Thursday, November 14, 2013

Viva La Battle Review!!

Hey guys, it's finally time for my review of last night's Viva La Battle, the first Sault Ontario battle of the bands in 7 months, but remember to check out our special look back at the former Roosevelt Hotel Thursday metal nights (to celebrate the third anniversary of their inception) in the post below this one! As you may know, last night's battle was the first metal concert event at The Canadian Nightclub since the newest major flooding over two months ago, and to go along with the re-opening, the Pim Street venue also had some cosmetic renovations, so what's different? The atmosphere in many respects, with the interior now having a vibe that recalls a garage, workshop, or man cave, with wood panelling, road signs, beer containers & signs, and more. I like what they're doing, and hope they expand the look more! In terms of bands, the stage is in it's normal spot still, but the soundboard is now on the stage's right rather than in front of the bar area. There's new lighting on the stage which is effective, along with road signs on the back wall, but I will admit that the reflective paint of the white road signs badly threw off the lighting on my camera unless I was very close to the bands (or had them out of shot.)

They look cool as a fan, but if you're taking pictures, be wary, but I do like the large orange construction sign behind the drumkit! In pictures, it looks like a permanently lit stage element, and it has a fiery look in the shots, so if anything's done about the signs, I'd leave that one alone. Now, let's discuss the bands in performance order, and remember, "secret" new local band Keep It Lit dropped out on short notice due to a band member breaking their hand, but promoter J.D. Pearce hopes to get them on another of his upcoming concerts!

Opening last night's battle was local death metal notables The Bear Hunters in their third local battle appearance (and first since rhythm guitarist Josh Stephney moved out of town), and they put out another sure-as-rain set of brutal classics for their fans! Their set included newer originals like "Servitude" and older classics like "Collapse The Sun" (plus their fan favourite cover of Amon Amarth's "Guardians of Asgaard"), and their confidence from their three years of stage experience was in full display! I just saw The Bear Hunters at The Oddfellows Hall two weeks ago, and I'm glad to say that they performed just as well last night as they did then, with Nik Deubel's louder vocals being very helpful! Stage presences might have been somewhat stiff, and their sound wasn't as full as their earlier quintet appearances at battles of the bands, but The Bear Hunters delivered once again for fans of their devastating metal assault, though was it enough to finally win their first battle of the bands?

Second on the bill was new local hard rock quartet Punch (replacing bassist Steven Flint & drummer Ben Boudreau's other band The Suicide Kings), and while we knew their lineup going in (joining Haggith singer Curtis McKenzie & guitarist Daniel Horton), their sound was still somewhat of a mystery, so what did they play? They had a 6 song set that included originals named "Punch", "By The Hand" (which was a slower track), and "Road Rage", plus covers of Alice In Chains' "Them Bones", Van Halen's "Panama", and... Haggith's "Metal Cage"?! Yes, it looks like Punch are taking at least one Haggith original with them for after that band's impending demise, and overall, I'd say they sound closer to Haggith, but with a heavier, less grungy influence. I liked their set, especially their energy level and enthusiasm, with Curtis' stage presence noticeably more active and free-wheeling than I'm used to, and everyone shown their musical talents well! My big complaints would be that Curt's vocals weren't too strong on most of the covers, and "By The Hand" struck me as too soft of a song for the battle, but I was impressed with their debut!

Closing last night's battle was new local band North West, who I knew little on going into the show (having no online pages helps with that), so who all's in the band? They were essentially a merger of the partly local indie rock band The Small Town Rivals and the former local band Terminal, with singer/guitarist Wayne Watkins, bassist Mike Smykacz, and drummer Clint Wilson being joined by guitarists Greg Callaghan & Mike Yakasovich (so the Facebook picture I thought was them wasn't this lineup.) Their set included 5 originals (like "All We Have Is Time", "We Want It All", and "Phone Calls"), plus a set-ending cover of Bruce Springsteen's "No Surrender", and overall, their sound reminded me of Wayne's old band Nebraska Arms a lot, taking on an alternative/indie punk sound that definitely got some good fan responses late! Despite Greg breaking a guitar string, this band of experienced local artists handled the crowd and their songs well, and their talents spoke for themselves, and Wayne's up to the task as a frontman, so hopefully we'll see more of North West (the band, not the baby) in the near future!

After North West's set, fans were encouraged to fill out their ballots received at the door to both determine the winners and enter a drawing for a Destroilet/Jack Spades prize pack (congratulations to Christine Purvis for winning that!), though a low overall attendance saw only 43 ballots returned. With that said, who won Viva La Battle and the right to open for Bam Margera next month? Here's the final results!

1st place: The Bear Hunters (21 votes, 49%)
2nd place: North West (13 votes, 30%)
3rd place: Punch (9 votes, 21%)

The third time definitely was the charm, as The Bear Hunters finally claimed first place in a local battle of the bands last night, earning them the final opening slot at the Fuckface Unstoppable concert on December 14th at The Canadian! The win was also the second straight local battle win for guitarist Mitch Sirie, who won the Rockstar Bar Battle in April as The Suicide Kings' bassist, so extra congratulations to him on that level! With their second place finish, North West members Greg Callaghan and Mike Yakasovich earned their best battle finish of recent memory (outdoing their Skid Row Battle run with Terminal in 2008), while Wayne Watkins equalled his second place run with Nebraska Arms at 2010's Sault College Battle. Though Punch did finish third, this is a step down from the members' finishes at the aforementioned Rockstar Bar Battle, where their members all finished either first or second, but they made a solid impression in their debut, and you'll be seeing them again later this month, so keep an eye out for news on that front soon!

Congratulations again to The Bear Hunters on their win at Viva La Battle, and check out SooToday's Donna Hopper's photos and recap from the battle at this link, featuring 18 quality photos from the event (albeit all in black & white), and get your Fuckface Unstoppable tickets before it's too late! My videos & colour photos from the battle can be seen at this location or at our Facebook page, and as it's a battle, I got equal shots and a video of North West too, even if they're not "hard rock", as it's only fair given the nature of the event. With that said, in performance order, here's The Bear Hunters playing "Transcend Judgment", Punch playing "Road Rage", and North West playing "I Got You"!

That's all for today, but stay tuned tomorrow for weekend concert previews and more! Thanks everyone!

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