The YMCA Battle of the Bands (March 20th, 2009)
Background: Local theater group YMCA Rocks held this battle of the bands on March 20th, 2009 at the then-Lock City Grand Theater as a companion to their rock opera "Nothing To Do In Sault Ste. Marie", about three boys who defeat a horde of zombies. Admission was by donation to YMCA Strong Kids, and despite early fears of low attendance to the removal of alcohol sales from the event, a good crowd turned out to support the young local bands, most of which were relatively new on the local music scene. Each band received 20 minutes to perform (and take down instruments), and original material was encouraged. Though the planned awards were to go to the best original song, stage presence, and overall performance, awards instead went to the top 4 bands overall out of the 7 who competed.
Prizes: Recording time at Green Room Productions went to first place, while they and the other top bands won various prizes from Stereo Soul Studios, the YMCA, local music stores Case's Music, The Music Depot, Northland Music, and the Thomas Walls School of Music, and former local CD store CD Plus. Specifics for who won what prizes were announced at the event, but aren't available on surviving pages.
Competitors: Eight bands were selected to compete at this battle, and though only seven ended up participating, a good selection of newer local bands gathered to compete at this event. Metal was the most prominent genre of the night, including new local metal bands Operation: Killdozer and The Undead Warriors, and Skid Row battle alums Sue Inside. Indie rock was also well represented at this event by newer local indie rock outfits Train Junky and Waterslide, with the lineup rounded out by glam/punk quartet Dirty Virgin and blues rockers The Glass Statues.
Results: The Undead Warriors burst onto the local scene with a first place victory at this battle of the bands, despite lineup shuffling due to drummer Joey Graham's absence. Dirty Virgin's glam and punk sounds carried them to second place, while The Glass Statues took home the bronze for their entertaining set. Operation: Killdozer rounded out the award winners in fourth place, and rankings for the remaining three bands were not publicized.
Aftermath: The Undead Warriors (later best known as Bring the Fallen) rode the wave of their battle victory to a further two battle wins in three tries over the next 14 months. They also opened for notable bands like Upheaval of an Exorcist & Broadcast Zero during their local run, and recorded material towards an unreleased debut EP in the winter of 2009, before disbanding in the spring of 2011 following numerous rumours of their demise, though they held a one-off reunion in July 2013. Dirty Virgin continued to play sporadically through the end of 2009, after which the band went inactive, though they would reunite for one-off shows in the spring of 2011 & 2012. The Glass Statues played notable gigs in the Algoma District through the summer of 2009 before disbanding after guitarist Ben Kemp-Reynolds moved to British Columbia. Operation: Killdozer went inactive in mid-2009, but they did play one further concert after the battle, opening for punk legends SNFU at the Grand that May with an altered lineup. Half of their YMCA Battle lineup notably launched the extreme metal band Winkstinger the following year. Train Junky & Waterslide both presumably went inactive shortly after the battle, and online details about their history and other concerts under those names are very hard to source. Like the Skid Row battle, Sue Inside were the last continuously active band to play at this battle, having last updated online pages from their final home of Oil Springs in April 2012.
Some Notable Performers' Newer Bands (Metal/hard rock in italics):
The Bear Hunters (Justin Lam from Operation: Killdozer & Josh Stephney from The Undead Warriors)
Debt To The Heirless (Dan Souliere from The Undead Warriors)
The Elements (Jesse Cook from Operation: Killdozer)
Giwakwa (Josh Stephney* & Nolan Rainville from The Undead Warriors)
Jack Spades (Jesse Cook & Justin Lam from Operation: Killdozer)
Late & Loud (Benn Garside & Josh Hatherley from The Glass Statues)
No Arrow (Jason Bourcier from Operation: Killdozer)
Rebel Priest (Ben Kemp-Reynolds from from The Glass Statues; Based out of Vancouver)
Riverin (Matt Hicks from Dirty Virgin)
Winkstinger (Jason Bourcier*, Jesse Cook, and Jonas Gasperas from Operation: Killdozer)
- The eighth band scheduled for this battle of the bands would have been local indie rock quintet The Outside Lights, who featured 3/5ths of the Stillbroke lineup that took 1st place at the previous year's Case's Music Battle. However, the band quietly pulled out of the event for unknown reasons.
- Undead Warriors frontman Josh Stephney filled in for the absent Joey Graham (who had sprained his wrist) on drums for their set at this battle. leaving guitarist (and former AtrophiA singer) Dan Souliere to handle vocals. Similarly to their shorthanded debut at this battle, they were missing a member for their final battle win in May 2010, as bassist Nolan Rainville was absent from Bring The Fallen's Downtown Showdown appearance.
- The Undead Warriors (then known as Necropolis) used the recording time won at this battle to record the songs for their 5 song EP "Stand Before" that summer with producer Brad Griffith, though Travis St. Amour (ex-Fountain of Betrayal) replaced Joey Graham on drums beforehand. Financial concerns & their 2011 breakup shelved the release for 4 years, but who we now know as Bring The Fallen finally released "Stand Before" during their one-off reunion show at Oddzfest 2013 Metal Mash-Up on July 26th, 2013.
- After The Undead Warriors' name change to Bring The Fallen and their drummer switch, they would win a further two local battles of the bands out of three entered in 2009 & 2010, including the Algoma Univeristy Battle on December 1st, 2009. They only fell short at the Kiss Battle of the Bands Semifinals later that same day.
- Operation: Killdozer's original song "Pieces of You" (which was filmed at this battle & posted on YouTube) didn't die with the band when they went inactive that summer. Their successors Winkstinger resurrected the track with new lyrics after their 2010 formation, under the new name "Where'd We Go Wrong".
- Sue Inside repeated their results from the Skid Row Battle of the Bands the previous year at this battle, finishing outside of the top 4 out of 7 bands once again. Despite their low finishes at local battles of the bands, Sue Inside are the only band of the 13 acts that played at the Skid Row & YMCA battles to remain consistently alive through 2012.
- Following their runner-up position at this battle, Dirty Virgin were among the participants at the Kiss Battle of the Bands opening round at The Canadian Nightclub on November 30th, 2009, though they were disqualified for attempting to play an extra song. As well, drummer Matt Hicks left the band before their Kiss battle set, with Dickie Blackstock handling drums until the end of their active run in 2010.
- Battle organizer Brad Griffith later took a stab at battle of the bands the following year as a competitor, finishing fourth at the Downtown Showdown battle at The Oddfellows Hall in May 2010 with his experimental hard rock trio SBD.
- A number of alumni from this battle performed at the Sault Humane Society Battle of the Bands at The Grand Theater on April 20th, 2012, where Glass Statues bandmates Benn Garside & Josh Hatherley scored a razor thin first place victory with Late & Loud, along with picking up the "Best Ensemble" trophy. Undead Warriors frontman Josh Stephney & Operation: Killdozer bassist Justin Lam also competed at the battle with their current band The Bear Hunters, and though they fell just a point short of tying for third place, Justin did win the "Best Bassist" award.
- The aforementioned performers that played at both the YMCA & Humane Society battles would also compete at the Rockstar Bar Battle of the Bands in April 2013, where Late & Loud and The Bear Hunters placed fourth & fifth in the final round on April 24th. As well, The Undead Warriors' Josh Stephney fronted his new death metal band Giwakwa in the third semifinal on April 17th, where they placed second of that day's 3 bands, though out of finals contention.
- Operation: Killdozer's similar sounding successor band Winkstinger (featuring common members Jesse Cook & Jonas Gasperas) would take first place at the Battle For The Blood in June 2012 at The Roosevelt Hotel, earning them the right to open for 3 Inches of Blood the following month. This victory continued Jesse & Jonas' battle success, having won at least one battle in the mid-2000s with their old band Soldiers of Misfortune. Killdozer frontman Jason Bourcier would later join Winkstinger in his own right in 2013, albeit on bass.
- After two previous tries with The Bear Hunters came up short, Operation: Killdozer bassist Justin Lam finally won a battle of the bands with them on November 13th, 2013, winning the fan-voted Viva La Battle at The Canadian Nightclub that night, and earning the right to open for Bam Margera's band Fuckface Unstoppable the following month. Though Josh Stephney moved out of town prior to that battle, he came home to play with them at the F.F.U. concert.
- Justin Lam also saw battle success at 2015's Speak Easy and VM Radio Battles of the Bands, where The Bear Hunters finished in third and second respectively, though Josh Stephney was absent from both events. Newer indie rock band Honest Job also competed at the latter battle, where they played a song named "Waterslide" after the prior local trio, but it's unclear if the two bands share members based on currently available media.
Two videos from The Undead Warriors' set
Three videos from Dirty Virgin's set
Three videos from The Glass Statues' set
Operation: Killdozer's original song "Pieces of You"
Coverage & photos from SooToday
The Facebook event page
Hopefully you guys liked this month's entry in this special mini-series! Barring the addition of a new battle (I'm open for info to warrant additions), we'll mark the halfway point of the seven week run next Friday, and we'll do it with the biggest battle of them all! Next up in this series is a look back at the Kiss Battle of the Bands from November 30th-December 2nd, 2009, where 20 local bands gathered for the right to open for Kiss at The Essar Center! This should be well worth checking out come next week, so stay tuned for that, and much more news in the coming days! Thanks everyone!