Date of show: April 28, 2012
Written by: Chiara DiAngelo
Calgary band The Dudes took the stage shortly after 12:30am and to say the packed Horseshoe was burning with rabid anticipation for their set would be a severe understatement. Having not been through the city for two years, the crowd was overwhelmingly desperate to hear what Danny Vacon (vocals, guitar), Bob Quaschnick (guitar), Brock Geiger (bass) and Scott Ross (drums) had in store for them.
Not ones to disappoint, The Dudes brought the rock immediately. Starting with “Girl Police,” they laid it all out on the beer- and sweat-soaked stage, giving the crowd five of the six songs off their recently released Barbers, Thieves & Bartenders as well as hits from Blood Guts Bruises Cuts and Brain, Heart, Guitar. Second song “Mr Someone Else” proved that a band can sing about girls, love and relationships without relinquishing the essence of real rock and roll.
The riotous fans went crazy during “Dress,” with one crowd surfer narrowly avoiding ending up on stage – but not before she knocked over Vacon’s beer (for the first of many times over the course of their set). The next crowd surfing attempter actually did end up on stage during a full-crowd sing-along to the following song “The Ghosts We’re Buried On.” The frenzy continued with catchy-as-heck weekend anthems “Tear It Up” and “Saturday Night” off their new album, as well as a couple more before the band finally gave in to demands and slowed it down just a bit for the “sexual tune” “Don’t Talk” and the laid back “Rocky Mountain Living.” With a large portion of the crowd originally from out West, many of whom Vacon pointed out personally before the song started, it was a great moment in their set.
After the infectious “Do The Right Thing,” the crowd started calling for “one more song” before their set even appeared to be done as they had yet to make any move to leave the stage. Vacon replied that they weren’t going to do an encore, but that they’d play three more. They started with current single “American Girl,” during which Vacon actually broke his guitar string; but you may not have even realized what had happened as he just continued to play through until the end of the song. He then switched his guitar so they could continue with the hard-hitting “Pretty Lies.” As a testiment to how hard they had rocked out for the last hour, sweat was dripping off the brim of Vacon’s hat, splaying all over the fans up front as they called out requests. After slowing it down just a bit with a rousing singalong, they finished with old favourite, “Drop Kick Queen of the Weekend.”
Having played past last call, The Dudes thanked their Toronto fans for “the best Saturday ever,” before leaving the stage. With two more albums set to be released this year, hopefully Toronto won’t have to wait too long this time around to catch these Dudes again – we definitely owe them a shot!
Starting their set by asking the Horseshoe if they were ready for some Poor Young Things, the hoots and hollers they received in response made it pretty obvious that, after being on the road for a month, the Toronto crowd was ready to welcome them back with open arms. While the band played what has become their standard set, focusing on songs from their EP, as well as a few newer and as-of-yet-unrecorded tracks, there was something elevated about their stage performance compared to the last time I saw them a mere two months ago.
Definitely not road-weary, their time away on tour has led them to become so much tighter as a unit. There was an increased level of interaction between band members, with Dave Grant (guitar) often travelling across the stage to jam alongside Mike Kondakow (guitar) or Scott Burke (bass) – when he wasn’t taking to the edge of the stage to shred away on the guitar. The crowd reciprocated to this new level of energy, fist pumping, clapping and singing along.
Always a highlight, the band called up honourary 6th PYTer Jeff Heisholt (The Trews) to take the keys for “Reckless Young.” This has become such a mainstay in their show that I can’t imagine the song without him now – the forceful mid-song instrumental rock-out just needs the keys! They closed their set out with “Fire” and its energetic outro, finally ending with coordinated jumps and Konrad Commisso on his feet to slam down on the drums one more time.
However, they weren’t done just yet. Pulling “hometown advantage,” they launched into an encore of sorts, calling everyone from Alert the Medic and The Ascot Royals, plus any friends near the front, up on stage to participate in a rowdy cover of Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In the Free World.” It was a thrilling end to their triumphant “hometown” return and a rocking send off before they hit the road once more, continuing West with The Dudes.
The Ascot Royals were the second band of the night, but the first we caught. Comprised of Jimmy Chauveau (vocals), brother Ben Chauveau (keys), Tal Vaisman(guitar), Jesse Gilroy (bass) and Sam Stark (drums), the band had their large contingency of fans dancing from the first note they played – girls and guys alike.
The band fed off the frantic energy of the audience up front, handing the mic off to the fans several times throughout their set. It would be difficult not to with so many people singing along to every word, and so many girls trying to get their hands on singer Chauveau.
From his endearing British accent and never-ending dance moves to the band’s infectious dance sound, it’s easy to see why their live show has garnered them the following that it has. With unrelenting energy from all members, their set started sweaty, and ended sweatier. It was truly one of the most high-powered sets I’ve witnessed – especially if you measure it based on the number of drum sticks Stark went through – about 5 in just the first song.
Their set also included a danced-out version of Bachman Turner Overdrive’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” that featured an extensive wailing guitar solo by Vaisman. Last song “Do It All Again” started with an extended ambient instrumental intro and ended with Stark pounding away at the drums, singer Chauveau’s jumps getting progressively higher and the crowd singing along. It was a great start to what would become one of the craziest shows I’ve been to in quite some time.