Sunday, December 31, 2017

2017: A Look Back In The Year Of Local Metal, Hard Rock, And Punk

For our final post of the year, I'm once again looking back at the events, shows, bands, and news stories of 2017 in the local metal, hard rock, and punk scene, which is always a fun post to research and reminisce on, so here's what you should know from January 1st until December 31st in another busy and entertaining year for the SMS!

As will be the case in 2018, last year got an early boost when Pop Evil returned to The Dreammaker's Theater at the Sault Michigan Kewadin Casino on February 25th, with openers Badflower & Kaleido also along for the trip, while Alter Bridge & In Flames joined forces to rock the same venue on May 16th! Kewadin Casino spread the love to their St. Ignace branch for a rare outdoor concert there from Lita Ford and Jack Russell's Great White on June 24th during their summer concert series. Sault Ontario wasn't left out in the cold, with The Tea Party returning to headline a free Roberta Bondar Pavilion show on July 16th during the ONTour concert series alongside a varied openers lineup, while Dokken, Firehouse, and Love 'N Revenge brought their tour to The Essar Centre on September 30th. The year ended with a bang at The Dreammaker's Theatre, thanks to the returns of Bret Michaels on November 25th and Theory of a Deadman (with openers Infathom) just yesterday. Hopefully 2018 brings us more high profile concerts like these!

Outside of these major venues, Sault Ontario got plenty of high profile concerts this year for metal, hard rock, and punk fans alike! In 2017, such notable touring bands as Adam's Mind, CKY, Darsombra, Destroyer, Diamond Head, The Gutter Demons, K-Man & The 45s, The Raygun Cowboys, The Ripcordz, Speaker, Special Ops, Vaultry, Who Made Who, The Wild, and Zaum all rocked a regional stage, among many other acts. This year saw many notable concert events of varying sizes and scopes, like the second annual Guy Thiffault Memorial Concert, Fishbowl Festival, and Sky's the Limit mental health fundraiser concerts, Live705's increased slate of multi-band events, the debut of the Oh!No 2017 Music Festival in Leeburn, the NLFB Meltdown audition/battle of the bands (won by M.D. Dunn), and familiar ongoing annual events like Rotaryfest, Toystock, The Northern Vibe Festival, and J.D. Pearce's Halloween Party (expanded to 2 nights this year!) Look for more shows like these in the new year!

There was a fair amount of activity in Sault Michigan and the Eastern U.P. to go around as well in 2017 for concert fans! Out of town cover favourites like Peril, Scarkazm, and Nudge.-successors Spun came back here for multiple shows throughout the year, while Ontario-based Bon Jovi tribute Keep the Faith played surprise shows at Bay Mills Resort & Casino, and local favourites like 415E, Banned, Highway 63, and Project 906 kept up their busy schedules at varying levels too! In scope, the biggest attractions may have been the Theatre of Night Christmas tour stops at The Soo Theatre and in Pickford earlier this month, giving a rare live platform to this classical metal project, while The Rudyard Musicians Festival and Sugar Island Music Festivals both returned for another year, and Bay Mills Bands Together resurfaced for two more benefit concerts in Brimley this year, the latter set at a softball tournament. Fingers crossed that 2018's even bigger for the E.U.P. scene!

The year saw many big general news stories not directly related to local concerts, such as out of town tour runs mounted by such familiar local acts as A Dire Setback, AlgomA, Jack Spades, The Elements, Shit Liver, and Theatre of Night, while bands like Bizotic, The Din, Soundcheck, and Treble Charger also hit the road for out of town gigs of their own. This year did have it's share of unfortunate stories, such as the passings of Terry Becker, Steve Pevarnic, and Jason Michaud, the closures of HMV & VM Radio, and the end of Paperclip Productions and Werehold Records' Friday the 13th events. Other sub-optimal stories this year included the Quiet Riot and Rock The Border Music Festival situations, fires at Reggie's Place and The Soo Theatre, no bands at The Soo Zombie Walk, April Wine dropping out of the Lita Ford show in St. Ignace, Mikes Haggith & Mikus moving out of town, and the cancellation of The Rad Zone Battle of the Bands.

However, there were good stories to come along in 2017! Music retail-wise, we saw the Station Mall launches of Sunrise Records and Spencer's Gifts, The Rad Zone opening their second branch at Vintage Games 'N Junque, and Grooves Music relaunching under new ownership as Crooked Music. In terms of bands, we did get to witness Nameus becoming Soundcheck, "Woods V" being reissued on vinyl, Jack Spades striking a sponsorship deal with Northern Superior Breweries, and The Din being featured in the new independent movie Ashes of K, among other good and bad stories this year!

2017 gave us a handful of newly released local metal and hard rock albums, with local doom metal trio AlgomA's two split releases on old formats getting the most attention on a wider scale, including their vinyl single split with Finnish doom/death metal veterans Hooded Menace from January, and then "Trading Faces", their covers-centric cassette tape EP with local/St. Catharine's grindcore trio Shit Liver that came out in September. The latter received a local release concert at The New A, an honour matched by The Din, who put out their second and final studio album "Suburban Dream" to a rousing response at their farewell concert at LopLops in October! Also this year: The Apocalypse Afterparty finally gave their debut EP "Bufflesnort" a soft release, SweetKenny put out four new studio albums for score purposes, Abhorrent Forest released their EPs "The End of Life" & "Ethereal", and special mention to Mike Mikus' debut solo album, which does feature some unreleased Pixo Control holdovers. Hopefully 2018 sees even more big album releases from many talented local acts!

This year wasn't as packed for high profile new metal, hard rock, and punk bands compared to 2016, but there were many familiar faces making some new waves around the Sault area! One of the biggest was new local genre-less but alternative/punk sounding trio Handsome Sandwich, who have been a fan favourite sight at various shows throughout the year, while new indie/hard rock trio Vol. have gotten off to a quick start since launching over the summer. Other notable debuting bands on the local stage this year included Apocalypse Afterparty sister band The Noochin' Lanterns, Cherry Crush's Foo Fighters tribute side project The Soo Fighters (get it?), veteran punk supergroup The HTs, The Elements' acoustic side project Kariokeheads Unplugged, and resurgent hard rock solo artist Mike McCleary. Add in new black metal studio solo act Abhorrent Forest, and there were some big new acts to take in over the past 12 months!

Something that 2017 gave us a lot of was lineup changes, departures, and additions in local bands, and none arguably had more upheaval than Jack Spades, who started their year by replacing every instrumental band member, then replacing new bassist Steve Shaw with Rob Speers, and then welcoming Tiffany Stocco and Johnny Belanger back after a year away! Speaking of which, Tiffany's other band Stegadeth welcomed Johnny on drums too after the departure of Daniel MacDonald. Theatre of Night also bolstered their (live?) lineup by jumping from a 2 man studio project to a 6 (briefly 7) person band featuring local and Western Michigan performers alike, just in time for their Christmas tour. Also this year: Chris Nielsen took over on vocals for Larry Babic in A Dire Setback, Josh Amendola & a returning Ryan Sherman joined Jesse and Jonas in Winkstinger, Brenton Ellis returned as Destroilet's second singer, Travis St. Amour replaced Kevin Overton in Bizotic, and Yannick Casavant joined Redundant, among other personnel switches since January!

Unfortunately, we said goodbye to a number of notable bands this year, and/or saw them fall into long-term inactivity, with The Din getting the highest profile send-off prior to Mike's move west via October's farewell/CD release concert at LopLops. Their friends in post-punk quartet Gnaeus previously announced their surprising breakup in the spring, while classic/hard rock cover quartet Mourning Wood merged operations with Soundcheck not long after, and classic metal veterans Project 421 disbanded themselves in the fall. Notable acts like Dullahan, Dustin Jones & The Rising Tide, Gianni Gagoots, Heavy Head, Sykotyk Rampage, Tantrym Tyme, and Curtis McKenzie's solo project were moved out of our active band links this year, while The Band Camp Rejects would be nearing the same boat if they had an online page, As It Stands' cancelled comeback at the CKY show may have been it for their 2017 reunion, and 415E remain on hiatus since their last shows in the summer. Hopefully we see some of these bands back at it down the road!

As always, we'll finish our year-in-review post with notes on big comebacks and returns in the local scenes this year, and we had a large amount of those in 2017! Of course, the Guy Thiffault Memorial Concert last week provided lots of returns for it's second year, including one-off reunions of both Bankshot and Nebraska Arms, plus the return of Talk Shit after a year's hiatus, so punk fans got some nice late Christmas gifts there! This summer saw Treble Charger return after 2 years off for an intimate headlining show at LopLops and a Brantford festival, while Skeyes of Seven resurfaced after a similar stage layoff with their expanded five-piece lineup, and Shit Liver played their first local show in a year & a half during the "Trading Faces" release party. Also this year: Eclipse reunited after a tumultuous breakup last fall, The Billy Bastards came back for a stag & doe, Lucky 13 returned for the Taryn Bugyra benefit concert, and bands like The Bear Hunters, Jack Spades, Northwest, Them, Twistory, and Winkstinger came back from 6 month+ stage hiatuses. Here's to many more comebacks and reunions in 2018!

2017 was an eventful year as usual, if not quite as busy overall compared to 2016, but lots of positive things happened, and I can only hope that 2018 is even better! And yes, this year did mark our 10th anniversary back on July 4th, but I wanted to keep this post focused around the bands and shows, not myself. Still, thanks again for all of the positive words then, and not from an unfortunate private conversation later in the month! That's the last I have to say on the matter. Here's to a great 2018 ahead, and stay tuned for our post previewing the year at large tomorrow! Thanks everyone!

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