playing a few hits from their new album, Interior Light. The band brought an energy to the stage that was clearly transferred to the crowd, and dancing ensued in a matter of seconds.

To imagine Young Rival’s sound, think Best Coast, the LA rock duo, with a big ol’ dose of Roy Orbison. Despite the bassist’s distracting getup, Young Rival was the perfect opener for Born Ruffians; they warmed up the crowd with their upbeat, indie music.

Finally, a few strokes past midnight, the headliners began setting up on stage. This was what the crowd had come for, and a feeling of insurmountable anticipation filled the room. As the music started, nearly everyone hit the floor, abandoning the tables they had once so cautiously guarded.

Luke Lalonde, lead singer and guitarist of Born Ruffians, is a powerhouse when it comes to vocals, but he is surprisingly quite subdued. His eyes were low for most of the performance, making eye contact with no one—they were glued to his guitar.

Mitch Derosier, the bassist, certainly brought personality to the show, killing the bass and connecting with the multitude of
fans. At one point, Derosier held up $5 and asked anyone in the crowd to run and grab him a drink.

This, of course, was met by a throng of hopeful fans holding up hands and asking what he drinks. The only disappointment of the night was that they did not perform their hit song, “Hummingbird.”


Luke Lalonde commands centre stage as he belts out “Needle.”

The highlight of the evening was hearing the goosebump-raising, soul-soothing, sing-along anthem, “Needle,” from their 2013 album, Birthmarks. There was such contentment in the crowd, and while everyone belted out the lyrics, synchronized swaying began and smiles stretched across each elated face.

After the announcement for last call and an encore, the lights were flicked on, and the band members left the stage, mingling with fans as happy patrons, drunk on beer and satisfaction. Everyone slowly bundled up and made their way to the door.

Although the Cambie isn’t the most ideal venue for shows due to sound quality and, well, being a fairly scrungy place, they sure put on an unforgettable show. Showcasing local and international talent, Thursday’s show was another example of just how lucky we are to witness the ever-changing music scene here. Nanaimo is becoming a hot spot for local up-and-coming
talent, as well as a host for an impressive array of critically-acclaimed, internationally admired musicians.