Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Toystock 2014 Concert Review!!

It's finally time for our review of Sunday's 3rd annual Toystock fundraiser concert at The Canadian Nightclub, and apologies for the delay! The Bear Hunters CD release party's review and uploading everything from Toystock ate up yesterday. As you may remember, this show was once again held to raise money and donations for Christmas Cheer, and plenty of people donated toys and food for the occasion! In return, organizers Maxx Entertainment delivered in kind with lots of family entertainment from bands and local merchants, including a free photo booth, free slushies, a kids play area, Santa & Mrs. Claus, and plenty of prize draws from numerous sponsors and local establishments. The turnout was never exceedingly packed, but remained consistently good throughout the day, though the floor was largely left for kids in attendance to dance and have fun, and they sure did that!

I missed last year's Toystock due to family commitments, so I can't compare the layout to then, but I did notice that the long tables from 2012 were not present on Sunday, which I honestly found a bit restrictive then. And yes, if you've followed the saga of the Kraft Dinner box from one of the local Facebook auction groups that Toystock co-organizer James Scott put up for charity, that saw it's end yesterday when Samantha Cadreau (who won it for $200) claimed the Kraft Dinner and a bouquet of flowers, ending a great charitable cause that raised at least $1,500 on it's own, and even got Kraft's attention and their own huge donaton!

Opening the day's musical entertainment was The Stumpy Coldwater Trio, who I want to apologize to first off, as our Toystock coverage said they were a blues band, when they're actually a country act. I couldn't find media of them, but saw that they played blues-branded shows, hence the confusion. They have a familiar face for hard rock fans though, as That's Chester bassist Aubrey Falls plays a large stand-up bass for them alongside singer/guitarist Rick Deevey and mandolin player Jim Hopper. Their set was comprised entirely of country covers, and while I'm admittedly not a huge country fan, I could clearly see their talent and veteran professionalism during their set, and their interactions and vocal harmonies showed a good chemistry between them! Not my thing, but The Stumpy Coldwater Trio delivered for early country fans!

Next was Mike Case's Junior All Stars, the live band that results from former Case's Music owner Mike Case's annual youth music classes that you may remember seeing at other all ages concert events. I've never seen them live before, so in a nutshell, their lineup includes 7 young musicians (4 girls, 3 boys) ranging in age from 6 to 16, alongside Asylum Country's T.J. Case on drums, who recurs in the band's yearly versions. Their set was comprised of pop and classic rock covers, mostly from female singers like Serena Ryder, Katy Perry, and Joan Jett. You can't really critique a band like this, as they're all young and developing their musical talent, so while the song choices largely weren't my preference, the kids are learning their respective crafts well, but you could tell that they were a bit nervous and stiff. Special props go to the two youngest kids also, as they were just having fun! It'll be interesting to see how this year's Junior All Stars develop in the coming years, and kudos to them on playing Toystock the past 2 years!

After the All Stars' set, attendees were treated to a surprise mini-set by local beatboxer Robert Drolet, a.k.a. Killabeatz, who recently competed at the Canadian Beatbox Championships in Toronto! In case you're not familiar, beatboxing is vocal percussion, where you use your mouth and voice to make beats and music, generally for rap and hip-hop styles. His performance included assorted vocalizations and rhythms, an attempt at a beatboxed version of "Jingle Bells" with fan accompaniment, and even the impressive act of laughing while beatboxing. Even if you're not a big rap fan, you could tell that Robert's very good at what he does, and he can generate some solid beats and rhythms with just his mouth! Killabeatz also had a second mini-set after Lucky 13's set later that evening, but it was mostly a reprise of the first set, albeit with a livelier crowd response.

Next among the scheduled bands was Lorrie Lynn & The Sinners, the country band led by former Obsession frontwoman Lorrie Bolduc. Her backing band includes some familiar faces though, including guitarists Marco Pedalino (The Wing-Its, ex-Lion Ride) and Joey Marrocco, Northwest's Greg Callaghan on bass, and Late Shift's Clint Wilson on drums. One of three bands on Sunday who played a largely original set, Lorrie and company played songs like "Swear When I Pray" and "You Talk Too Much" to a positive reception, and her set gave more of a country rock feel that gave fans on either sides of the coin something to like! She's a solid singer and songwriter, and the guys behind her gave their all too, though it is a little odd seeing them playing non-punk music. Lorrie & The Sinners had a great interaction with the kids too, distributing noisemakers so they could play along, and even inviting them on stage to help during their rendition of "Frosty the Snowman"!

The day's first heavier band was on next, that being local alternative hard rock trio The Pixo Control, and they left a solid impression in their own right! This is actually only the second time that I've seen The Pixo Control live, and I've noticed that the guys are definitely capturing the early 1990s grunge vibe well, seemingly picking up where "Dragon Joy Ride"-era Haggith left off locally. If the effects of frontman Michael Mikus' unidentified health scare last month still linger, then they didn't show during his energetic and lively performance, and he and the guys have very solid chemistry on songs like "Land of the Moles" and a grunged up cover of "Twist & Shout"! However, bassist Steve Edwards needs to work on his stage presence, as he mostly looked to the side while playing and didn't engage the crowd too much (also, Michael's speaking voice was not clear between songs.) Very good set, and hopefully we hear much more from The Pixo Control in the coming months!

Veteran country cover quartet Thin Ice were up next in their first ever Toystock appearance, though they were without usual bassist Robin Lee due to external commitments. As a result, Kyle Brock (who guested with Thin Ice at Rotaryfest) filled in for the night, and he seemed to fit in pretty well! Hard rock fans will have noticed some familiar faces in Thin Ice's lineup too, including Glitch/Tripod the Dog alum Mark Oliverio on guitar, and Griphook drummer Anthony Fabiano, and it was nice to see them again! Their set included covers of the likes of Luke Bryan, Thomas Rhett, and Jason Aldean (among others), and while I'm admittedly not a country fan, the guys had a good command of the stage, and Nathan Albidone's singing was on point for the genre! I can see why they have a good following, and it's nice to finally see them rocking out at Toystock!

The second half of Toystock commenced with the return of Domina, the all-female classic rock band that debuted at Rotaryfest this summer! Featuring alumni of Obsession, Mid Life Crysis, Spyder's Web, and Boogie Fever in their lineup, their set included covers of the likes of The Headpins, Heart, and the 4 Non Blondes, mostly leaning towards female-fronted classic rock acts, though they capped their set with a OneRepublic cover. An all-female rock band like this isn't a local novelty (The Danger Cats came first), but these five women are known commodities in local music, and any band with Valerie Powley on lead vocals has a lot going for it just from her presence alone! For my money, she has one of the best voices in local rock bands, even if it was a little scratchy at times on Sunday! The ladies have a good sound going, and their talents are clear, so be sure to look for them next year when they have a full set to play headline dates in the area!

Local alternative/hard rock cover quartet Lucky 13 played next, becoming the only band to play at all three Toystocks, so kudos to them on that level! Playing covers from the likes of Finger Eleven, The Black Crowes, and The Tragically Hip (among others), it was nice to see the guys again after far too long, and they pumped out a solid set of covers! Expanding their range to include more recent songs and even select 1980s tracks (I didn't expect A Flock of Seagulls to turn up!), everyone sounded tight and added a workman-like grit to their performances, with Ed Vowels channeling his Aftersight past with strong vocals, and Jeremey Salatuk looked and sounded the part on lead guitar! Everyone was visibly having fun, but Ed should have bantered with the crowd a bit more, as he only really introduced the band they were covering next. Strong set from this talented band, and be sure to check them out at their next headlining gigs!

After the aforementioned Killabeatz's second mini-set, local classic/hard rock cover trio Mourning Wood capped off the hard rock portions of the show with a set of varied covers that also seemed to get a good response! Generally featuring guitarist Terry Eaton on vocals (with bassist Steven Flint handling 3 songs and drummer T.J. Case singing AC/DC's "Highway To Hell"), their set included covers of everyone from Joe Walsh and Billy Idol to Megadeth and Metallica, though I'll concede that "Symphony of Destruction" doesn't work well without a second guitarist. The three guys sound good together and continued their momentum from their short notice Reggie's West gigs (I hope to be more on the ball next time!), but Terry's stage presence is still very stiff, and their set would benefit if he loosened up and moved around more. Better set than at Rock For Dimes though, and longer, so hopefully Mourning Wood keep up the good vibes!

Second-last at Toystock was local progressive rock quartet Mannapool, and this cemented it for me, as I think Mannapool might be near the top of my favourite non metal/punk bands in the Soo (Blues Harvest and iT, you have company!) What makes it more unexpected is that, before I heard that they were on Rock For Dimes, I wasn't familiar musically with anyone in the band, but if they keep this up, we'll all be aware! Playing an all original set including "Words of Wisdom", "Way Home", and "Trance", their dark and intricate originals seemed to go over well on Sunday, and I liked how they blended indie & progressive rock with deep themes throughout, jumping styles fairly easily! Korey Deluca was great on guitar, and Josh Ingram cut through everything nicely on vocals, adding to a very strong set, and I hope to see Mannapool again in short order!

And finally, your headliners on Sunday were local country rock cover quartet Bone Yard, making their second Toystock appearance after missing last year. Capping the day with a set of country covers from the likes of Tim Hicks, Big & Rich, and Justin McBride, the fourth and final country act of Toystock 2014 was arguably also the one with the most "rock" in their sound, partly because frontman Greg Simpson & drummer Ric Datson already handle that side together in That's Chester, and they sounded good for country fans!  Alex D'Ettore was really solid on lead guitar (great solos), Greg's voice adapted well to the more southern material, and Ric's impressive drum skills remain present as ever (kudos to him as well for lending his kit for all of the prior bands!) Bone Yard delivered a fun set of country covers, and it was a good way to end a successful event!

Overall, Toystock 3 was a rousing success from attendees, and the show had lots of good varied musical entertainment! Myself, I had fun (though it was a long haul given the length), and thanks to organizers, and to Budweiser and Scootz for the prizes that I won! In case you're wondering, there was coverage of the event by SooToday and Sault Online, plus professional photos by Roy Iachetta Photography, so visit those links to see their coverage before we can mention everything! As for our media, I got photos of each band (and Killabeatz), but I do apologize for the quality of them, as the reflective paint on the road signs behind the stage are still a nuisance for flash photography. They look nice, but it has to be said. Give them a look at this link or at our Facebook page, and now, to our videos!

In order, here's The Stumpy Coldwater Trio covering Blackberry Smoke's "Lesson In A Bottle", Mike Case's Junior All Stars covering One Direction's "Story Of My Life", Killabeatz covering A Great Big World's "Say Something" (plus extra beatboxing), Lorrie Lynn & The Sinners playing "Bad Company", The Pixo Control playing "Scratch", Thin Ice covering Blackberry Smoke's "Like I Am", Domina covering Pat Benatar's "All Fired Up", Lucky 13 covering The Cult's "Wild Flower", Mourning Wood covering Tom Petty's "Yer So Bad", Mannapool playing a song credited on their setlist as "Mex", and Bone Yard covering Montgomery Gentry's "Hillbilly Shoes"!

That's all for now, but stay tuned for more news and notes soon, plus weekend concert previews, Toystock fallout, and this month's "Where Are The New Albums?" post! Thanks everyone!

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