Rotaryfest stages, and as I effectively saw two concerts on the separate stages, we'll break our reviews into two separate posts today (but our Second Stage review is coming later today, I promise!) I started the day at Stage 1 at Clergue Park in it's usual location near the library, and while I have seen bands at the main covers-only stage in the past, this was the first time that I've ever attended and reviewed bands at this stage for the SMS. MCed by Q104's Jeff McNeice (who replaced James Warner-Smith in this role a few years back), he handled the job well and definitely has a good voice for the job, filling us in on tidbits on the bands, raffle draws, and Rotaryfest events in between bands, but the advertised guest appearance with Mourning Wood did not occur. During the early stretch of bands at Stage 1, attendance was medium at best, which could partly be due to the heat and humidity forecasts, but I toughed it out, and the weather slowly improved as the day grew long!
And before we touch on the Stage 1 bands that I caught, I will apologize to Thin Ice, Practically Petty, Fleetwood Nicks, Mustang Heart, The Big Waltz, and Domina for the lack of coverage, as I spent the rest of the day at Stage 2, but I know you all knocked it out of the park! I did hear a snippet of a slower cover from Mustang Heart as I left, and they sounded good, with a very good crowd to match!
Mourning Wood in their Rotaryfest debut, but compared to the first times I saw them, they definitely had their country hats on for this show, with local country singer Mark Tarantini singing lead vocals for the first half of their set, and acoustic guitarist/keyboardist Scott Infanti guesting for the whole thing. The first portion of the set saw Mark lead everyone through country covers, largely of Garth Brooks classics, with him even entering the crowd for three songs to sing along with attendees and meet the public, which was a nice touch! He has a natural frontman air about him, which did contrast with the second half, as Terry Eaton wasn't as vocal and chatty on Saturday. The second half was more of a typical Mourning Wood show, if abbreviated, with covers of the likes of Bryan Adams and AC/DC (with impromptu guest singer Rob Gilmar), plus a turn by bassist Steven Flint singing "Folsom Prison Blues".
I'm admittedly not a country music fan, but Mourning Wood have the chops to pull it off, and having Mark & Scott on board was a nice touch to further the theme (no word on why Jeff's guest spot didn't occur though.) That said, fans of their more rock sound may have wanted a little more, but Mourning Wood entertained to kick off the day, and look for them often in upcoming concert weekends!
Long Shot in their own Rotaryfest debut, and the first time that I've ever seen them live, so what'd they bring to the table? A varied set of covers that took them from bands like The Darkness, Queen, and Free to The Mamas & The Papas, Simon & Garfunkel, and Roy Orbison, so they definitely have their talents set across numerous genres! Talented group though, especially when you consider that these guys largely weren't well known from past major local bands! Nathan Muto's an excellent guitarist, Evan Dawe's melodic singing fit well on most songs, though occasionally couldn't handle parts out of his vocal range, and his brother Adam's bass work and Jeremy Ganuelas' drumming were solid compliments as well (and I liked Nathan and Adam's synchronized jumping!) The song selection works well to entertain a wide audience, but they definitely bring a modern edge to things and can get heavy if called for, and they're definitely on their way in the local scene!
Paul Dellavedova in his solo act's Stage 1 debut, so how'd he sound? Joined by his brother Rick (a.k.a. former Amethyst frontman Rick Widow) on drums, and Redundant/Elements bassist James White (nice to see him back on stage!), their set started with a trifecta of Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble covers before transitioning to assorted artists, including Eric Clapton and a lead vocal turn by Rick on their cover of "I Thank You". If you love the blues, Paul and company definitely had a firm handle on it, with his lead vocals and guitar ability more than up to the task, and he has a good chemistry with James and Rick to boot! Some songs weren't as familiar to be as others, and at times, some covers sounded like they needed a backing guitar to fill it out, but Paul has a lot of talent in the blues, and hopefully he keeps this up in the coming months and beyond!
The last band that I saw on Saturday was local hard rock quartet Beaumont Avenue in their announced last concert, albeit first with drummer Ben Boudreau in over 6 months, so did the guys end things with a bang? I'd say so! Though their last show was sadly covers-only, the former Suicide Kings rocked dependably on covers of the likes of Guns N' Roses, Collective Soul, and Blink-182 during the first half of their set, though if there were any surprises (or public acknowledgements of their impending breakup), they came after I left to catch the last half of Stereo North's Stage 2 set. I still don't know why Beaumont Avenue are calling it quits, but the guys looked happy to be back on stage, and their musical quality hadn't diminished given the finality, with Mike Gaetano's melodic vocals flowing nicely with their renditions, and Steven Flint's guitar work wasn't fatigued at all during his second set in the humidity! Beaumont Avenue left us with a solid set to go out on, and best of luck to Mike, Steven, Mitch, and Ben in the future!
Overall, the bands that I saw on Stage 1 were solid, talented, and a nice variance from the norm on the all-cover stage (of Saturday's first 6 bands, only Beaumont Avenue and Domina had played the festival before), so fans craving something different may have liked that! The heat was a little much, but the waterfront breeze and incorrect rain forecast helped a bit, and I do admit that I love winter way more than summer. If you're looking for extra coverage of the Stage 1 bands, including of Thursday, Friday, and late Saturday acts, many local news sites will have you covered, and we'll touch on them in the coming days as well, so stay tuned if you're not on SooToday, Sault Online, and so forth before then! Our photos from the main stage can be seen at this link or at our official Facebook page (note the smaller total, as I was spreading things out between stages), and I apologize for not getting closer, but I didn't want to be "that guy" in everyone's road.
As for our videos, here's Mourning Wood (with Mark Tarantini & Scott Infanti) covering Darius Rucker's "Wagon Wheel", Long Shot covering The Foo Fighters' "Everlong", Paul Dellavedova & friends covering Jimi Hendrix's "Voodoo Child (Slight Return)", and Beaumont Avenue covering Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive"!
That's all for now, but stay tuned for our Second Stage review later today! Thanks everyone!