Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014: A Look Back In The Year Of Local Metal, Hard Rock, And Punk

For our last post of 2014, we're taking one big look at the year that was, as there were plenty of big events, concerts, stories, debuts, farewells, and CD releases that happened among local metal, hard rock, and punk bands in the past 12 months! Hopefully I'll touch on all of the biggest and most noteworthy elements of each category below, so let's dive right in and reminisce on 2014 in the Sault Ste. Marie area!

Partly due to the ongoing hiatus from Allstar Promotions, the area didn't see as many major concerts at The Dreammaker's Theatre at the Sault Michigan Kewadin Casino in 2014, but one big Essar Centre show helped out a great deal! The year started in earnest with the return of Poison frontman Bret Michaels (with North Carolina hair metal veterans FireHouse in tow) for a well recieved Kewadin concert on January 18th, before The Essar Centre's full hard rock concert drought ended on June 20th with a huge show headlined by Seattle hard rock legends Heart! Alongside Jason Bonham, fans were treated to Heart classics and a special Led Zeppelin tribute set to a rousing fan response,a and here's hoping that spurs more heavier shows at the Sault Ontario arena! The sixth local concert from shock rock legend Alice Cooper followed just one week later at Kewadin Casino, while the return of Georgia hard rock favourites Jackyl (and hair metal veterans Winger) capped the heavier year at the casino on August 21st, and hopefully paving the way for more big shows in 2015!

Outside of the shows above, there was plenty of big concerts in the area to take in over the course of 2014! In Sault Ontario, we welcomed notable out of town bands like Anciients, Anvil, The Brains, Crued, Empyrean Plague, Endast, Fuck The Facts, Gob, K-Man & The 45s, The Merves, Michael White & The White, Random Killing, The Ripcordz, White Cowbell Oklahoma, and Who Made Who for local concerts, among many others, courtesy of promoters like J.D. Pearce, Tidal Records, Oh! Right Arm! Promotions, Heavy North Entertainment, and more! Also this year, Sault Ontario saw the short lived Heavy Thursday series at the former Roosevelt Hotel earlier this year, rare outdoor winter concerts at the Bon Soo Marquee, 10+ band shows via the fourth annual Sewer Swampstravaganza, Dank Fest, and Sault Band-O-Rama, the debut of The Emergency Festival in August, J.D. Pearce's 10th annual Halloween Party & 2nd annual X-Mess, The Rad Zone's 30th anniversary party with The Ripcordz, and charitable events like Rock For Dimes & the third annual Toystock, among many other major concerts in the past year!

Though activity for concerts and original bands was slower across the river in Sault Michigan this year, there was still their own fair share of entertaining live music! Out of town bands like Infathom, Nudge, Driven, and all four of Jeff Hudson's active hard rock bands (Peril, Scarkazm, Audio Circus, and Kiss'd) graced Eastern Upper Peninsula stages in the past 12 months, including many concerts at the regional Kewadin Casino branches! Arguably the peak of the hard rock concert year was the fourth annual LemmaFest outside of the Dondee Lanes on June 21st featuring numerous local artists, while bands like Division of Sanity, Tantrym Tyme, and Train Wreck made their presences felt at local summer festivals and beyond. Normal weekend concert runs at local bars saw bands like Banned, Power Slug, and 415E rock local stages throughout the year, while RamWagon and successors The Bottom Line, Full Throttle, and Highway 63 all made their successive marks thoughout 2014, among other Yooper hard rock bands this year!

Aside from local concerts, there were plenty of big news stories in 2014 that affected local bands, shows, and fans. In terms of concert venues, Sault Ontario said goodbye to The Roosevelt Hotel, Smack Daddy's, and Docks Riverfront Grill, but welcomed Cafe Natura and Studio 10 as new active venues for heavier bands. The local concert festival calendar took hits as well when Rotaryfest's Second Stage took a one year hiatus and Hempfest relocated 8 hours north to Moonbeam. The Soo did gain an internet rock radio station though when Village Media launched VM Rocks as part of their new umbrella of 5 VM Radio stations, giving fans added alternatives! Also this year: Earache Records reissued Woods of Ypres' first 3 CDs, The Suicide Kings changed their name to Beaumont Avenue (and opened for Randy Bachman in Spanish), Local2's Tuned web series debuted, Papa Fogals Chair headlined a stag & doe in May, and the Sebastian Bach-featured Swearnet movie (filmed in the Soo) was finally released, joining other big news stories in 2014!

In terms of new CD and album releases, there were no shortages in that department! On the metal side of things, The Bear Hunters helped cap off 2014 in style with their debut album "Eternal Hibernation" and it's preceding "Collapse The Sun" single, while AlgomA's Deadbeat Media-released "Reclaimed By The Forest", and Shit Liver's long awaited self-titled CD also kept the brutality going for fans & customers! Punk and metal fans alike took in the release of Jack Spades' debut EP "The First" in June, while The Northern Tragedy's EP "Home Ice" came out in March, and Tidal Records-affiliated digital EPs from Northwest and the brand new Habitat Shuffle were put out over the summer. Also this year: Blood Shed Productions put out new demos from Crucify The Whore, Rotopsy, and This Is Your Band On Drugs, Bad Back put out two minimally advertised demos, and Mike Haggith, Michigan's SweetKenny, and Telephone & Address put out solo albums of their own, all a good harbinger of new releases to come next year!

2014 also saw it's fair share of new and debuting local bands, with few making such a unique splash as The Apocalypse Afterparty, the masked rap metal duo whose unique mid-2014 gigs left many fans wanting more! Other bands that debuted included local funk rockers The Elements and the short lived punk band Fist Fighting Stephen Hawking (both among the last bands to play at The Rosie), young local post punk quartet Gnaeus, doom/punk trio The Revolution, Free Beer successors Habitat Shuffle (with new album in tow), classic hard rockers Mourning Wood, Robert Sartini's short lived newest metal projects Shadowthrone & Gorrifier, and Anthony Boudreau's new bands Infamous & Them, among others! Sault Michigan saw it's own debuting hard rock bands too, including hard rock cover bands Highway 63 & Exiled, the short lived Bottom Line & Full Throttle, and LemmaFest one-off bands Mr. Fister & Nightmare Grin. Hopefully these bands and more take further hold in 2015!

Like in any past year, numerous local bands saw lineup changes in 2014 for varying reasons, with none seeing more changes than The Revolution (originally the second Brutaly Fatal), who ran through three drummers & parted ways with bassist Rainey Vincent this year. Meanwhile, Haggith saw the departures of bassists Caleb Cachagee & James White, while their singer Curtis McKenzie joined (and left) Project 421, with existing guitarist Blair Burch now singing in his place. Also this year: ex-Gates of Winter drummer Jonathan Harvey replaced Mike Vincent in Chronic Demonic, The Danger Cats parted ways with singer Summer Snow-Leopard, Destroilet enlisted Brenton Ellis as their co-lead singer, The Strange Coyotes split with frontman Chase Wigmore, bassist Mike Mannarino left Skeyes of Seven, and Rick White replaced Scott McLurg on drums with The Thrill Junkies, while in Sault Michigan, 415E rounded out their lineup with Mitch Goetz & Tony Hubbard, Banned welcomed bassist Wayne Lawrence, and Theatre of Night split with drummer Greg Giles, among other band member switches this year!

Where new bands debut, others are bound to disband or fall inactive, with Frightlight's farewell concert at the annual Halloween Party being among the most notable and public farewells of 2014, though almost all of the band can still be seen in other active projects. Also in 2014: Caveman Morrison, Crimson Crusade, The Fury, Glitch, The Hydra's Teeth, Pillory, Punch, RedD Monkey, and Sailor's Tongue all fell inactive or announced their own breakups, while the already defunct Late & Loud announced that their second reunion show on August 1st at The Rockstar Bar was their "last show ever", and bands like The Billy Bastards & Garden of Bedlam, while not defunct, have not played a public concert at all this year. In Sault Michigan, popular hard rock trio Scofflaw ended their local run, while RamWagon, both versions of Full Throttle, and The Bottom Line saw their brief runs all come to an end, and the tumultuous run of Chained Memories came to a close this year as well. Hopefully everyone in these bands stays musically active!

As usual for our year-end posts, we'll close on a high note with comebacks, as the Sault area saw a number of comebacks from breakups and hiatuses this year! The longest such ended break came via local/Toronto hardcore punk quartet Detroit, who just headlined at The Algonquin Pub to end a 4+ year breakup, and hopefully it's not the absolute last we'll see of them! Also in 2014, we welcomed Haggith back after a 4 month breakup with almost immediate album plans, while their side project Mike Haggith & The Din, the soon to be renamed Strange Coyotes, the original Brutally Fatal, "derd rockers" The Issues, and pop punk project For July all resumed activity after their original disbandings. Late & Loud brought their classic metal back for two reunion shows this year, while Pixo Control predecessors The Fever Tops held their own one off reunion in April as well, giving their run proper closure. As well, Frightlight, Mike Haggith's solo project, Shit Liver, The Side FX, and The Thrill Junkies all made their returns to the local concert stage after 8+ month breaks, and hopefully we get more similar returns next year!

2014 was another big year for the local metal, hard rock, and punk scenes, and here's to a great 2015! We'll spotlight some of the events to come in a special preview post hopefully tomorrow, so look for that and much more usual business on the site shortly! Thanks everyone!

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