Monday, April 21, 2014

Dank Fest 2014 Concert Review!!

Finally, it's now time for our review of Saturday night's Dank Fest 2014, and I apologize again for the delay, but the slow video uploads and such pushed it back. Before we get to the bands, just some info on the event itself, including a notable band drop out, as advertised headliners TheKillingField dropped out of the event on short notice due to scheduling conflicts, though members didn't elaborate on that front. Very disappointing, especially as two shots at a local show fell through in a four month span, but they've always been great to the Soo, so hopefully the bad luck ends and they do play here at some point soon again! They were not replaced, so Dank Fest fell to 11 bands from the 14 it was originally intended to have. I had a sinking feeling that the original planned lineup wouldn't hold together, but we still got a huge bang for our buck! The weather mostly co-operated, but the talk of sausages being barbequed behind The Oddfellows Hall didn't come to fruition. The attendance varied as the day went on, but it peaked in the early evening for The Pixo Control and Like Animals' sets, and while I do get the timing of the event for 4:20, competing with the Easter weekend and Record Store Day may have affected the turnout. The fan activity was lively though, and there were some solid pits!

After a 45 minute delay (possibly due to TheKillingField's dropout?), Dank Fest kicked off with the former Like Father Like Son, local/Ottawa indie rock band The North Shore (replacing Viva Emptiness), though returning drummer Felipe Basoalto couldn't make the event, so frontman Jeremy Hannah and new guitarist Chase Wigmore played as a duo. Though clear outliers compared to the death metal and hard rock to come, Jeremy's a former local hardcore singer and promoter, and Chase brought a bit of the aggression for their set, which really struck me as a clash of two styles. While Jeremy was playing to his recent strengths in unplugged indie material, Chase's guitar work seemed like it belonged with a different heavier band, and it was an interesting contrast. Once you got past that though, The North Shore provided a nice softer beginning for this show, and they definitely seemed happy to be there, so hopefully we see more of them in the future, especially given how sporadic Jeremy's local gigs have been lately!

Second on Saturday were local all-female hard rockers The Danger Cats, and though the rumours of them dropping out were false, they also played short-handed due to guitarist Paula Panther being away on vacation. With her absence, their set seemed a bit more deliberate and not as lively, though I'm sure part of that was due to playing in the late afternoon. A mix of originals like "Call Me" and covers of bands like The Misfits, The Offspring, and L7 populated their 8 song set, and while the energy of their full quartet sets wasn't fully there, the talent was, with Kate Kougar's singing effective when audible (she was often low in the mix though), and Jamie Jaguar's bass flowed well also! That said, they're most effective with two guitarists, so be sure to catch the Die Mannequin show they're opening in June for the full Danger Cats experience!

Third was supposed to be the return of local funk/metal trio The Strange Coyotes, but bassist James Watterworth couldn't make the event (if they have a new drummer yet, he didn't play either), so frontman Chase Wigmore played a solo set in their place. That said, he didn't stick to just his solo material though, performing a lot of harsh metal songs that probably would have been indicative of The Strange Coyotes's set had they played this show! Included within were some surprising acoustic covers of Megadeth songs (and even Del Shannon's "Runaway") along with some band and solo originals, and Chase definitely held our attention with his high energy and creativity, even almost looking possessed at points during his set! It was nice to see Chase back on stage, even if the rest of the band was absent, but his entertaining solo work got a lot of people going, even inciting the day's first mosh pit, which is impressive for acoustic material!

Due to having to get back on the road early, Orillia metal trio Like Animals swapped spots with The Pixo Control to play the earlier fourth slot at Dank Fest, and 3 years after dropping out of a show at The Rosie, they definitely made up for lost time with an impressive progressive metal set! Is it surprising that they were the first band on Saturday with no absent members? Playing to some of the day's best crowd numbers, Like Animals tore through a technical and aggressive blend of progressive and hardcore metal, and fans definitely seemed to enjoy everything! Playing a number of impressive songs (including songs from their new EP "The Wild"), I enjoyed Jamie Haffenden's guitar ability and singing range, and Myke Caouette's bass work and enthusiasm was a constant, but Jamie could show some more liveliness to match their songs. Impressive first stop in the Soo though, hopefully they come back down the road!

Following them was the Oddfellows Hall debut of local alternative/hard rock trio The Pixo Control (our newest addition to our band links on the site), and after a successful Record Store Day set outside of The Rad Zone, the guys amped up the heaviness and left a solid impression on attendees! I was familiar with some of their YouTube postings and frontman Michael Mikus' past work with The Fever Tops, but The Pixo Control definitely benefit from a live setting for their grungy alt-rock sound, which had a solid passion, and they can be very heavy on the right song, including tracks like "Land of the Moles" and "Tall Ships". Michael seemed to channel Kurt Cobain at parts in their set, while Steve Edwards showed some solid bass skill, and Keeghan Rosso's drumming fit right in as well, and though they did have some rough moments, they're young and will definitely shore up those areas. I'm curious to see where The Pixo Control go from here, but if you love bands like Haggith and No Arrow, don't sleep on these guys!

Local hardcore/grunge duo Bad Back returned to The Oddfellows Hall as the night's middle band, and they were back to their usual tricks with an intense and well received set of original material, complete with a very surprising closing cover of Weezer's "Buddy Holly"! Originals like "Lung Bucket", "Breeding Weak", and "No. 1 Single" also made the rounds, and like at earlier gigs of theirs, the two-man assault got a very enthusiastic reception! They still don't really sound like a duo, their sound works that well, and Jamie Vincent (a.k.a. AlgomA drummer Geezer D'Artagnan) continues to develop a very solid presence as a hardcore singer and frontman! Nathan Sauve's drumming and backup vocals also fit as well as ever on this very heavy hybrid material! If anything, I'd like to see Jamie loosen up a bit on stage, but Bad Back powered through another brutal set, and hopefully we see them on stage again soon!

Local goregrind solo project Crucify The Whore (replacing Brutaly Fatal & Re-Born) took the stage next, and while still polarizing for fans not accustomed to this style or the lyrical content, Tyler "Ringsnaps" Gibson handled things well for an unapologetic and very heavy set of original material! Like before, his set saw him on pig squeal vocals & lead guitar with a drum machine to handle backing rhythm, and despite the minimalistic nature, he has a solid command of the audience, and loyal fans of Blood Shed Productions were out in full force to mosh and headbang along to originals like "Orthostatic Hypertension", "People These Days", and the ultra-brief "Batch Cones". Tyler's music definitely fits live better than it ever has in studio, and while I do think he'd rise faster locally if he had a full band to support this material, he's doing what he wants for fans who love it no matter what, and it'll be interesting to hear what comes next, including the forthcoming C.T.W. album "Welcome To Earth"!

Local sludge/doom metal trio AlgomA made their Oddfellows Hall debut next, and their slow and crushing original sound definitely got a great reaction from fans who stayed into the night! Lengthy and uncompromising songs like "Extinct Volcanoes" and "Bedsores" impressed on musical and heavy levels, and I like the added interaction with the audience and less aloof feel than they had at early gigs, though I'll admit that 180 Projects is probably the optimal place to see them, thanks to the video projector (they even used 3D glasses for it at the Skynet show!) Darby Wigwaus & Marty Chase's trade-off vocals and proficiently deliberate instrumentation kept things to a doomy premium, and their set definitely went by quicker than it was (the long songs help with that.) No word was announced at Dank Fest relating to their upcoming debut album, but their set should put in motion a lot of optimism for it's release!

Third last at Dank Fest were the de facto headliners following TheKillingField's exit, as North Bay death metal trio Buried Out Back made their second local appearance on Saturday night, after previously rocking The Canadian in mid-2012! Once again featuring a number of songs based around murderers (as to be seen on their upcoming album) like "The Prostitute" and "The Recluse", Buried Out Back brutalized attendees with a straight forward and gritty (yet melodic) death metal assault that was at least equal to their last trip here! Frontman Dave Strba (of Empyrean Plague fame) retains a brutal yet clear growl, and Kevin Lachance's drum work was excellent throughout their set, though I think they were hoping for more of a crowd reaction and reception throughout. Awesome set though, and fingers crossed we get more North Bay metal action around here soon!

The home stretch of this marathon show kicked off with local classic metal quintet Project 421, who were surprisingly the only band out of 11 at Dank Fest with more than 3 members! Coincidentally, the biggest band also seemingly got the biggest set, as they rocked out 13 songs, including their original "No One Rides For Free", covers of everyone from Black Sabbath to Dokken, and even some surprise Ronnie James Dio tracks that really showed off Curtis McKenzie's vocal range, which was particularly impressive early on (perhaps the best he's sounded live yet), but while "The Mob Rules" was great, his voice tired considerably by the time they tackled "Rainbow In The Dark". Aside from a hang-up where guitarist Blair Burch had to fix a guitar string (they added a surprise cover of "Smokin' In The Boys Room" in the interim), the guys made full use of their time and the space, with Daniel Horton really adding to his height with some mid-song climbs up the stage equipment! Everyone was on fire, and they delivered a solid late punch to the show!

Unfortunately, the length of Project 421's set may have impaired the closing set for local goregrind duo Rotopsy, who initially announced that they couldn't play, despite being the effective release show for their demo. I heard that both time constraints and a mosh pit injury of some type may have been the reason, but things worked out, as Rotopsy were apparently able to play 2 of their 5 planned songs to cap off the night! That said, I had no idea that they would manage to play anyway, so I'd actually left before that announcement, but at least we got to see singer Dylan Taylor provide guest vocals on one of Crucify The Whore's songs! We'll of course share any media from their brief set if and when it makes it online. Overall, despite the length and my own sore feet by the last few bands, this was a fun concert, and a nice primer for the Swampstravaganza next month (another marathon concert at The Oddfellows Hall that Rotopsy are playing), and despite the band dropouts, I think promoters and fans had a good time!

I got 10 photos of each band (minus Rotopsy, I'll make it up to you guys next month!), so check them out at this link or at our Facebook page! As for videos, they're embedded below (albeit smaller to avoid making this post far too long), but click here to see them in normal resolution. In order, here's The North Shore playing their song "Evening Strolls", The Danger Cats covering The Misfits' "Fiend Club", Chase Wigmore covering Megadeth's "Killing Is My Business... And Business Is Good!", Like Animals playing their song "No Avail", The Pixo Control playing their song "The Great Salute to Radio Edits", Bad Back playing "Drum My Way Home", Crucify The Whore playing their short song "Seshing In June Bugs" followed by a new untitled track, AlgomA playing "The Electric Fence", Buried Out Back playing "The Intruder", and Project 421 covering Judas Priest's "Living After Midnight", so check them out above & below!

That's all for today, but stay tuned for this month's YouTube Channel Profiles tomorrow, plus more news soon, including all the info on Jack Spades' newly released EP! Thanks everyone!

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