The Dirty Nil Rock Rough Trade in Brookyln, NY

Photo by Mike Henneberger

It’s always great when you get to grab a little redemption for the year’s mistakes before the year is over. That was the plan when I first saw that The Dirty Nil was playing at Rough Trade in Brooklyn on Dec. 4.

My introduction to the Canadian punk rock band came from a friend who’s one of the people I trust most when it comes to music recommendations. It was earlier this year, during the two months that I research the 1000+ bands that would be performing at the easily-overwhelming South by Southwest festival in Austin, TX. And while The Dirty Nil was one of my early favorites to catch at the festival, and one of my top discoveries during my research, unfortunately, I wasn’t able to catch a performance back in March. So I kept my eye on their tour dates to make sure I didn’t miss the next opportunity to hear their heavy power-pop punk rock live and in your face––which is exactly how it felt when I finally got the chance.

Now I don’t normally throw the word “rock” in after the word “punk.” For many bands, using just the word “punk” is all you need. But not with The Dirty Nil, who are equal parts both. The band opened the show with their single “Idiot Victory,” which can be found on the 2019 deluxe version of their 2018 album Master Volume––kicking off their set with a drum beat just punk enough to bounce to, and a sound so solid that it was hard to believe it was coming from the three-piece band on the stage. You just don’t see too many three-piece punk bands that can hold their own like these guys do in every single song. Then straight into one of the band’s more popular jams, “Bathed in Light,” a track with the pop punk rhythm guitar of the Green Day stuff that made us all love the genre in the first place, yet somehow still mixed with guitar riffs and scratchy screams of 80s hair metal bands that most definitely share an equal part of influence here. Pretty characteristic of all the songs on Master Volume, from which the band played nine of the 11 songs.

Throughout the 17-song set, The Dirty Nil also took us back to their 2016 record Higher Power––which has more emphasis on the “power” than the “pop.” The album’s opening track, “No Weaknesses,” that’s so gruff it’s recorded with distorted vocals, got sandwiched between “Bathed in Light” and “That’s What Heaven Feels Like,” two of the band’s more melodic songs. It was as if they were training us to not let our guard down, because The Dirty Nil is made of energy, and they’re gonna hammer that into you with every note. The roller coaster went on like that, mixing in more Higher Power tracks like “Zombie Eyed,” and “Know Your Rodent” in with Master Volume songs and even an unreleased song called “Hello Jealousy,” which will not disappoint fans of the punk and rock sound that the band has perfected.

It’s always great when a band not only lives up to the hype you’ve built up for them, but far exceeds it. I had high expectations because I love a three-piece punk band, an any bit of research you do into The Dirty Nil, might make it easy to doubt that they could be that good live, but they are, and then some. It was only fitting that they ended with Queen’s “We are the Champions.”

Idiot Victory
Bathed In Light
No Weaknesses
That’s What Heaven Feels Like
Zombie Eyed
Always High
Hello Jealousy (unreleased)
I Don’t Want That Phone Call
Smoking is Magic
Astro Ever After
Auf Wiedersehen
Doom Boy (unreleased)
Know Your Rodent
Evil Side
Hit The Lights
Pain of Infinity
We Are the Champions

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About Mike Henneberger

Mike Henneberger is a video producer/director and music journalist with more than a decade of experience. He’s put his live music addiction to good use by contributing to Billboard Magazine, SPIN, and Rolling Stone. You can follow his adventures and misadventures at @mikeyleerock and @abergerjoint on Instagram.

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