Thursday, December 31, 2015

2015: A Look Back In The Year Of Local Metal, Hard Rock, And Punk

As has become an annual tradition at the SMS, here's our retrospective post on the past year, as 2015 had a lot of huge moments, good and bad, to reflect on from local metal, hard rock, and punk bands, concerts, and albums! I hope I touched on every major event this year, but it's a tall order to sum everything up like this, so read on below to look back on what happened in the local scenes during the year that was!

We'll start with the latest major concerts at The Dreammaker's Theater at the Sault Michigan Kewadin Casino, which was largely quiet on the hard rock side of things during the second half of the year, but had lots going on earlier in the year! On April 3rd, Superior Entertainment jumped into the concert promotion game by bringing hard rock notables Saving Abel back to the Soo alongside Saginaw's Redburn and local country singer Missy Zenker, while the returning Allstar Promotions ended a lengthy hiatus this spring, including via the Europe/Black Star Riders concert there on April 23rd, the only major 1980s-era metal show of the year in Sault Michigan. June 21st brought us touring Rush tribute band Lotus Land, while July saw two huge shows in just a week, including the massive show featuring P.O.D., Hoobastank, Fuel, Lights Out Paris, Redburn, and the reunited I.S.O.M. on July 3rd, while July 10th gave us the return of Canada's own Theory of a Deadman with openers Shaman's Harvest and locals Ten Kings. There was lots to be excited about earlier this year, and here's to much more in 2016!

We saw many more huge concerts in 2015, and in Sault Ontario alone, we welcomed notable out of town bands like Aggressive Acoustic, Anvil, Benighted, Biipiigwan, Caym, Diemonds, Evilheart, Exes For Eyes, Fuck The Facts, Gatgas, The Golers, K'Man & The 45s, One Bad Son, The Ripcordz, and SNFU to town for concerts this year, among many others. Among other big concerts this year: Treble Charger came home to headline at The Machine Shop in February, while That's Chester provided the house music for the live stage production of The Who's Tommy there in November. We also saw two battles of the bands in March of this year at The Speak Easy & Canadian Nightclub, with post-punk quartet Gnaeus winning both to continue their local ascent! Also this year: J.D. Pearce hosted the Gonqshow summer concert series, yearly events like Toystock, Lopstock, Rotaryfest, and the Swampstravaganza returned, The Emergency Festival moved to Rocky DiPietro Field, and The Northern Vibe Festival neatly filled Hempfest's shoes in Ophir, among other big concerts of the past year!

Outside of the Kewadin Casino umbrella, the Sault Michigan/Eastern Upper Peninsula area had a light but eventful year that saw it's peak with the first annual Superior Festival at The Savoy Bar & Nightclub on August 21st, which attracted a big crowd (despite date & venue shuffling) to see Saving Abel & Lights Out Paris once again, alongside a handful of notable openers, including two bands from Sault Ontario! We lost LemmaFest after a 4 year run, but The Sugar Island Festival also kept the concert schedule rolling, as did a number of local dates by out of town favourites like Nudge, Peril, Scarkazm, and Paul Burns' new Wisconsin-based project Dystraction. Numerous local bands also made their mark this year, including classic/hard rock notables Banned & Highway 63, the fast rising 415E & Tantrym Tyme, hard charging veterans Power Slug, and the now-defunct Ten Kings, and not to mention, I.S.O.M.'s reunion in July. There's a lot of promise across the border, and here's to an even bigger year ahead!

This past year was very eventful overall for the local metal, hard rock, and punk scenes, and bands like AlgomA, The Pixo Control, and Shit Liver spread the wealth by commencing their first formal tours, while bands like Dustin Jones & The Rising Tide, The Elements, Jack Spades, and even Rotopsy hit the road in their own right! Much of the summer was notably consumed by the fight to save (or end) the Sault Downtown Association, which caused summer concerts to be cancelled or relocated, and it remains to be seen how things will look next year. Also this year: the Twin City Sound & second Speak Easy Battles of the Bands were postponed, Music Depot closed it's doors, and Brian Davie left Rock 101, while Local2 debuted the Bare webseries, Six Two Oh debuted punk rock bingo, The Canadian Nightclub brought live weekend cover bands back (if briefly), the Club Princess restoration continued, fans rallied to support Havadder drummer Scott McLurg & his family after a sudden heart attack, and Northwest made a deep run in CBC's Searchlight competition, among other big news events in the past twelve months!

Unfortunately, 2015 saw a number of deaths of people who were influential in the local hard rock scene, with arguably the widest reaching being that of Mike Case, the late Case's Music founder, influential music instructor, and country musician who passed away after a lengthy cancer battle in April, followed by former Foggy Notions co-owner & bartender Patrick Casey just a week later. The following month, we lost former Half Past frontman Luke LeBlanc at just 42 years of age, while fans and friends mourned the loss of former Chronic Demonic singer & Shadowthrone guitarist Sabrina Pelchat in October, with a tribute concert held in her name last month. And finally, we suddenly lost That's Chester/Agave Blue guitarist Eugene Orlando last month at just 56 years old, and just weeks removed from his involvement in the live production of The Who's Tommy. It was definitely sad to lose so many familiar faces this year, but hopefully everyone can remember the good times and great memories that they gave us!

2015 yielded a number of high profile album releases from local bands as well, with none at a higher scope than the anticipated three-way CD "Fed Up! A Canadian Punk Rock Split" from Montreal's The Ripcordz and local punk/metal standouts Destroilet & Jack Spades! We also saw alternative hard rock trio The Pixo Control release their "Probably Not" CD this month, while the now defunct Haggith released their final albums "Apocalypse II" & "XIV" earlier this year as well, and drummer Mike Haggith put out his newest solo album "The Warinside" in July. Also, Dafter, Michigan's SweetKenny put out numerous new solo albums, Sault Michigan's I.S.O.M. distributed a new disc at their return show, Bad Back released their full length "ALbums", RedD Monkey posthumously released their last album "Opus 2: Untitled", Telephone & Address put out the experimental "Rust Orchid", and Blood Shed Productions sold a number of new demos & digital releases, including an 11-way split CD! Busy year to be sure, and here's to even more in 2016!

While this year was lighter than we have previously seen for new and debuting bands, we did get a solid rookie crop for 2015, with two of the most prominent being pop punk quartet Stereo North and glam/power pop trio Caroline Divine, who've fast carved their own names locally with their own high energy sounds! We also got the now-defunct Ten Kings for an adrenaline dose in the Sault Michigan scene, while 2015 also gave us the Project 421 side project outfit Eclipse, two man alternative duo Infinity Grinder, Habitat Shuffle successors Id Iota (who debuted along with Caroline Divine at the same show in June), young classic/punk trio Leaked, and Steve Mozarowski's new project Faceityoureametalband, who all have a good deal to offer! Also this year: Dullahan brought minimalist black metal to the Soo, Toystock one-off The Rude-Offs reemerged as Killer, and punk duo The Red & Black finally debuted in June. Here's to lasting success in 2016 & beyond!

And as usual, you can expect that a number of bands saw lineup additions, changes, and departures in the last 12 months, with The Apocalypse Afterparty notably shifting from a two man rap/rock band to a half-female quartet with two bassists and an MPC player in short order (and drummer X left afterwards too!) Also this year: The Pixo Control swapped Steve Edwards & Matthew Thibert with Dustin Goodall & the returning Keeghan Rosso, Project 421 brought back singer Curtis McKenzie & replaced drummer Larry Mousseau with Chris Thompson, and Mourning Wood said goodbye to TJ Case & hello to Paul Belair & Glen Thomas for their new four-piece lineup. 2015 also saw Haggith enlist ex-bassist Caleb Cachagee to replace Daniel Horton on guitar, Mike Haggith & The Din replace guitarist Curtis McKenzie with Tammy Hill, Skeyes of Seven replace Jonny Amendola with John Mignacca, Destroilet split with co-singer Brenton Ellis, and Sault Michigan's Tantrym Tyme welcome Michael McLeod on guitar, among other notable lineup changes of 2015!

And yes, we did say goodbye to a number of notable bands this year, including the aforementioned Haggith (for the second & presumed final time), hard rock quartet Beaumont Avenue (formerly The Suicide Kings), and all-female hard rockers The Danger Cats, who all played their final shows in mid-2015, to their fans' dismay. Also this year, we lost Sault Michigan guitarist Joe Jenkins' most recent hard rock cover bands (Exiled & Ten Kings), while Sault Ontario doom/punk trio The Revolution disbanded twice in a few months' time. As well, a number of notable bands have fallen inactive for a lengthy period to end 2015, despite not announcing a breakup or hiatus, including bands like Giwakwa, The Highest of Fives, Id Iota, The Northern Tragedy, The Red & Black, The Strange Coyotes, This Is Your Band On Drugs, and The Thrill Junkies, among others, while the future of That's Chester is also in limbo following Eugene Orlando's passing. Hopefully we see these bands back together or in new projects in the months to come!

However, where we lost some bands, we also welcomed some back to prominence in 2015, with fan favourite extreme metal bands Pillory & Winkstinger both reuniting after prior breakups this fall, and hopefully we see both back on stage in the new year! The same can be said for a pair of bands from Sault Michigan metal musicians Bob Helsten & Art Dietz, who brought back their early 2000s Sault Michigan acoustic band The Creepy Little Coffee People and late 2000s metal band Integrated System of Machines this year to a positive reception. A handful of notable bands ended lengthy hiatuses from the concert stage in 2015 as well, with Treble Charger, Garden of Bedlam, The Billy Bastards, and Skeyes of Seven returning to the local stage for the first time in over a year each, and hopefully there's more in the works! As well: Rotaryfest's Second Stage returned after a year's hiatus at a new home, RedD Monkey held a one-off reunion in Toronto in February, and former Rosie metal night promoters Dismembertainment were revived in Alberta, all among other returns & comebacks this year!

2015 was an eventful year in the local metal, hard rock, and punk scenes, with a lot of big and exciting concerts & moments, and I sincerely hope 2016 is even bigger & better, so join us in the coming year, and I hope you guys liked this look back at the year that was! Stay tuned for our 2016 preview post and much more in short order! Thanks everyone!

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