Saturday, March 24, 2012
Mad Ones – 9:00PM @ The Bovine Sex Club
Mad Ones are the two-piece Toronto hard rock outfit comprised of Andrew DeVillers (guitar, vocals) and Phil Wilson (drummer). Playing an adrenaline-pumping set off their album Behaviour, they started loud and sweaty and didn’t let up for the length of their set.
Despite having the first time slot of the night, the venue was nearing capacity already and the floor was thumping. As just a two-piece, the drums really took center stage and it was hard not to be taken aback by Wilson’s aggressive pounding of them. DeVillers is an excellent frontman, knowing how to work the stage and even stood on the risers off-stage on multiple occasions to be closer to the fist-pumping crowd. There was a certain beauty to his loud-but-not-screamy vocals that had me, a girl not typically into heavy music, really getting into it.
In what was maybe the single most hilarious moment of the festival for me, “Burton Cummings” and “Randy Bachman” of the Guess Who arrived partway through their set to present Mad Ones with their “first and only bedazzled record for Total Album Sales.” If you weren’t at the Bovine for it, the band has preserved the moment on their YouTube.
Wintersleep – 10:00PM @ The Rivoli (Music Nova Scotia)
From the Bovine, I headed to the Rivoli for the Music Nova Scotia showcase, where I would spend the rest of my night, arriving just in time for Wintersleep. Forming over a decade ago, there is easy passionate grace about Wintersleep that comes with experience. They haven’t lost any of their East Coast charm either.
Their set was filled with intense reverb, at times otherworldly distortion and crushing guitar finishes, combined with Paul Murphy’s distinct vocals. They slowed it down a bit, switching to acoustic guitar for the jangly “Weighty Ghost,” still my personal favourite. Playing to a strangely subdued crowd, it wasn’t until they got to “Laser Beams” about halfway through their set that the crowd started to really clap along. This seemed to give them the edge to kick their already mind-blowing performance up another notch. So thankful and polite, they closed out their set with “Oblivion.”
If the new songs we were treated to, including the bouncy “In Came the Flood,” new album Hello Hum coming in June should be a good one. I only wish that we too could have been privileged to the cover of the Constantines’ “Young Lions” that the Horseshoe received later that night.
SoHo Ghetto – 11:00PM @ The Rivoli (Music Nova Scotia)
When my attempt to slip into the Horseshoe for Two Hours Traffic failed, I headed back to the Rivoli for SoHo Ghetto. My disappointment was quelled considerably when this seven-piece from Halifax took the stage. Featuring harmonica, mandolin, synths, and piano, in addition to guitar, bass and drums, they took up the entire stage and filled the venue with their spirited and fun folk pop sound. Their set featured tracks off their latest EP Humble Beginnings Make For Good Night Life, and songs such as “Anchor Tattoo” took on a riotously orchestral quality.
Engaging frontman Marc Antoine announced “let’s get sexy!” before they launched into “Heart, Beat, Skip.” With a deeply funky groove to the bass and keys, it definitely was! The remainder of their set was equally as enjoyable and a great last minute addition to my night’s schedule.
The Stanfields – 12:00AM @ The Rivoli (Music Nova Scotia)
The Stanfields took the stage at midnight. This five-piece band’s fast-paced floor-thumping brand of Celtic bar rock had the capacity crowd going nuts from start to finish. It was difficult to not get carried away on the wave of shredding guitars and grizzly vocals. Close your eyes and you would have sworn you were at the craziest St. Patty’s Day party imaginable.
Their set included songs off Vanguard of the Young & Restless, as well as some new ones off their upcoming album Death & Taxes to be released in the summer, “available everywhere in the 99-cent bin” joked singer Jon Landry. With a similar anthemic quality to that of Great Big Sea, The Stanfields should be your new drinking soundtrack. Especially with closing track “Dirtiest Drunk (In the History of Liquor),” they’re the band you’d want playing at your bar on a Saturday night. Preorder the new album on their website, and keep it on hand for your next party.
Carleton Stone – 1:00AM @ The Rivoli (Music Nova Scotia)
Introduced as “pure sex”, Carleton Stone was up next. With those dimples, and playing guitar-driven pretty country-rock songs about love and relationships, it was easy to see why. Celebrating his birthday that night, he riveted the crowd with a high-powered yet oh-so-sweet set off his self-titled 2011 release. While he claimed to be wiped from four days of interviews and shows, his stage performance didn’t suffer for it, and he provided a dose of easy light-hearted banter between songs.
Highlights of his set included the fast-paced danceable “Strong Medicine,” and the twangy hooks of “Looks.” The slow-burning love song “Never Felt a Thing” showed a lyrical maturity beyond his years, as did “Moving On,” with its revelation that “the hardest part of love is moving on.” He ended his set asking for help from the crowd as his voice was going, and organized a call and response of “I fall, you fall” for the chorus of “Dominoes.” It was a great introduction to an artist I’d had my list to see live for a long time!
Writers’ Strike – 2:00AM @ The Rivoli (Music Nova Scotia)
Donning coordinated black outfits, Writers’ Strike were anything other than dark. Playing a similar set to that of the afternoon, the band cranked the heat on their four-part vocals and sunshine-infused hooks. Refreshingly infectious, synth-player Amy Bollivar held up hand-crafted “Oh!” and “Come on!” signs encouraging audience participation on “Splitting Images” and “Stay Down” respectively. She didn’t have to ask twice.
Their set included all of their current offerings as well as a couple previews from their upcoming full-length. In preparation for “Rocket Summer” (a song reincarnated from their First Aid Kit days), Darryl Smith earnestly taught the crowd the “difficult” sing-along portion of “oh-oh” and passed out flags for those up front to wave along. It was quite the sight to behold, in the midst of flailing flags and so many people cheering along, not only to the chorus, but to every single sun-tinged lyric. My only regret is that I wasn’t able to capture the moment on camera.
Finally, they caused a ruckus with their closing cover of “Burning Down the House” by the Talking Heads. Having connections to London, Ontario and many friends in Toronto, the Rivoli was still packed up front for their late-night set and the crowd was loving every head-banging minute of it.
I hung up my blogger’s hat after their set. It was the absolute perfect way to end my Saturday night and a whirlwind of a festival. With their new CD ready to be mastered in the next couple of weeks, we can only hope that the guys and gal of Writers’ Strike will be making their way back to Ontario soon enough. | CD