Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Sewer Swampstravaganza IV Concert Review!!

After a bit of a delay due to very slow video uploading times (plus our preview of TONIGHT's Oh! Right Arm!/Blood Shed show at The Moose Lodge in yesterday's post), we finally have our review of Saturday night's fourth annual Sewer Swampstravaganza at The Oddfellows Hall for you guys, so here's what you should know! This year, organizers employed a larger staff to run the show and related events, with merchandise for sale including limited edition event and RedD Monkey t-shirts, assorted art, poetry, and music items from Rihkee Strap and Ye Olde Mold Pickers, and even a Blood Shed Productions merchandise table (plus an album that we'll touch on later.) Indian tacos and frybread were indeed sold for patrons to eat, which is a great idea given the length of the show! Attendance was fairly good by the evening and for the headlining bands, but it was a slow go for the afternoon performers, which is par for the course for these all-day all ages shows. A reporter from Sault Online was also on hand at two points on Saturday to film Aggressive Acoustic (during afternoon sound check) and Brutaly Fatal, so might we see the footage online soon?

There were also some late lineup alterations for some of the earlier performers, but we'll approach them as we go. Now, here's our thoughts on all of the performers on Saturday night!

As expected, the Sewer Swampstravaganza kicked off with it's first ever open mic block at 1:00 PM, though for unannounced reasons, planned host Greg Callaghan was not able to attend, so promoter Steve Mozarowski hosted in his place. Given the slow early attendance, there wasn't a lot of performers, with just 5 distinct acts playing in the 90 minute timeslot, and only three playing for a substantial length. They were Bear Hunters drummer Johnny Belanger in a rare showcase of his singing & guitar ability, Steve Mozarowski playing songs that may have been in his later "faceityoureametalband" set, and local keyboardist/busker Damjan Binda (a.k.a. "Spider Fingerz"), who some of you may remember from an Oddfellows Hall show earlier this year. As well, Northern Tragedy singer/drummer Terrence Gomes and friend Katie Huckson (jokingly named Goofus & Gallant) played a pair of songs, while Keep It Lit/ex-The Fury frontman Paul Stanghetta played a few songs of his own later in the block.

In terms of what I thought of each performer: Johnny's performances were solid, and a nice throwback to seeing some of his musical diversity when we both attended Bawating in the mid-2000s! He always had a good singing voice, and the variance was solid on covers of everyone from The Foo Fighters to Harvey Danger. Steve's portion was a nice continuation from earlier Swampfest sets, if much more reserved, including covers of Oasis and New Order mixed with assorted originals. I prefer his more abrasive band work, but he had a nice casual command of the stage, and the originals were well composed! Damjan struck me as a very talented pianist (complete with accessories to simulate a baby grand), and while his vocals weren't heard much, he deftly played some entertaining originals and even belted out a rousing sea shanty! I'll have to keep an eye on his work. Terrence and Katie performed well together (though she was hard to hear), and it was nice seeing Paul back on stage, playing solid renditions of Rubberbandits and Kings of Leon, even breaking out some rap on his last song!

The first of the official band performers on Saturday was Haggith drummer Mike Haggith in a rare solo concert appearance, so how was this different from his more locally common Din work? Aside from a guest appearance on the opening song by bandmate Daniel Horton, Mike played each song solo with only him on vocals & guitar, with backing tracks that he recorded to cover bass and drums. Mike quietly released his 48th studio album "A Place Of Our Own" at the show, so his 6 song set included one song from that disc, plus older originals like "Room 822" and the brand new "Cindy Is A Hooker's Name". Aside from some technical errors regarding the backing tracks, Mike shown some solid talent in a more formal setting for music that he fronts, and he has a nice singing voice as usual on these hard rock originals, but by using backing tracks, his set sounded more artificial than I'm used to (but at least he played on them.) Solid work though, and hopefully Mike tries his hand at more solo sets down the road!

The next performer was slated to be the aforementioned Steve Mozarowski (replacing The Neon Stars & The Runaway Voices), but his formal set was tentative pending the addition of a different act for that timeslot, and he did find one, as local DJ Shane Erickson (a.k.a. DJ Seith) took over the 4:00 PM timeslot in his place. Given the surrounding acts, this was a bit of a surprise, so how'd he do? Creatively distributing tambourines for fans to make noise with during his set, DJ Seith basically played the music and turntable mixes that he would at an event that would seem more typical for his output, mashing up two vinyl records while scratching and mixing the songs within, and there were some very receptive fans late, especially when he threw some Jimi Hendrix and Black Sabbath in! He definitely has an ease about his work, and he definitely didn't alter his show due to the slow early attendance, but part of me assumed he'd manipulate certain songs more than they were. Nice diversion though, and if it's your thing, DJ Seith has the goods!

Next was slated to be local funk/metal band The Strange Coyotes, but like at the Fuck The Facts show, they were replaced by singer/guitarist Chase Wigmore's more recent project This Is Your Band On Drugs, likely for similar reasons (if we hear anything finite concerning The Strange Coyotes' status, we'll have it here!) Just like at their last local stop, they played a grind/experimental hybrid sound that had a lot of energy, intensity, and creativity that got a lot of people's attention, with Chase's guitar work and stage presence captivating many like usual! Nick Burns' vocals were still mostly hard to hear, and he could be a bit more animated on stage, but he fits in well musically, and they were joined by Rotopsy's Ringsnaps Gibson again for their closing song to add an extra vocal blast! I'd still be interested to see how T.I.Y.B.O.D. sound with drums and bass, but their unique mix of genres is definitely hard to ignore, and stay tuned for more on them and their original music this week!

Following them was the non-house party debut of the current version of Brutaly Fatal, so what'd this trio have in store? Though we did see the original version of the band (now Re-Born) last year in a solo grindcore theme, the new Brutaly Fatal have a hybrid of doom metal and punk in their current originals like "We Are The Gladiators" and "Monsters", almost striking me as a mix of AlgomA and The Northern Tragedy, if that makes sense. Austin dropped the growling entirely for clean singing, and he's solid at that, while he, bassist Rainey Vincent, and new drummer Brandan Glew had decent chemistry and clear talent throughout, though they could all work on their stage presences somewhat. The big issue I had with their set was their cover choices, as Collective Soul and Weezer songs seem like songs borrowed from Re-Born rather than material fitting of a doom band, and didn't mesh well with the originals. Solid debut though, I'm curious to see how they develop!

The 7:00 set was supposed to go to local/Grand Rapids folk/acoustic trio Ye Olde Mold Pickers in a reunion set, but members Nick Marsh & Kyle Church couldn't make the event (apparently due to being stranded in Michigan on the way up for the show), so singer/accordionist Rihkee Strap played an abbreviated solo set instead, mainly comprised of Y.O.M.P. covers. It was an interesting sight seeing almost everyone sit for her set, but like at her earlier local shows, there was a busking casual feel to her performance, though there was a bit of stage rust and nervousness given the long break. Her set was effective and a nice change of pace, and after a joint rendition of "Alleyways", she ceded the rest of the set to RedD Monkey cellist Pete Mozarowski, who played three original cello compositions. Nice to see him on stage again, and while the songs had an minimalistic quality without other performers, his musical talent was clear as day, and I'd be curious to hear more of his solo music!

Then we had Sudbury acoustic/hard rock band Aggressive Acoustic in their second live concert set in the Soo, though their lineup was indeed abbreviated, as bassist Darren McCullough again did not make the trip, and drummer Angie McBride (who was visibly pregnant at their local date last fall) is currently on maternity leave, though congratulations on the new arrival! Fronted by former Sykotyk Rampage bassist Brian Cattapan, he and mandolin player Sean Trottier played a mix of covers of bands like Linkin Park, Chevelle, and Down, plus a few originals like "Downtown Billy Brown", and if anything struck me about their set, it's that Brian has definitely improved his singing ability since the last time I saw him live in this role! The covers were mostly adapted well, and you could tell he was getting people's attention when certain fans ran back into the hall to hear certain unexpected songs. Sean's a solid mandolin player too, and he accompanied things well! It'd be nice to see the full lineup in town at some point, but I think Brian and Sean made some new fans!

The 9:00 band was local goregrind duo Rotopsy, who finally got a chance to play a full set after their shortened Dank Fest closer last month, and they didn't disappoint with a very energetic and high-tempo set of grind and death metal originals! Including songs like "Shovel Packin'", "Let Us Rot", and "The Funky Track", Dylan and Tyler got loyal fans moshing and headbanging throughout their set, which even recycled the Super Mario 64 theme cover from Crucify The Whore's set the previous weekend. Of what Rotopsy provides in concert, I still think they could benefit from having Dylan Taylor growl more actual words rather than the scattered grunts and yells, and the lack of a guitar does make it's presence felt a fair amount. The enthusiasm and brutality were wall to wall though, and hopefully tonight's show at The Moose Lodge goes well for them!

The headline acts of the Swampstravaganza kicked off at 10:00 PM with the well anticipated reunion set by local alternative/grunge quartet Haggith, making their first live concert appearance since December's farewell show, so how'd they perform in their return? Pretty well, it's like they never left! Aside from Curtis McKenzie's shorter hair, things looked about the same as they did at their peak last year, even to the point of Curtis playing guitar on most songs, after not doing so for much of late 2013. Songs like "Clifton Hill" & "Public Enemy" joined select covers of Jimi Hendrix classics, and the guys definitely shown the chemistry and talent that carried them so well in their initial run together, with Curt showing his more diverse vocal range on some songs, Mike Haggith drumming with a fun purpose, and Daniel Horton's lead guitar work on fire! It's great to have Haggith back, and this set was definitely a well recieved success, but was it a one-off show?

Take this with a grain of salt until the band confirms this online, but band members announced on stage that they plan to stay together and record a fourth studio album compiling songs of theirs that aren't on physical CDs yet (like "Metal Cage" & "Anthem"), but with an attached ultimatum: If said CD doesn't sell well, they'll break up again. The band has not officially said this online yet, but just in case, there's some cautiously optimistic news regarding Haggith's future!

Another band that we haven't seen since Haggith's farewell show came on next, as the original crash band, Sykotyk Rampage played their first live concert set of 2014 in the co-headlining slot! Their 13 song set mixed classics like "Drinking on the Weekend" and "Hey Zeus" with some new songs like "Soul" and their first live song with bassist Tony Briglio on lead vocals, the Jack Daniels ode "Old #7", and the fans gave them  good reception, even inciting rare mosh pits for a Sykotyk Rampage show! Visually and sonically, the guys were up to their old tricks, with Paul Becker's booming bluesy vocals and his brother Dirk and Shane Kokis handling things well for their improvised originals! Despite their involvement as staff for the event, the guys didn't play a reserved set, showing their energy and creativity throughout, with Dirk again dropping the guitar for an angry and intense version of "Lowest of the Low". Very fun crash set, here's hoping for more soon!

And finally, your headliners on Saturday were the only band to play at all four Swampstravaganzas, local death metal quartet The Bear Hunters, and they were in form once again with brutal originals and lots of devastating metal action! Now to be fair, I saw them at the Fuck The Facts show as well, and their sets were largely similar in both song choices and performances, so it's hard to comment too differently on Saturday night's set. Playing newer songs like "I Fear No God" and "The Omen" along with existing originals, the guys shown their talents well once again, with Nik Deubel's vocals as heavy as ever, Mitch Sirie playing to his standards on guitar, and Justin Lam's clear bass skill a constant presence! I did have to leave late in their set, but The Bear Hunters were a perfect closer to the evening, and hopefully we hear much more from them in the near future, including hopefully their long awaited album at some point!

Overall, the fourth annual Sewer Swampstravaganza was a success, but being the longest event yet in this annual series, it was also the most tiring at least for this reviewer (my feet were killing me by night's end.) It was all for a good cause though, as this was another very entertaining blend of local music! Is it weird to note that only four bands on Saturday featured a drummer, and only one of them (Brutaly Fatal) played before 10:00 PM?

I got plenty of photos of each band, so visit our Facebook page or this link to check them out, and as for videos, I got one of each formal performer and a compilation of the open mic block, so here's all 5 open mic acts together, followed by Mike Haggith playing "Sun Perfume", the first few minutes of DJ Seith's set, This Is Your Band On Drugs playing a (likely) untitled original, Brutaly Fatal's original "Mercury", Rihkee Strap covering Ye Olde Mold Pickers' "Redemption Song", Pete Mozarowski playing his composition "The Conquered", Aggressive Acoustic covering Tool's "Stinkfist", Rotopsy playing their short originals "Doomytrack" & "Mould Induced Hypersensitivity", Haggith playing "No Cure For Insanity", Sykotyk Rampage playing their new song "Soul", and The Bear Hunters playing their newer song "The Void"!

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

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