Monday, August 12, 2013

Sewer Swampstravaganza III Review!!

It's finally time for my review of Saturday night's third annual Sewer Swampstravaganza! Before we get into the performers, here's some notes on non-musical aspects of the day's events. There was some special lighting and smoke machines in effect for each band, honestly helping it feel like night way earlier, and merchandise for the bands (RedD Monkey, Guy Smith, and Warsenal in particular) was at the back tables with the Sykotyk Sound Company, with The Northern Tragedy also distributing a free demo. Note also that RedD Monkey had new packaging and art for the sale copies of their albums, but the content is (I believe) unchanged. Katie Huckson's art was also on sale, which was generally well done and creative, and I even bought a superhero painting for a surprisingly good price! Attendance-wise, it wasn't so hot, though it peaked for The Bear Hunters' set, and every band from 8:00 PM on had decent turnouts. As for talk of The Bear Hunters trading down from 9:00 PM to 7:00 PM due to a scheduling conflict, that never came to fruition for whatever reason, and they remained in their original slot. There was a band dropout too, but we'll get to that as we go, so how about the actual performers?

Local folk/roots solo artist Guy Smith opened up the Swampstravaganza (replacing Ashes To Dust) in what I think was his Oddfellows Hall debut, and while the attendance was not good to start the day, Guy played a good set for his genre that gathered attendees seemed to enjoy! For his set, he was joined by Jamie Smith (his brother?) on electric guitar and a drummer (named Colin, I believe), who helped fill out his originals and select covers, which honestly sound better live than they do in studio. Not quite as reedy, Guy had more emotion and raw feelings live than I got from his CD tracks. He's a talented songwriter too, and you don't see a harmonica every day at a concert where death metal's also slated! While Guy's brand of music was definitely an outlier compared to what was coming next, he brought a talented folksy sound to the table to kick off the event, he had a nice easy-going chemistry and rapport, and hopefully his second show on Friday went just as well!

Young local death metal quartet Crimson Crusade hit the stage next for their second show since the end of their very brief breakup, and compared to their Oddzfest set, it was about the same for talent level and aggression, aside from a worse crowd level and the debut of a brand new song, which I think was called "Beyond the Sky". It sounded really good, but I'll need to hear it more before I effectively judge. The low crowd level didn't stop a few rowdy fans from starting some lively moshpits for songs like "Here We Lay", "Lost Memories", and "Consumed", along with some Death covers, and they definitely grabbed the present fans! New song aside, there isn't a lot different to say about their set compared to two weeks ago, but their talents and chemistry (from Riley Marshall's skilled bass work to Devon Lucier's piercing high growl) were ever present, and I can't wait to hear more from Crimson Crusade in the coming months!

Very talented local bassist James Watterworth (a.k.a. Delusionair Lionhair) replaced Winkstinger in the 4:00 PM slot for his third multi-band all ages show in the past month, but this one was different from the rest as he didn't play guitar at all, and he was joined by guest musicians for all but the first two songs, namely Haggith's Daniel Horton and Mike Haggith on guitar & drums! This answered a big wish I had from James' past shows, as his original music is almost asking for full band accompaniment, and having Daniel & Mike there answered that! In this form, James' originals (like "Sneeze" & "Chimney Prescription") have sort of a funk/alternative hard rock bent that's clearly different from other local bands (let alone Daniel & Mike's projects), and fans seemed to take to the songs a bit more as a result! Carefree but aggressive, and very fun, I hope James gets a permanent band started at some point, as last night's set was a good sampling of what that would sound like!

Next up was local alternative hard rock/blues quartet Sykotyk Rampage, who emerged from the sound table to rock out in their own Oddfellows Hall debut on Friday night! Their set (including songs like "Sicked", "Sweet Young Thing", and "Warhorn") was mostly the same as at their Bushplane Musical Madness show last month, but their energy was somewhat lower, without as much drunken freewheeling and anarchy as that show provided. Maybe the absence of their monkey George helped? Musically though, Sykotyk Rampage were in good form, though Paul Becker was hard to hear vocally early on. Dirk Becker and Shane Kokis' guitar work was solid as ever, Tony Briglio's bass playing and backing vocals were very aggressive, and present fans enjoyed their creative blend of styles, especially the return of their full drinking songs! Solid set to be sure, and hopefully Sykotyk Rampage have more gigs and albums in the coming months!

The 6:00 slot was supposed to be filled by Toronto grindcore trio Goatface Killa (replacing the shorthanded Giwakwa), but they dropped out of the show earlier that afternoon. A reason hasn't been publicized online, but I heard from performers on Saturday that it was due to travel delays on the road, so take that for what it's worth. As a result, Sykotyk Rampage's set was slightly lengthened to fill some time (with "Breakdown" replaced by their full drinking songs), and this year's Swampstravaganza became the smallest yet, with only 9 bands. Disappointing, but hopefully Goatface Killa try again for a local date down the road!

Despite earlier word about timeslot swaps, local punk band The Northern Tragedy played the 7:00 PM slot as advertised, in what was their own Oddfellows Hall debut! The last set of the night with a relatively small attendance, fans should have came in, as their improving punk original sound kept everyone entertained, and they have good musical energy on songs like "These Days" and "Excuse My Choices"! Their big issue is still stage presence, but it was at least as good as it was at Bushplane Musical Madness, aside from some stretches of looking down too much. Terrence Gomes' singing voice is definitely getting stronger, and Mike Ivany's got some underrated guitar skills too, which people seemed to take notice of on Saturday! The Northern Tragedy are doing the right things, and hopefully they keep on an upward path as they continue their rise in local prominence! (As for their free demo, it's hand-burned, has 5 songs, and is packaged in a paper sleeve with a bear in front of a moon painted on. Sounds good so far!)

Local alternative/grunge quartet Haggith (also playing The Oddfellows Hall for the first time) took the stage at 8:00 PM as the crowd finally started to pick up in number, and they were rewarded with a very entertaining mix of originals and covers! I may be wrong, but this might be the first show they've ever played with Curtis McKenzie focusing on vocals only, and while he has a confident stage presence, some songs did sound emptier without his guitar (also, there was a surprising amount of visible lyric sheets.) Originals like "Wanko" and "No Cure For Insanity" were joined by covers of bands like Cheap Trick and The Stone Temple Pilots, and their energy and chemistry were on display on Saturday, with Daniel Horton's guitar work and Mike Haggith's wild drumming noticeably making waves! Since their second place run at the battle of the bands in April, Haggith have been really impressing and gaining momentum, and if they keep this up, they'll be hard to stop in the coming months, so don't bypass them at their next public dates!

The peak audience of the night hit the floor for The Bear Hunters' first live set since the departure of rhythm guitarist Josh Stephney, and just for the record, he hasn't been replaced yet, and no reference was made to any public replacement searches, but we'll of course let you guys know when/if any are announced. Compared to the last time I saw them shorthanded (May 2012, I think), I think the absence of Josh was more visible, with a few songs definitely lacking a bit in melody, but Mitch Sirie was overall clearer, so that works! Their set included standards like "Karma" and "Succumb To Eternity", but a highlight saw them debut a new original song, albeit without vocals yet. While Nik Deubel sat out, Shit Liver's Josh Penno provided some impromptu grind squeals to fill in, and it oddly worked, but I am curious to hear the final product with Nik Deubel's vocals too! Aside from Josh's absence, the guys sounded as good as ever, and stay tuned for more on their next shows!

Co-headlining on Saturday was the long awaited return of cello/punk trio RedD Monkey (the creators of the Swampstravaganza!) We haven't seen them back home since December, and let's just say, this was probably the most aggressive they've sounded, almost like they had something to prove after such a long absence! Tracks like "Lotus Song", "Friar's Ire", and "The Attic" populated an intense set of blistering originals that verged into hardcore punk territory at times, and both the Mozarowski brothers and Joe Bumbacco kept things up well (also, Steve had some funny jokes!) As for their fan favourite cover of Motorhead's "Ace of Spades", that was cello-less after Pete Mozarowski broke a string, but we got a partial reunion of The Fury as a result, with Sykotyk Rampage's Tony Briglio providing guest vocals! With a slate of Southern Ontario gigs coming up, RedD Monkey are coming hard and fast if Saturday's show was any indication, as this was probably the best I've heard them at, and hopefully it won't be another 8 months for their next local show! (Also, you might just see more of them on here this week...)

Headlining on Saturday was the first ever fully-out of town band in Swampstravaganza history, Montreal thrash metal trio Warsenal, and if you love speed and thrash metal from the 1980s, they delivered it wall to wall! Fast paced, intense, and very heavy, as the mosh pits indicated! Mathieu Rondeau was spitting venom on vocals through their original onslaught, and while I think having a second guitarist would fill their sound out a bit, the intensity and heavy riffing and solos didn't bother anyone inside! Nice fast drumming from Antoine Turcotte and skilled low bass work from Francis Labine to boot, and I don't think anyone had anything bad to saw once they wrapped up! We don't get enough pure thrash metal in the Soo, so it was a nice change of pace for Warsenal to deliver that to cap off the Swampstravaganza, and hopefully they come back to town for another go at it! (Also, they stopped by the "Grinded Live In Your Ears" Blood Shed Productions house party concert that same night for a surprise set, which I heard was a hit as well!)

Overall, the third Sewer Swampstravaganza was a great time, arguably better than last year's (at least for metal content), but the attendance was a big downer, and it'd have been nice to have seen more people inside before 8:00 PM to cheer on the first 5 bands. I did get a bunch of photos, so click here to check them out (or visit our Facebook page), and for videos, I got 7, so here's Crimson Crusade playing "Reality", James Watterworth and friends playing "Beautiful Woman", Sykotyk Rampage playing "Never Ever Life", Haggith playing "If You Get Out Alive", The Bear Hunters playing "Bloodthirst", RedD Monkey playing "Fight Skateboard With Fire!", and Warsenal playing "One By One"!

That's all for today, but stay tuned for some more news shortly, including some overdue news for RedD Monkey fans on here! Thanks everyone!

No comments: