Monday, November 21, 2016

Toystock 2016 Concert Review!!

It's now time for our review of yesterday's fifth annual Toystock fundraiser concert, and as a result, our third Toystock review, having missed 2013's & last year's due to family obligations. This meant that this was the first Toystock I have attended since the event moved from The Canadian Nightclub to The Grand Gardens North (formerly The Riuniti Hall) on Great Northern Road, and while I have been to this venue for prior events, this was my first look at it as a concert location. The ballroom on the right (upon entrance) hosted Toystock, with loads of Christmas-accented tables scattered around, as well as seating for Santa & Mrs. Claus, a children's play area, and a huge table for Christmas Cheer donations. It's safe to say that the Stuff-A-Bus was sufficiently stuffed at night's end, while over $600 was raised in cash donations during the day's festivities, which MC Greg Long (of GT Waste Systems) matched, which was a nice gesture! Nice layout overall, though it did feel a little too formal at times compared to The Canadian... perhaps that's intentional!

The day's first performers were two music students from Case's Music (replacing unidentified Bocturoc Academy students), though their names were not publically announced when I was there. If you can help credit them, let us know! Compared to prior Toystock sets by the late Mike Case's Junior All-Star Bands, this was just a duo performing pop covers, with the likes of Charlie Puth, Vance Joy, and Ingrid Michaelson among their covered artists. The singer has a good voice for the chosen genres, and the cajon player complimented her well throughout, but the girls do need to work on their stage presences, particularly between songs when introducing what's coming next. Not bad at all, and a nice and calm way to ease into the day's festivities, and hopefully the girls keep at it!

Presumably due to scheduling conflicts, The Band Camp Rejects swapped places with acoustic rock duo Guitars & Tequila (or Tequila & Guitars, both are used), placing the That's Chester side project in the second slot for the day. Already replacing singer/guitarist Greg Simpson's withdrawn band The Rude-Offs, he and bandmate Gabe Tessaro delivered a fun set of largely classic rock covers, including The Guess Who, Dr. Hook, and three Kiss songs (including a country arrangement of "Rock & Roll All Nite"), and they even found time to throw in Mike Posner(?!) If you're familiar with Greg & Gabe's work in That's Chester, you'll know their chemistry well by now, but we did get to see Gabe sing on a few tracks, while Greg even played the cajon himself, in what has to be the first time I've seen two bands play that instrument in the same show. Though not as heavy as That's Chester in genre or song choice, Guitars & Tequila have a good thing going, and have a little something for everyone to enjoy!

Third were punk trio Redundant in an increasingly rare live appearance (this has to be the first time I've seen them live in over a year), but they were on point with a fun mix of covers and originals! Justin and the White brothers tackled covers of the likes of Rise Against, Operation Ivy, and The Vaselines with originals "That December" and "What You'll Do", and they haven't lost a step from their recent gaps between shows,! Justin Langlois still has that punk attitude and presence, and it was great to see drummer Rick White back out there to, his drumming was solid and consistent! Redundant also gave us the day's first guest appearance, as NameUs singer/guitarist Travis Sharpe (recently of The 3 Day Millionaires) left his post at the sound table to sing Weezer's "Pork & Beans" with the guys, and that was a fun moment, hopefully we see more of him on stage soon! Redundant delivered a solid set, and hopefully they start playing live more frequently again!

The fourth band was supposed to be the debuting rock band Shyte (fronted by ex-Griphook singer Jim O'Leary), but they quietly dropped out of the event. A reason for their withdrawal wasn't publically announced, but it looks like it was a late notice move, as they were listed on the program at the event, just crossed out with a pen. Hopefully nothing bad happened, as I curious to hear Shyte and find out more about them, but fingers crossed that they turn up on stage soon!

With Shyte's exit, they were replaced by veteran blues rock trio Mojo, making their second straight Toystock appearance as a result! They were an obvious choice to fill in, given that they're essentially Bone Yard, only sans Greg Simpson, and playing blues instead of country. Whichever of the two styles you prefer, these three play it! Mojo covered a range of familiar songs yesterday, including acts like ZZ Top, Santana, and Stevie Ray Vaughn & Double Trouble, and they handled them well, with guitarist Alex D'Ettore largely providing a good deep drawl for vocals on them! I will say that "Simple Man" did not suit his range, but more often than not, he hit the right notes. Ric Datson was great on drums as usual, and Brad Stephen's bass was solid and helped the rhythm nicely too! Mojo also got into the guest performer range by inviting saxophonist Josh Norling up for a Marshall Tucker Band cover to close their set, just before he was to take the stage himself. Don't miss Mojo's weekly gigs at Reggie's West for more of their blues rock favourites!

Funk/hard rock favourites The Elements were up next, with the aforementioned Josh Norling and recent drummer Jonas Gasperas along for the ride as well! For the record, I would not be surprised if Jonas and Josh have been named permanent band members at this point, but their Facebook page has not yet confirmed anything if they have joined. Along with Pearl Jam & Primus covers, The Elements performed a few originals, like "G20", "The Rut", and their newest track "I Need A Friend" to a good response, with frontman Rob Speers even entering the crowd at one point to mingle mid-song! I just saw The Elements three weeks ago, so aside from the new song, not a lot has changed beyond the Santa hats, but I will say that their set seemed somewhat abbreviated, perhaps due to the event's stricter time constraints. Jesse Cook was in usual form on guitar, and James White picked up where he left off with Redundant, so existing fans will have been right at home, and hopefully The Elements picked up some new fans!

Newer local hard rock cover quartet The Band Camp Rejects hit the stage next for their delayed first Toystock set, and they delivered a fan friendly set of familiar favourites! Their set was similar but evolved from the Rednecks Saloon relaunch party earlier this year, featuring covers of everyone from The Tragically Hip and The Northern Pikes to John Mellencamp and Chris Stapleton, and I do like that they cover some Canadian rock acts that you don't see other bands do as often! Everyone sounded fine musically, with drummer Steven Flint's vocals matching on most tracks, and Mike Muto & Movember-participating Jamie July handling guitar well, but The Band Camp Rejects' big issue is still connecting with the crowd. Few songs were announced until the set's second half, and when Steven did talk to the crowd, I could barely hear a word he said. However, they got the best dance floors of the night, and they have a solid sound, so hopefully we hear more fsoon!

Alternative/hard rock trio The Din were up next for what was technically the night's only all-original set, with an unannounced new song preceding the tracks from their debut CD "Give In To The Din" in order, but as some of those songs were previously by frontman Mike Haggith solo or the band Haggith, there was still some prior-band familiarity! Playing their third concert set in a little over 24 hours, The Din largely let their music do the talking last night, and it talked very well, with Mike's bass and Tammy's guitar work both as reliable as ever, and drummer Brandan Glew held up his end of the bargain! I will say that The Grand Gardens' stage might be too big for The Din's stage setup (they should have got a little closer together to compensate), but their live renditions of "Give In To The Din" tracks are definitely close to the album and will entertain existing fans without fail, and their new merchandise trunk is nicely made! Don't miss The Din this weekend at The Rockstar Bar!

Newer classic/hard rock cover quartet The 3 Day Millionaires were next, in the day's last band that I had yet to see live, and they had a solid sound that had some heavy tracks and some more danceable ones, so everyone got a little something! Balancing Alice In Chains and Thin Lizzy (the latter with drummer Scott McLurg on vocals) with Corey Hart & Chris Isaak, plus bookending Beatles tracks, The 3 Day Millionaires have a good chemistry and crowd engagement level, with Steve Dowding acclimating well to harder edged songs, Bill Brouillard a nice new fit on rhythm guitar, and Jeremey Salatuk nailing some nice guitar solos! It was also a nice moment to see Steve call his daughter Britney up to the stage to help on vocals for their rendition of Temple of the Dog's "Hunger Strike", and it definitely fit in with such a family friendly event as Toystock! The 3 Day Millionaires are well on their way, and definitely check them out in their upcoming solo concerts!

Co-headlining last night was 1960s-themed classic rock quartet The Peace Vibe, who I have seen live before, but never for SMS purposes. Before their set, drummer Glen Thomas gave away the event's drum kit (that he refurbished) to a kid named Myles that was one of Toystock's most lively and exuberant young attendees, which was a great gesture on his part! Of course, two more bands needed to play on it first, and The Peace Vibe covered a range of artists like Jimi Hendrix, The Bee Gees, and Jefferson Airplane on their 1960s nostalgia voyage, garnering a solid reception! Dressed to the nines in psychedlic tie-dye (save for guitarist Tony Kajnar, who looked more like Bun E. Carlos from Cheap Trick), The Peace Vibe's sound is full of 1960s rock standards that definitely included familiar, fan favourite numbers, with Tony's guitar riffs meshing well with Marty Siltanen's bass work, and Dave Chartrand's vocals were a good fit throughout their set! If you love the sounds of the '60s, don't bypass The Peace Vibe!

And finally, your headliners for a third straight year were 4-time Toystock veterans Bone Yard (a.k.a. Mojo + Greg Simpson covering country), and while the crowd numbers were dwindling and the Christmas accoutrements were coming down mid-set, Bone Yard delivered a fun set of recent country favourites for remaining fans! Songs by Eric Church, Gary Allan, and Brantley Gilbert were among their set, even throwing in The Eagles for good measure, and Greg handled his role as a country singer as well as you'd expect, having  firm command of the stage! As someone who admittedly doesn't like country, I prefer Mojo for their playlist, but Bone Yard are right in the same ballpark, and his chemistry with the guys (especially That's Chester bandmate Ric Datson) is undeniable. I couldn't stay for Bone Yard's whole set, but they were a very fitting and familiar choice to cap off Toystock 2016, and don't miss then on their next live concerts!

Overall, Toystock V was a very entertaining day of music and Christmas goodwill, and kudos to Greg Simpson and Choose Maxx (Entertainment) for all of his pro-bono work to put this event on and donate to a worthy cause! No personal luck in the draws and contests, but my step-dad did win the motorcycle helmet at night's end, so congratulations to him! For reference sake, beatboxer Robert "Killabeatz" Drolet did not return for a guest set in between bands, as he did the past two years.

I'm sure year #6 will be even bigger and better, but for now, you can check out our photos from Toystock at this link or via our Facebook page! Apologies for the quality, I didn't want to be "that guy" getting in the road on the dance floor, so I kept myself away from there so people could enjoy themselves. As for our videos, here's (in chronological order) a cover song from each act, including the two Case's Music students covering Shawn Mendes' "Air", Tequila & Guitars covering Creedence Clearwater Revival's "Who Will Stop The Rain", Redundant covering Green Day's "Blood, Sex, and Booze", Mojo covering Nazareth's "Turn On Your Reciever", The Elements covering Sublime's "Don't Push", The Band Camp Rejects covering Kim Mitchell's "Patio Lanterns", The Din covering Haggith's "75", The 3 Day Millionaires covering Candlebox's "Far Behind", The Peace Vibe covering The Association's "Along Comes Mary", and Bone Yard covering Jason McCoy's "I Feel A Sin Comin' On"!

That's all for today, but stay tuned for more news and notes this week! Thanks everyone!

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