Sunday, September 24, 2023

LOCAL CONCERT ALERT (The Inner City Surfers) & Mike McCleary Updates!!

Two topic post on the SMS on this Sunday morning, but we're leading off with a huge LOCAL CONCERT ALERT for later this fall, and punk fans of the 2000s and beyond will absolutely want to mark this one on their calendars, so here's what you should know!

If you're a fan of veteran local punk musician Mikey Hawdon, then you may want to head to Soo Blaster on Friday, November 3rd, as multiple past/present bands of his will take the stage on this night! This concert is being put on as "a pre-wedding rock n' roll party" in the lead up to his upcoming marriage to his fiance Ali Rainone, and despite the seemingly personal trappings, it is 100% a concert that the public can buy tickets for, not a stag & doe intended for friends/family only. Your headliners on this night are local punk quartet The Inner City Surfers in a one-off reunion, marking their Soo Blaster debut, their first gig in over four years, and just their second concert set in the past decade. The Facebook event page somewhat worryingly says that this may be The Surfers' "last show for quite some time" (remember, Brad lives out of town), but whether this proves true or not, it'll be awesome to welcome these local punk legends back after way too long!

Their set is scheduled to take place at 12:00 AM, so strap yourselves in! Co-headlining this event are Toronto-based AC/DC tribute band AMY/DC, who Mikey himself is a guitarist in, and remains a band member despite his move back home (they just don't play live as often). AMY/DC proper have never played here, but you will recognize frontwoman Amy Zuccheto (a.k.a. Amy Gabba; more on her in a bit) from multiple local concerts in the 2010s, and from this Mikey & His Uke cover of "Shoot To Thrill". Should be fun to see AMY/DC in town, and a female-fronted AC/DC tribute band is definitely unique for the Soo! Before their 10:45 PM set, Mikey's current online page-less alternative/hard rock cover quartet Bookclub will take the stage for a set at 9:45 PM, and it will be interesting to hear how their generally more mainstream setlist goes over with the punk-leaning crowd on November 3rd!

The openers will be a one-off reunion of Mikey & Amy's old Toronto-based Ramones/Joan Jett tribute band The Merves, who were active from 2010-2015, playing local dates five times in that span. Note that this is not the same band as Mikey & Amy's later Ramones/Joan Jett tribute The Gabba Heys, who played here in 2018 (the two bands had different rhythm sections and social media pages). Regardless of name, it's been a minute since Mikey channeled his inner Joey Ramone on a local stage, so be there nice and early for this tribute action! Note that The Merves also featured Mikey's old Fairmounts bandmates, so if you miss that band, keep that angle in mind too. This 19+ concert has a 9:00 PM start time on November 3rd, and tickets will run for $25 in advance or $30 at the door. Advance tickets will be on sale at The Rad Zone, Case's Music, Long & McQuade, and Soo Blaster.

This will be an absolutely massive night for local punk fans, and the Surfers reunion alone would be reason enough for many to come to Soo Blaster, let alone Mikey playing four sets with different bands in one night! Given the Surfers' reputation from their 2000s heyday, who knows what will happen when Dustin, Dave, Brad, and Mikey take the stage, so do not miss this show when it comes around! Visit the above links for more details!

We'll close today with a different local guitarist named Mike, namely hard rock solo musician Mike McCleary, so what's new from his camp? On Thursday, he revealed on his Facebook page that he has decided to indefinitely focus on instrumental music rather than material with him on lead vocals, after realizing that "that's where my true passion is", and he has more freedom & creativity when he focuses on music over lyrics. Mike knows better than any of us what is most comfortable for him, I just hope that his pre-2023 back catalog isn't delisted forever, as he has (had?) good songs with vocals! Mike did also suggest that he'd be willing to do backup vocals in a live band when/if he joins one, though note that he hasn't been in a proper band yet due to anxiety about playing live (he stated this on Facebook in July). In terms of new media of him playing guitar, we do have a new video to check out, so what is there to see here?

Nothing, it's just a black screen, but the 52 seconds-long clip is from an instrumental song he's working on that is inspired by horror movies that he was watching. What we hear is promisingly heavy and has a good melodic base to it, plus some room to show off a bit of soloing, so fans of Mike's heavier material will enjoy the teaser below!

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

Friday, September 22, 2023

LOCAL CONCERT ALERTS (The Nameless Friends, The Apocalypse Afterparty, And Soundcheck), And Much More!!

Before we begin today's post, I wanted to apologize for missing "Wing Wednesday" acoustic concerts at Jay's Piston Broke Pub by Bone Yard frontman Greg Simpson (August 9th & 23rd) and Nostalgic Band frontman Tym Morrison (this past Wednesday) for coverage on the site. These shows often only get late notice coverage from the venue, so they have been easy to miss on my part, especially given the atypical mid-week scheduling. I'll try to keep a better eye out for them, but hopefully all three were hits! Now, here's some LOCAL CONCERT ALERTS (one on SHORT NOTICE) and a surprise metal solo project's return!

Local classic/hard rock cover quartet Soundcheck will return to Jay's Piston Broke Pub for a concert TONIGHT! Apologies for the short notice, this show was only announced late last night, and it truly did come together on short notice, as Jay's were openly looking for a late replacement musical act following The Nostalgic Band dropping out of their planned booking this weekend. Of course, Soundcheck just played their usual Thursday jam night last night, so they are very well known around these parts, but this show will have a twist. As you can see in the marquee image from the venue, Soundch(ec)k will have a guest, and while there hasn't been a public confirmation as to his identity, drummer Glen Thomas confirmed on his personal Facebook page that singer Darrel Ford will be filling in for Cameron Oliver, who is involved with a wedding this weekend and will be unavailable as a result.

While not in a Soundcheck video, you can see Darrel covering Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" at a Bone Yard-hosted jam night at this link, and he should do a good job as a fill-in, possibly adding a heavier edge for the night! Due to the aforementioned wedding (which singer/guitarist Terry Eaton is actually DJing tomorrow night), Soundcheck are only playing TONIGHT, so keep posted with Jay's if you're curious as to who the Saturday band may end up being. TONIGHT's concert has a 9:00 PM start time, 19+ age limit, and no cover charge. See above for more details, and here's Soundcheck live at a recent jam night!

Next up, London progressive/hard rock band The Nameless Friends will make their way to the Soo on Thursday, October 12th at Reggie's Place! An uncommon (but not unheard of) venue for touring bands, Reggie's will be getting quite an original band in three weeks, with band members only identified as "Number One", "Number Two", and so on, charged songs about left-wing social issues, and a unique keyboard-infused sound that calls to mind 1970s prog rock with a heavier modern sensibility and lots of influences. They're a band that's hard to pin down, and should turn many heads when they play here in support of their new album "Blasphemy" next month! Note that The Nameless Friends reportedly played at Reggie's back in July 2017 (source here) but I have no memory of that event. An eclectic local support roster includes alt-punk trio A Dire Setback (in their Reggie's debut) and pop rock cover quartet Lime.

No one is a pure compliment in musical styles here, and neither local band has publically confirmed their involvement in this show (the venue and headliners did those honours), but hopefully everything runs smoothly across the board for what should be a fun night! This 19+ concert has an earlier 7:00 PM start time and will have $15 admission at the door. Visit the above links for more details on this event!

Today's other new concert takes us to Soo Blaster on Saturday, November 18th for an all-local event headlined in a rare appearance by local party metal duo The Apocalypse Afterparty! In some ways, this is basically a pared down, 100% public sequel to a private house party event that they put on last month, but you don't see Paul & Amanda play public gigs at actual public venues too often (especially not as headliners), so expect fireworks from their own charged rap metal attack in two months! They will reportedly feature Vanity First/Hails guitarist Mikhal Muto as a second bassist for this show, as per his personal Facebook page, but I can't confirm if he has joined the band or if he's just a guest. Newer local metal trio The BAG and prolific local folk punk/extreme metal solo musician Chase Wigmore will open the proceedings, so metal and hard rock fans will definitely get pulled in many directions from these acts!

The public poster (from Chase's Facebook page) is cropped to square dimensions, but Mikhal's personal Facebook page has the full poster, confirming that admission will be $10 in advance (via an Eventbrite link to be launched) or $15 at the door, and this 7:00 PM show will be all ages. All-local, all-original events like this are rarer than they really should be, so keep this Saturday nighter in November in mind to see an eclectic range of local metal talent, and see above for more details!

Finally today, here's a pleasant surprise from Sault Michigan (well, a few hours away): Galactic Alignment are back! In case you need a refresher, this was the 2009-2014 progressive metal solo project from local guitarist Mike Libertoski, who local fans may recognize from bands like The Slackjawed Rats, Swayze Train, and The London Gentlemen in the late 2000s and early 2010s. He has since moved downstate and currently performs in the southeast Michigan deathcore band Living Dissection, and it is cool seeing him playing original metal in a band of this scale nowadays, even if he had had to move 5+ hours away to do it. Aside from sharing this video that was posted to his YouTube channel in 2021, we hadn't heard from Galactic Alignment on their Facebook page since October 2013, so it was very surprising to see a post there on September 14th, where Mike revealed that he's re-recording Galactic Alignment's original 2009 demos!

Mike is planning to release them in some form or fashion by year's end, and you can hear the first fruit of this labour via his new Facebook video of the Galactic Alignment original "Shredded Into Pieces" (well, the first 85 seconds of it). If you want to hear more of their old original output, visit their Reverbnation page to see what Mike may be redoing. It's no hyperbole when I say that Mike is one of the most talented guitarists that Sault Michigan has ever produced, so I fully welcome him bringing back Galactic Alignment, and this teaser clip will leave fans wanting more! Check it out for yourself below, and stay tuned for updates!

That's all for today, but stay tuned for more news and notes on the site this weekend! Thanks everyone!

Thursday, September 21, 2023

LOCAL CONCERT ALERTS (Generations), Weekend Concert Previews, And Some Cancellations!!

Before we begin this weekend's concert previews, just a heads up that local classic metal trio The Nostalgic Band have cancelled all of their upcoming concerts, as per their respective Facebook event pages (or deletions thereof) in the past week. Affected dates include tomorrow, November 3rd-4th, and December 8th-9th at Jay's Piston Broke Pub, October 13th & December 22nd at Shooters Downstairs Lounge, October 20th & 21st at Reggie's Place, and the recently announced continuation of their Thursday jam night hosting duties at Reggie's, whose (deleted) Facebook page had them blocked there into 2024. Reasons for the mass cancellations weren't announced, but hopefully things aren't as serious as all of these dates being rapidly called off may suggest. Fingers crossed that we see The Nostalgic Band back on stage when the time is right, as they are a talented group!

Otherwise, let's dive into this weekend's hard rock concert previews, in a relatively quiet weekend that primarily sees cover-centric bands taking the stage on both sides of the border, so here's what you should know!

Local classic/hard rock cover quartet Generations will return to the stage at Reggie's Place TOMORROW & SATURDAY NIGHT! Apologies for the short notice, these shows were announced on the band's Facebook group on the 11th but completely slipped us by at the time.  After taking two weekends off (with singer Valerie Powley resuming her judging duties at The Soo's Got Talent in the interim), these will be the Jus' Chillin successors' first shows at Reggie's in three months, which is kind of surprising! They also dropped out of dates there in July due to a scheduling conflict. As such, these will be their first gigs at this Queen Street staple with new guitarist Tony Kajnar. and hopefully he, Valerie, Pierre, and Tony S. deliver a solid weekend of classic and hard rock hits for fans there TOMORROW & SATURDAY NIGHT! Expect 9:00 PM start times, 19+ age limits, and no cover. See above for more details, and here's Generations live!

Next up, let's head down the road to Shooters Downstairs Lounge, where newer local classic/hard rock cover quartet Silent 9 will make their debut at this Dennis Street nightclub TOMORROW NIGHT! Last seen two weeks ago at The Water Tower Pub, this will be the first solo headlining date for the Obsession successors at a downtown locale, and following a positive reception to their prior public and private sets, hopefully Jess, Ryan, Paul, and Steve keep the good vibes going with their eclectic but often heavy setlist tomorrow! A one-nighter due to Shooters' reported move to having a DJ on Saturdays this fall instead, tomorrow's concert has an 8:00 PM start time, no cover charge, and a 19+ age limit. Visit the band's Facebook page for more details, and for a preview, here's a new video from a recent private gig of theirs! Well, maybe not "private", but given the nature of it, I didn't want to treat it like anyone could go see it.

On September 9th, Silent 9 served as musical entertainment at the postponed Family Fun Day at (well, outside of) Algoma Steel, which was really not intended for the general public, just plant employees and their families, hence my reticence to cover it here. We can get a glimpse of the festivities via this 90 seconds-long Facebook video of Silent 9 covering Bon Jovi's "Wanted Dead Or Alive" on an outdoor stage, which sounds good with strong vocals and guitar work in particular! The square Instagram dimensions are preferable to a vertical cell phone aspect ratio (watermark acknowledged), but the placement of the filmer doesn't help us see drummer Steve Porco very well. Give it a look for yourself below!

Now let's head south to Sault Michigan, where local hard rock quintet The Nameless will play their first ever (publically announced) headlining concert TOMORROW NIGHT at The Merchants Bar! Last seen at the Sugar Island Music Festival last month (apologies again for missing that on the site), this will be their first concert in city limits since opening for Scotty Austin at The Savoy Bar back in March. The Nameless don't play live all that often, but they do have a talented lineup and have shared the stage on a handful of big multi-band events, so hopefully they leave a good impression at The Merch tomorrow! Everything goes down at 108 West Spruce Street tomorrow at 9:00 PM with a 21+ age limit and no cover charge. Visit the official Facebook event page for more details, and for a preview, click here to watch their full debut concert set last year! I can't embed it here due to copyrighted music over the P.A. at the start of the video.

Finally for today, let's head even further south to St. Ignace, where Manistique hard rock cover duo Fyrbird will return to The Northern Pines Lounge at the St. Ignace Kewadin Casino TOMORROW & SATURDAY NIGHT! While seen more often in the E.U.P. if you count dates in Luce County and western Chippewa & Mackinac County that are over an hour's drive from the Soo, these will be their first gigs at the St. Ignace Kewadin since May. Not having played closer in the interim, this should be worth attending for fans of Jamie and Rikk's minimalistic but hard hitting brand of hard rock and classic rock covers! These are 9:00 PM events with no announced cover charge, and you must be 21 or older to attend, and if you can't make it to these dates, Fyrbird will be at the Sault Kewadin in two weeks. See above for more details, and here's Fyrbird live!

That's all for today, but stay tuned for more news and notes on the site soon! Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

The Soo's Got Talent 2023 Auditions Recap!!

As you may know, The Soo's Got Talent has returned for its fourth annual installment, and like in past years, there are aspects of this local talent competition that cross our metal/hard rock/punk radar! Just as a note of clarification, whereas the recent Talent Quest competition at Shooters Downstairs Lounge was 100% karaoke (thusly why we didn't cover it here), The Soo's Got Talent is open to all kinds of artistic performers. The late stages of last year's competition did only have singers (albeit with one also playing guitar), but that's just how the judging went for the performers who passed the auditions. Speaking of which, auditions for this year's T.S.G.T. took place at Wacky Wings on Great Northern Road from September 8th-10th, and videos from that weekend were shared to the competition's Facebook page, so what can you see there? As it turns out, the first audition video posted there is both hard rock and not a singer!

This has young local drummer Teagan Krauter Maki covering Hoobastank's "The Reason" on September 9th, and while I don't think a ballad is the best choice of song for a drummer to show his stuff with, perhaps this is just the warm-up before he headed to Soo Blaster for round #1 this past weekend? I'm curious to hear more from him, especially as drummers are not common on their own at The Soo's Got Talent! The 30 second video isn't ideally shot, with the vertical angle, accidental shot of a woman's face, and seeing more of the backs of the judges' heads than Teagan, but kinks will be ironed out as the month rolls along. Check it out below!

Follow-up videos from the auditions include three singers, including Celeste Rector covering Jo Dee Messina's "Bring On The Rain", an uncredited singer covering Olivia Rodrigo's "Vampire", and Demoy MacSamuels doing an original song (possibly named "Pray No More"?), before we see a familiar face around these parts, namely ex-Re:Born singer Elly McWatters, who actually won the aforementioned Talent Quest at Shooters last month! If you know her well, you'll know that heavy music isn't her thing first & foremost, so keep that in mind when checking out her audition cover of Reba McEntire's "Turn On The Radio". Now, for this year's T.S.G.T., organizers took a page from America's Got Talent by introducing "golden buzzers" that will allow judges to automatically send select auditioning contestants straight through to the semifinals, and they did just that for Elly!

Post-performance remarks are included after some of the uploaded audition videos, for the record, with Elly noting that she just got back from Sudbury the day prior and wasn't as dressed up as she would have liked. Given that, extra kudos for impressing the judges this much! While not live-streamed, two more audition videos were posted after the fact, including this one of dancer Jophin Shaju performing to Imagine Dragons and Jibbs songs, and Clusterfolk Music Festival performer Storm Rausch covering Billie Eilish's "No Time To Die" (and getting the golden buzzer for it!). That's it for the audition videos, with this year's event not having the same level of video coverage that last year's got, but the other first round qualifiers include Arin Karki, Brooklyn Coghill, Christopher Halliday, Elizabeth Budge, Greg McLeod, Raedyn Matechuck Levesque, Stan Fera, and Steven Jensen.

Of them, you may recognize Christopher, Elizabeth, Greg, Stan, and Steven as competitors in The Soo's Got Talent last year. Two more golden buzzers were given out to Kristina Sagrak and 2022 finalist Xavier Pelletier LeBoeuf, so they'll 100% join Elly and Storm in the semifinals, and all can perform in the prior rounds without fear of elimination. In terms of scheduling, round #1 took place at Soo Blaster this past Friday, with the sixteen qualified contestants competing and being reduced down to twelve, who return to Soo Blaster on Friday the 29th. The semifinals and finals take place on Saturdays (October 21st & November 4th) with a special guest who will definitely intrigue many, but we'll leave things to the audition level for this post. However, I'd be remiss if I didn't note that proceeds of this year's T.S.G.T. will go to the Child and Adolescent Psychiatric Unit at Sault Area Hospital.

Each installment of The Soo's Got Talent has benefited a different local charity, and hopefully this means of spreading the wealth proves advantageous for the C.A.P. unit! If you want to attend round #2 next week (or beyond), admission is $22 for adults or $12 for children, and each show starts at 6:00 PM. We'll have more from The Soo's Got Talent (including round #1) in the near future, but stay tuned for weekend concert previews on the site next! Thanks everyone!

Monday, September 18, 2023

Spades GT - "Sewer City Radio" Album Review!!

It's now time for our 171st monthly CD review at The Sault Metal Scene, and continuing our extensive backlog of new local album releases, we're taking a look at local/Barrie crossover thrash band Spades GT's new album "Sewer City Radio" today! Released to major streaming services via Books Of The Dead Press on June 2nd, this is technically the third album from Spades GT, who (as Jack Spades) released their debut EP "The First" in 2014, before featuring on the "Fed Up!" split with The Ripcordz and Destroilet the following year. Since then, everyone but singer J.D. "Johnny Pints" Pearce has left the band, with J.D. relaunching the group in his new hometown of Barrie in late 2021 with the updated name. Joining him on this album is late-era Jack Spades guitarist Daniel Horton, plus a GTA-based rhythm section, including bassist James Roy Daley (Stand Against Fear) and drummer Tyler Reiner (ex-Caym).

Tyler's old Caym bandmate Jay Sarrazin (Sierra Pilot/Hellrager) is considered to be a full member of Spades GT, but he only appears on two songs, presumably due to his busy schedule with other bands, and he doesn't play many of their live concerts either. Guest appearances on the album come via Daniel's Fast Life bandmate Andrew Moorhouse on vocals on "XS" and from Anvil frontman Steve "Lips" Kudlow on guitar on the title track (remember, his bandmate Robb Reiner is Tyler's dad, so they had an in to get Lips on board!). Recorded in Toronto in January with producer Kyle Marchant, you can check out "Sewer City Radio" on major streaming services like Spotify, YouTube, Apple Music, and Amazon Music, and it is available to download from both iTunes and Amazon Music in the $7-$8 range if you would prefer actually having mp3 copies, or really want to support the band. Song names below are linked to their YouTube copies.

Teasers have came out in regard to physical pressings of this album on CD (note this image), but the band hasn't firmly announced them going on sale thusly, and their website is currently down. With eight tracks running for about 27 minutes, let's begin this review with the opening (and longest) song, "Hands"! A drum intro leads into a blistering thrash/punk attack that will definitely appeal to fans of J.D.'s local catalog, and they get a lot of mileage out of the lyrics about what hands can do! J.D.'s vocals have deepened since we last heard him in new studio material eight years ago, but the melodic yet heavy instrumentation is familiar yet fresh, and Daniel shows off well on guitar! James Roy get a brief bass solo to show off with too, so this was a good choice to let everyone get some time in the sun. The chorus can get a little repetitive late, but it's an intense return!

Track #2 is "Cenobites", inspired by the Hellraiser series, and it has more of a groove to its guitar and bass work here, which is interesting but feels kinda out of place compared with J.D.'s shouted verses. Can't fault the talent on offer here, and Roy's bass playing is top notch, it all just only really comes together for me as a full song on the choruses. The song ends well with an extended instrumental section, but I'd have had more varied drumming during the bridge. Good song with good energy, but it's all over the place tonally. Next up is "Final Girl", which got the album's (belated) first music video, and is the first of two songs featuring Jay on lead guitar. Inspired by horror movies often having the last living protagonists be a young woman, it starts with a siren before laying into their usual punk/metal attack, which melds together the best of their talents and sensibilities, and Jay's guitar solo is effective, if a little slower.

Where this song lags a bit for me is the choruses, which are repetitive lyrically and too driven by the drum beat over the guitar riff, but I do see how they would attract a sing-along response from a crowd familiar with the track. An improvement on "Cenobites" for me, and while not what I'd have picked as a lead single, it will speak to long-time fans! Next is "Red", which is the other song on offer featuring Jay, and it opens with steady drumming from Tyler before everyone else kicks in. This song chugs along nicely and never relents from its initial track until the chorus, which is ready-made for fans to shout along with, and I do think that Jay's solo is better (and longer) here than on "Final Girl"! More than anything on the album so far, this feels like an established song from J.D.'s entirely local band work, which is a positive statement, and while the verses never vary much, this will be a fan favourite!

The second half of the album begins with its title track "Sewer City Radio", and if you weren't sure, "Sewer" does seem to reference Sault Ste. Marie, with lyrics reflecting on the Soo in a Woods of Ypres-ish way, if that makes sense, but not quite as grim. This is the song featuring Lips from Anvil on lead guitar, and his solid shredding does add some much needed life given the subject matter! J.D.'s vocals drive the song during the verses and choruses, including some rapid spoken word before the solo, and while the lyrics are sure evocative, the music largely just rolls on and keeps the crossover thrash going, so there is more of a contrast here. Strongly done song with lyrics that will hit close to home for many! Track #6 is the shortest song on offer, "Succubus", which is arguably the most punk-centric song on the album as pure music, but J.D. does sing about the title demon in an exaggerated, Michale Graves-esque tone throughout.

Misfits fans will definitely appreciate this song, especially given J.D.'s affinity for that band over the years, but it still has that rawer, thrashy tone to the music that existing Spades fans will appreciate, and Daniel's solo is effective! A low-key highlight on the album so far! Seventh is "XS", which opens with a (likely) beer can being opened, and is basically about living to excess (hence the name) while in a band. This song more than any feels like something you'd crank on a summer road trip, and it has a nice melodic, full band sensibility and carefree attitude with strong vocals! Fast Life singer Andrew Moorhouse actually sings lead on the bridge here, and he fits right into the song's existing vibes, no doubt helped by Daniel being on the track. Definitely one of my favourite songs on the album, abrupt ending aside!

"Sewer City Radio" closes with "Black On Black", and despite this song's lyric video focusing on military exercises, the song is largely about alcohol abuse and trying to characterize it as the only remedy against suicidal thoughts. J.D.'s vocals are way too exaggerated here, to a point where the chorus shouts of the title don't even sound like he's saying "Black On Black"! Musically, this has one of the most thrash-based sounds on the album, with a quality bass line from James throughout, but the vocals do kinda detract from the song based on how they're done here (perhaps they're sung like that on purpose to represent the addiction?)

So, what are my final thoughts on the first new (Jack) Spades release in eight years? While I won't compare wholesale to their mid-2010s output (especially as only J.D. is left from then), this is a fun slice of crossover thrash that more or less picks up where Jack Spades left off as they headed south and, in many ways, upgraded what they were doing! The recording quality, guest appearances, and slate of high profile GTA concerts points to a band on a mission, and while these aren't entirely my favourite studio songs from their two dozen-or-so originals to date, many stand right up there with their best songs! While deeper vocally than we last heard him, J.D. is in his usual form here, Daniel shines on riffs and solos as you'd expect, and them snagging James Roy and Tyler was a savvy move to get some very experienced names from their new home area, and they more than hold up their end of the bargain!

Assuming that Jay is 100% still a band member and is just more limited for availability, it would have been nice to have heard him on more than two songs, but this solos (especially on "Red") were nicely implemented! I liked "Hands", "Red", and "XS" the most of the songs on this album, and Jack Spades fans will have nothing to worry about musically, but there are a few things I'd address. Some of the singing is just a little too exaggerated outside of what works best for J.D.'s studio material, I don't think "Cenobites" had a firm singular theme in mind, and some of the choruses could be a little repetitive for my liking, but given all of the changes that (Jack) Spades and the world have had since 2015, this album coming out as well as it did was certainly no accident. Definitely buy or stream it for yourself at the above links, and I hope you guys liked this month's CD review! What are reviewing on the site next?

Given our lengthy backlog, it's looking likely that our next review will be of local progressive metal duo Convergence's debut EP "One", which also came out in June 2023, so look for that at some point next month, and for more news and notes on the site this week! Thanks everyone!

Sunday, September 17, 2023

LOCAL CONCERT ALERT (Soundcheck), Convergence Updates, And More!!

Today's post was going to be very different, but a SHORT NOTICE LOCAL CONCERT ALERT fell into my lap, so we're changing course by looking at that, a linked new video, and the latest updates from a talented original metal band, so here's what you should know!

Local classic/hard rock cover quartet Soundcheck have one more charity car show gig at the newer A&W at 659 Great Northern Road for 2023, and it goes down TODAY! I profusely apologize for the short notice, the band has not publically confirmed this gig on their Facebook page (alas, they rarely do for these A&W car shows), and I only heard about it via drummer Glen Thomas' personal Facebook page this morning. This is the rescheduling of the Cruisin' The Dub car/bike show that was supposed to have been held across both of the Great Northern Road A&W locations last month (bikes and Bone Yard at the old one, cars and Soundcheck at the new one), but advertising indicates that everything will be at the new A&W TODAY, with just Soundcheck playing, though be advised that the poster doesn't specify live music. Besides Soundcheck and the classic cars/bikes, expect games, raffles, popcorn, and more family friendly entertainment!

All proceeds go to the Algoma Regional Community Hospice, which is always a very worthy cause. While rain often seems to hit A&W car shows (hence why last month's was cancelled & postponed), 9&10 News is calling for mostly cloudy weather in the 15° range, so it should be quite comfortable and dry! This all ages event takes place from 1:00-3:00 PM TODAY (again, I'm sorry about the late notice), and there is no cover charge to attend. Click here for more details, and for a preview of THIS AFTERNOON'S festivities, here's a brand new video of Soundcheck live! This comes from Glen's YouTube channel, and it is from a recent Thursday jam night at Jay's Piston Broke Pub that they hosted no later than September 7th. The video features the band sans singer/guitarist Cameron Oliver (who usually doesn't appear at jam nights) alongside an uncredited guest singer tackling Judas Priest's "Grinder".

You can tell that Terry, Jim, and Glen didn't 100% know this song in advance, but such is how these jam nights often go, and it's a fun performance with heavy & committed vocals from the guest! Shame about the vertical video though, especially with the lower half of the frame being just an empty floor. Give it a watch below, and don't miss Soundcheck (with Cameron) at the postponed A&W car show TODAY!

The second half of today's post is devoted to the latest from local progressive metal duo Convergence! The former Kraken Mara have not been idle since we last talked about them in June, and I do apologize for the delay in covering their summer activity, so what's been going on with Brendan & Jake as of late? Well, on July 9th, they announced that they had officially signed as "signature artists" with Halo Guitars, a well known guitar/bass customization company, so keep that in mind when watching the videos! Just over a week later, they posted a new song named "The Ebb", and true to prior teasers, it was belatedly added to the official track listing of their debut EP "One" as song #4, so you'll get it if you buy the EP (if you bought it beforehand, the song costs $1 on its own). Good thing we have an album review backlog, so if anything else gets added after the fact in the coming months, we'll be able to review it/them from the off!

As such, I'll hold comment on the song for now, but it does feature session drums from Kelowna, B.C.-based drummer Cliff Aubut. Still hard at work on new material (whether some/all is added to "One" or not, I can't say), Convergence posted two "Reels" on their Facebook page with teaser clips of new song named "Dredge" and "The Burial", featuring post-production spacey visuals and footage of guitarist Brendan Christie playing the songs in studio. Sounds promisingly heavy and technical, but the jury's still out on the full songs. Another "Reel" on August 16th featured advertising for Halo Guitars alongside footage of their 2021 video of them playing "Stratus" at the Bushplane Museum, but of course, "Reels" remain brief and vertical-only videos that cannot be embedded on external websites or played in background tabs, so they are what they are. Do Convergence have any videos that I can embed here?

Yes, two of them! In August, they posted two abbreviated playthrough videos of their songs "Ishka" and "Chimera", and while neither is brand new, they also aren't (yet?) included on the "One" EP. While both are structured similarly, I've opted to embed "Chimera" here as it's longer (though neither is visibly a full song) and it features guitarist Jake Valois on camera too! Good to see him, as Brendan alone appears in the majority of their performance clips. What we hear is on point for fans of progressive instrumental metal, and I'm curious to see how things progress for Convergence, so give everything a watch above & below!

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

Friday, September 15, 2023

LOCAL CONCERT ALERTS (Fyrbird, Rhythm & Brews, And The Nameless), A Big Concert Postponement, And More!!

On this Friday afternoon, today's post takes us entirely to Sault Michigan and the Eastern Upper Peninsula, courtesy of some LOCAL CONCERT ALERTS, a major show postponement, and an apology for missing a festival featuring one of the bands in question. Here's what you should know!

Local hard rock band The Nameless will return to the stage with their apparent headlining debut on Friday, September 22nd at The Merchants Bar! This very sporadically seen quintet have only played two publically acknowledged concerts to date, most recently at the Scotty Austin show at The Savoy Bar in March, and while I'm not sure why they've been so publically quiet since debuting last year, hopefully their cover-centric set and on-stage chemistry have developed to the point where they can comfortably headline a solo concert! Be advised that The Merch's Facebook page has not publically acknowledged this show at press time, which shouldn't be all that shocking, as the venue rarely promotes artists playing there online. Next week's show has a 9:00 PM start time, no cover charge, and 21+ age limit. Visit the official Facebook event page for more details, and stay tuned for more!

Before we move on, note above that I said "publically acknowledged concerts", as The Nameless actually played at this year's Sugar Island Music Festival on Friday & Saturday, August 11th-12th. Their sets were advertised on the festival's website, but the band did not promote their involvement in advance online. The Sugar Island Festival (45 minutes east of the Soo by road/ferry) came back after a pandemic hiatus in 2021, but hadn't booked known hard rock bands again until this year, after usually having a token hard rock act in the past (often Banned or Tarnished). I profusely apologize for missing out on the Sugar Island Fest for coverage here, but hopefully The Nameless made a strong impression!

Next up, Kewadin Casino have announced their band schedules for this and next month on their website's entertainment pages! As noted in yesterday's post, two will see Traverse City classic metal trio Peril back at The Northern Pines Lounge in St. Ignace on October 13th & 14th (following tonight & tomorrow's Rapids Lounge concerts), while we already knew about Manistique hard rock duo Fyrbird's shows in St. Ignace next weekend. Two of the upcoming weekends were not known to us prior to yesterday, and are now listed in our calendar, starting with the aforementioned Fyrbird, who Kewadin has returning to The Rapids Lounge in the Soo on Friday, October 6th & Saturday, October 7th! These shows are not listed on the schedule posted on their Facebook group in June, which says that they're playing a show in Stephenson in the western Upper Peninsula on that Saturday.

Given that Kewadin's schedule is newer than the aforementioned schedule on the band's end, I'm inclined to believe that the Stephenson booking was cancelled, but we'll let you know if Kewadin erred on the schedule in some form. You can enjoy Fyrbird's hard rocking minimalist covers back in the E.U.P. in three weeks at 9:00 PM with 21+ age limits and no cover charges as usual, but again, they'll definitely be in St. Ignace next weekend first, plus in Gould City (in Mackinac County but beyond our one hour's drive-time coverage range) at month's end. See above for more details!

The other new Kewadin dates ahead for hard rock fans will see local hard rock cover quartet Rhythm & Brews return to The Rapids Lounge on Friday, October 27th & Saturday, October 28th! Yes, this talented union of Nixxon Dixxon & Highway 63 alumni drew the Halloween weekend at the Sault Ste. Marie branch, so you can expect lots of entertaining hard rock tunes from Brandon, the Chris', and Ron in a month & a half's time! No word on a costume contest or specific spooky frills for the occasion, but one imagines that costumes will be encouraged, especially on that Saturday. Of course, remember that Rhythm & Brews rarely update their Facebook page, so they may not plug these shows there. Once again, these are 21+ events with 19+ age limits and no announced cover, Halloween weekend timing acknowledged. See above for more details, and stay tuned for more from Rhythm & Brews if it comes in!

To close this all-Sault Michigan post, we have a major concert postponement to note on here, as the Skid Row/Buckcherry concert at The Dreammakers Theatre at the Sault Michigan Kewadin Casino will no longer take place on Saturday, October 28th. On Wednesday, the headlining New Jersey hair metal legends announced that the third leg of their The Gang's All Here tour with Buckcherry was being postponed to next spring due to health concerns with singer Erik Gronwall. Skid Row's camp did not go into complete details about what's wrong, but Erik is a leukemia survivor, and he noted in the press release that he still has a compromised immune system following a stem cell transplant two years ago, which can make it harder for him to beat infections. Given Erik's vocal abilities and how well he's been received after their carousel of vocalists in the 2010s, it speaks to their faith in him that they'd postpone the tour while he heals up!

The tour run will now end in the Soo on Saturday, March 23rd, a postponement of exactly 21 weeks. Tickets bought for the October date will be honoured next year, but refunds are available at point of purchase, so inquire with Kewadin Casino if you don't think you can make the new date. With the date change, there has been a band removal, as while Buckcherry will still return to our area as co-headliners, the new tour poster no longer lists Philadelphia hair metal quartet Britny Fox. Disappointing to see them apparently drop out, presumably due to scheduling, but hopefully they come back up here down the road! Note that the poster does credit an opening set on this leg from Waterloo, Ontario hard rock quartet Sierra Pilot (featuring Spades GT guitarist Jay Sarrazin, and as seen at The Northern Vibe Festival last month), but as best as I can gather, Sierra Pilot's own advertising only has them playing the Canadian dates next March.

Sierra Pilot aren't a new addition to the tour, for the record, as they were scheduled to open north of the border next month as it was. If they do happen to be able to play in Sault Michigan (or if another bands it tapped to open then instead), we'll let you know, but keep the new date circled for your hair metal and hard rock fix in March, and hopefully Erik gets well soon! That's all for today, but stay tuned for more news and notes on the site over the weekend! Thanks everyone!