Monday, July 20, 2015

Rotaryfest 2015 Review (Stage 2!!)

At last, here's our review of Saturday's Rotaryfest Second Stage action, but be sure to check out our Stage 1 review in this morning's post below! As you may remember, the original-focused Stage 2 ("Redirected") made it's return on Saturday after a year's hiatus with many changes, including a relocation from Queen Street East to Clergue Park beside The Art Gallery of Algoma (at least partly due to the Downtown Association fight), with the stage set up to the left of the gallery, and bands facing the waterfront. Unique visuals had the bands playing within view of trees, the gallery, and Rotaryfest vendors, so there was a lot to take in that way! Myself, I do wonder how the stage would have looked if the bands played with the waterfront as the backdrop instead, but the setup was nice, and organizers picked a spot with huge shady trees to help relieve the heat & humidity a bit! Rather than the chairs of Second Stages past, seating was primarily picnic tables, but much like Stage 1, no one got on the floor to take in the bands, so it was hard to get photos without being "that guy" that's in the way of everyone else.

Attendance was good but uneven, with many concertgoers coming & going, and the bands got a good reception overall! No word on if this will be a one year change due to the S.D.A. debate, or if Stage 2 is now in Clergue Park for good, but the new setup worked (complete with a Tidal Records merchandise tent), and there was no competing audio-bleed from Stage 1 either! Also, the Stage 2 MC was named Mike Sacchetta (I think), and he handled the role well, albeit while admitting that he struggled with some performer names.

As I was at the main stage for the first chunk of the day, I do apologize to Aldous, The Wild Iris, and The Boot Hill Crooners for missing your sets, but I know you all knocked it out of the park! After catching the first half of Beaumont Avenue's farewell set, I headed to the Second Stage to check out new local punk quartet Stereo North in the middle of (fittingly) Jimmy Eat World's "The Middle", which they followed with covers of the likes of The Foo Fighters, Our Lady Peace, and The Rolling Stones, plus originals like "Heart Collider". Very covers-heavy for Stage 2, but Stereo North hinted that they are planning their debut album during the set, and we'll have to see where that leads! Frontman Andrew Pucci was solid throughout, Matthew Anich was excellent on lead guitar, and Bill Bennett had the requisite stage presence while on bass, and fans seemed to respond in kind! Some of the cover choices are a little unexpected, but Stereo North are on their way, and even Smokey The Bear's a fan! You had to have been there.

Following their set was the last of three mini-sets by DJ Seith and rapper Conika, marking the first time that I've seen their collaborative work (I've seen both solo before.) I can't speak for the first two sets' structure and material, but during this last 10 minute stretch, Seith played the first half solo with his usual turntable mixes, before being joined by Conika for an original song named "Trying To Make A Name", and unlike the bands, they performed on ground level right in front of the stage. I didn't get a huge glimpse at DJ Seith or Conika to really give a representative opinion of their Second Stage performances, but the record mixes that we heard were fun and upbeat, and Conika has clear skill as a rapper, and compared to the last time I saw her, has more of a stage presence and look for the material! That said, I'd have to see them play more songs to accurately judge, but so far so good!

The next band was local glam rock/power pop trio Caroline Divine, and they put in a solid set of their own in their Stage 2 debut! Their mostly original set saw frontman Anthony Marcello be more chatty and engaging between sets, even introducing more songs than he did at Go Skateboarding Day (including songs named "Looks Kill", "Trouble In Paradise", and "Mr. West".) Musically, the guys were as strong as they were at that show, with their retro look and modern sensibility colliding well , with their songs and overall appearance still reminding me of what would happen if Dirty Virgin and Gnaeus were put into a blender. Anthony's gaining confidence as a frontman, Devin Williamson's a solid drummer of his own, and Brenden Fitzgerald's bass skill was present throughout! Caroline Divine are definitely on the rise, and hopefully we hear much more from them in the near future!

Co-headlining in their Rotaryfest debut on Saturday were local alternative/grunge trio The Pixo Control, in their last local concert before their upcoming Southern Ontario tour run, and they delivered a strong set of familiar originals for fans and Rotaryfest attendees! Along with teases of their upcoming debut album (titled "Probably Not"), the guys rocked out with familiar original songs like "Tall Ships", "Scratch", and "Growing Pains", plus late addition covers of "Twist N' Shout" and... the Juicy Fruit jingle?! Despite the humidity, Michael Mikus was once again a spark of energy during their set, with him and Steve Edwards contrasting well during their well received set, with The Pixo Control again effectively channeling the 1990s grunge era for a modern audience, and you know that their talents and stage presence will take them even further! Good luck on tour, guys!

And your headliners on Saturday were local post-punk/garage rock quartet Gnaeus, who became just the fifth local band to close a day's Second Stage lineup, so kudos to them on that level! Also confirming publically that they are indeed recording their debut album "Loomings" at present, they performed originals like "Circles", "Fire", and "Lovers" to close the Second Stage, with covers bookending everything, including an abbreviated Primus cover and their fan favourite rendition of The Cold War Kids' "Hang Me Out To Dry". Gnaeus ended the day's entertainment nicely with quality renditions of their existing originals, with Aaron Alessandri (with nice hat in tow) displaying his gritty vocals to good effect, and  Brad Irwin added effectively on guitar and synth! After the year's absence, the Second Stage chose well by having the VM Radio Battle winners as the headliners, and remaining fans definitely seemed to enjoy their hybrid of styles! Hopefully we hear much more from Gnaeus in the neat future!

Overall, the return of the Second Stage was a good time from what I saw, and while this is strictly a personal preference note, the transition from folk/roots & partially out-of-town bands to an all-local alternative rock base was a refreshing change of pace! Now, I wonder how close we are to seeing full metal bands there again? Whether the Second Stage is back on Queen Street next year, or if it remains in Clergue Park, it looks like things were successful for it's grand return, and here's to year #11 in 2016! Of course, we will cover Rotaryfest fallout from other local news sites from both stages in the coming days, but you can check out our photos from the event at this link or via our Facebook page. As for our videos, here's Stereo North playing their new original "Shot Caller", Conika rapping "Trying To Make A Name" with DJ Seith, Caroline Divine playing an original song (I didn't catch the name, will add when confirmed), The Pixo Control playing "Feather", and Gnaeus playing "An Exercise In Self-Awareness"!

That's all for today, but stay tuned for more Rotaryfest fallout and other recent newsd and notes in the coming days! Thanks everyone!

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