Sunday, February 16, 2014

Bon Soo/The Marquee Concert Review!!

Apologies for the delay (busy day for me), but now, here's my review of last night's action down at The Marquee, the Bon Soo Winter Carnival's second annual outdoor performance stage taking place this year at The Roberta Bondar Pavilion! I'll start just by noting that I did not get to the event until 4:30 PM, so I missed the earlier music sets from Tym Morrison and Anthony Aceti and the demonstrations by Soo Dan Hap-Ki-Do and the dance team from Central Algoma Secondary School, but I hope they went well! (My schedule info comes from schedule copies available at The Pavilion, so at least attendees could find out who all played and when.)

In terms of this year's Bon Soo setup, I liked seeing the Team Jacobs/Olympics inspired snow sculptures (despite some being damaged), and the slides brought back nostalgia, but activities were winding down by the time I got there, so for non-musical aspects, I wouldn't be the right person to judge. The first act that I saw was local solo singer/guitarist Steevy LaPlante, who played at 4:30 PM in lieu of The Northern Tragedy, and though I didn't hear an announcement about the change, one may have occurred before I got there.. Steevy and a fellow musician (who I didn't get the name of) played a set of acoustic songs from varying influences, including covers of Icona Pop's "I Love It" and John Denver's "Leaving On A Jet Plane". I found the girls to be talented and relaxed during their set, but you could tell that they were a bit nervous, and I'm sure the cold temperature didn't help. I'm curious to hear more from them, and at least they had more of a crowd than later in the night, but we'll touch on that later.

The Northern Tragedy's delayed set began at around 5:00 PM, and it was nice to see them again for their first live set of the year! The guys played an entertaining set of punk originals, including established tracks like "Mr. Brooks Called In Sick Today" and material from upcoming demos like "Writing A Letter", and while the cold was an impairment (judging by singer/drummer Terrence Gomes' full face toque), their talents and chemistry were there! For this sort of an event, I won't nitpick or critique their performance too much, as playing instruments will be tougher in -12° weather will be tougher, but I enjoyed their set, and they made the most of this unique platform! I hope to get a copy of their most recent demo soon, as they're on the rise, especially if they can work on their stage presence more! It was cool to see some of the children dancing to some of their songs too when they were still there, they looked like they had fun!

Fellow local punk trio Redundant followed them at around 6:00 PM after a bit of a delay, as they rocked pretty well in their first live concert set in 6 months! It's just a shame almost no one was there to see it, as midway through their set, I realized that, not counting Marquee staff and band members, the only remaining fan was me (I'm dead serious.) Just a strange sight, but at least Redundant didn't mail it in despite the near absence of paid fans, as songs like "Labatt 50" and "Miles Apart" played well and felt nice to hear, and Rick White's drumming was on form (great to see him on stage after so long!) Again, the weather conditions didn't create an optimal situation (frontman Justin Langlois remarked on stage that he couldn't feel his hand), but this talented trio put in a solid set for me and the staff, and I give bonus points to bassist James White for playing half of their set topless! You are a braver man than I, good sir! I could barely hold the camera for Redundant's set, good thing there was a fire!

I would talk about the next three sets here before Frightlight headlined, but... there were none. The originally planned "dance party" after Redundant's set basically was a wash given the almost-nil attendance (I'm sure the 11:00 AM dance party was more successful), and a planned set by local sideshow performer D.J. Williamson didn't take place either. No public word on why he was absent that I heard, but it'd have been cool to have seen him again! The planned co-headlining band at 8:00 PM was to have been local grunge/hardcore duo Bad Back, and while they did make it to The Pavilion for their set, they reluctantly had to call it off due to technical difficulties (at least partly relating to the lack of an on-stage heater for their equipment.) That would have been a great feature for the stage as a permanent fixture to help each band, so hopefully they try and have one for next year! It'd have been nice to see Bad Back too, but hopefully they'll play live soon!

Added delays for local horror punk/metal quintet Frightlight's setup led to their set not beginning until around 7:45 PM, but at least there was an additional non-staff attendee for their set to help the attendance numbers (thanks Sabra!) With the delays, Frightlight only played 3 songs ("Fright Night", "They All Float, and "C.H.U.D."), and given all the hang-ups and the cold temperature, I was impressed by how the guys sounded even still! 6 months is too long since their last show, but the guys played as well as I'd expect after all things considered! Johnny Pints' vocals were strong, and Chris Freaknstein's drumming was solid and welcome especially, but with the rushed nature and the weather, I know things will work out better the next time out! Frightlight are a very talented band, and it was nice to see the Marquee staff show their support to help the crowd levels, but the turnout wasn't anything like I pictured.

Overall, I enjoyed the music at The Marquee last night, and having the last bands play with enthusiasm despite the lack of fans was welcomed for sure, but there's a lot of work to do for Bon Soo and Marquee organizers for next year. The attendance wasn't strong when I arrived, but it dropped like a rock during Redundant's set, and with the last bands being the featured attractions in theory, having just 1 or 2 non-staff attendees is a huge problem. From the start, I had fears that Bon Soo wasn't advertising The Marquee enough to tell prospective attendees who was playing and when, and unless you got a copy of the schedule on an earlier day, your only bet to hear about specific times was through social media or personal contact with performers (the press releases from Bon Soo only listed some performers, and not their days & times.) If people don't know who's playing, prospective attendees aren't going to go, and I think this was a contributing factor (though I admit not knowing how the turnouts were earlier in the week.) 

I envision The Marquee being a winter answer to Rotaryfest, and the diverse, all-local, and original-friendly lineup was a great start, but more advertising is needed to get people to want to come out, especially in the cold. I love the concept of an outdoor winter concert festival, and I really want to see Bon Soo bring back The Marquee next year with a lot more advertising. Credit & plug the bands and schedule in the program like Rotaryfest does, send full schedules to social media and the press, give fans a reason to come (or stay) for the music! Plus, I'm sure the bands would like a heater on stage too, as the cold was a factor for their sets. The Marquee can be a unique special attraction on the local concert calendar (a'la the NHL's outdoor games), and they've taken steps from last year, but I hope the 2015 installment addresses some of this year's criticisms and comes back stronger and more successful!

Still, I had fun being at Bon Soo and seeing some talented local musicians, and thanks to Frightlight for their hospitality! I did get photos (albeit not as much, my hand took a beating in the cold), so click here to check them out or visit our Facebook page! Given the low attendance and unique nature, I got videos of the last three bands, including the full punk ones, so here's The Northern Tragedy's new original "Writing A Letter", The Scary Uncles (sans James' shirt & jacket) playing "That December", and Frightlight playing their song "They All Float"!

That's all for today, but stay tuned for more news and notes tomorrow! Thanks everyone!

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