Second night in the festival and the scene is already going on the fritz. Sure, the crowd came and they were enthusiastic enough. Sure, the beer was cold and the scene was great. And sure, the bands were enthusiastic and charismatic and the situation the first band found itself in was completely beyond their control. But about 15 minutes into the first performance, the bass amp blew, sending awful reverb and Dr. Frankenstein-like electric frying sounds through the room. It sounded so prop-like that I thought it was stock sound added for publicity’s sake. The confusion of the Beach Creep band and Sneaky Dee’s staff was too real to be doubted. But speaking of Beach Creep…
As our first act, we see a band that holds drawn-out vocals and slamming guitar as their style. They’re Toronto-based with an active 2015 year, creating three singles: “V”, “Gone to the Garden”, and “Mouse Trap”. Beach Creep is a good name since they have a punkish beach boy vibe. Looking them up, there really isn’t much on them, probably because they either just started out or they’re not interested in the social media side of things. There’s something admirable about that, like they’re saying that their success can be measured in something besides Facebook “likes” or Twitter followers.
As soon as they hit the stage, they were heavy on the thudding drum while the band built momentum, soon sending the black box of a venue thrumming with energy. Being bathed in a light purple light made their soft stanzas more prominent and their harsh choruses aroused with emphasis. The light was lost to the crowd who stood in the dim, subtly lit dark expanse continuing on through the back towards the bar where the merch tables and agents stood, testing guitars and trading business cards like hobbyists. I’ve got to say that they were certainly the loudest band I’ve seen on stage during Canadian Music Week so far. A few technical difficulties didn’t dampen the mood at all.
They kicked off less than two minutes after the issues, stronger than before. I just remember loving how come of their songs go full-throttle, drop back to the point where they sound like they’re being dragged through sludge, then hit you with such intensity when you least expect it. All said and done, they were hugging fans on the way out with a great appreciation that so many would come out and enjoy their craft. Let it be known that despite the obvious obstacles, these guys were still great.
Furthermore, if you told me that there were punks in the prairies, I’d hesitate to believe you. But, sure enough, there are punk rock fans in rural areas who come to the city to strut their stuff. A Gentleman’s Pact is one of these bands. These guys tell various stories through the unlikely blend of folk rock and punk. Besides, it’s kinda ballsy to have a song called “Hemingway is a Dick”, though to their credit, they DID open up to the floor for suggestions of other dickish writers.
When they actually got to performing, they were like a band of the crazy guys in high school that you occasionally keep in touch with. If their music isn’t blowing you away, then their commentary with make you chuckle. But how can they not blow you away? I’ve changed my mind, THIS is the loudest band. The way they encourage audience participation makes it about the fans, not just about putting themselves out there.
What do you get when you throw together a bunch of rock-aspiring kids and give them a range of bands to be influenced by? You probably get a band like New Design, who favour the styles of post-rock and emo music to create and altogether alternative sound.
They’ve got a strong musical presence, styled like an early 2000’s angsty band but has enough of a light-hearted romance to its execution that the band comes across pretty balanced. New Design was contemplatively aloof but the instruments and vocals work in tandem to show the band’s teeth when needed. If you want to check out some of their stuff, start off with their latest album Far From Home (2015).
Pop-punk isn’t a new genre and it’s difficult to stand in this style without falling in line with the familiar sound that comprises every other punk band. Starstruck Avenue stands out by combining groove and punk (which makes me realize that the only way to stand out is to either combine two things that already exist or risk trying something completely new altogether which usually falls on its face).
When I first heard them, I got the sense of a Rides Again vibe (which makes sense with their self-described “in your face” vocals). If I had to describe them through other bands, I’d say they’re a toned-down version of Rise Against and Alexisonfire. They’re the ruthless Kingpin Chicago gangster in punk rock form, the beast with battle scars, they’re Starstruck Avenue.
The final band, No King for Countrymen, has been active for at least five years with their first album being their namesake debut in 2011. They have a lot to say about themselves, whether its about their style of music (calling themselves the “soundtrack to every road trip and long summer night”), their inspirations being Blink 182 and Taking Back Sunday, and their various festival appearances. As recent as this year, No King for Countrymen released an album When You’re Young.
They sound like a very early Green Day concept with some Simple Plan inspiration which serves as some proof that the ‘90s punk rock style never really died. In the wake of over-saturated pop in mainstream music circles, it’s great to see that there’s still an avenue for alternative styles.
My favourite band of the night was certainly A Gentleman’s Pact. They even inspired this reporter to dance like a fool with a bunch of punk rockers. Though it had a more-or-less rocky start, if every night could be like this one, you’d hear no complaints from this cynical misanthropic writer.