Early, on a Saturday night, I made my way down to La Vitrola to check out a smorgasbord of musical talent. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. Here’s what I saw and experienced.
First and foremost, a huge shout out to the promoters, Vendetta Management and Promotions, for making the show run absolutely smoothly and timely. The show started at 20h30 and finished before midnight. And there were four bands! That’s something even Mussolini would be proud of.
First up was Toodles. There was barely a person in the crowd when they hit the stage. The way that guitarist and singer Joseph Francis Espinosa stomped and bounced around stage, you never would have guessed. Slathered in sweat by the second song, he was greeted to the cheers and jeers of the ever-expanding audience. His vocals started off a bit pitchy, but by the third song he was spot on, especially during their sultry outro number, where he crooned along with the slinky blues guitar riffs he played. JJ Levy was a monster on the drums, keeping this two-piece together with syncopation, blast beats, and elbow grease. I loved the rolls he produced during their second song that came after the break-down. My only beef with the band is that there was no low end. Espinosa keeps his voice in the higher register, so sometimes the treble-laden guitar cut some of it out. Either pump up the mid and bass tones or add a bass entirely, and this band could become unstoppable.
Next up was A2K. I could see that the drive and desire were there, while their ease and mastery of their instruments was not. They just need to keep practicing and playing shows to work out whatever nerves accompanied them on stage that night. It happens to all of us. I damn near shit my pants when I had to give my first interview. Such is life.
The one-man band ROSEDALE was next. Hailing from Toronto, Mike Liorti did it all himself from the lighting and background video production, to the playing of all instruments (albeit not live, but at the same time). While singing and switching between the guitar and piano, Liorti played with pedals to create a backdrop of himself playing through all the different instruments on the tracks. It was like watching a YouTube video, but live. He was a monster of a front person, constantly moving around without losing breath to hit those oh-so-sweet notes on vocals. While I applaud his mastery of all things musical and productus, his whole set was more performance piece than rock show, however. He spoke at length about his home life, and delved into a plethora of personal information. For me, it went over my head. My personal favourite was the stripped-down opening of “A Kid Again.” It was just him on acoustic guitar and vocals at the beginning, being emotional and bringing everyone in for a one-on-one experience. Loved it.
And then, there was The Barrel Heads. These cats are why I love live rock shows! Bassist Johnny B spent the day vomiting due to food poisoning, yet he still endured to hit the stage and rock out a little. At one point, he was sitting on his ass while playing. Can’t fault a guy for that, though.
By the time the band launched into their third song, “Wild Thing,” the crowd was moving. It was like we were all waiting for the moment to let our collective hair down, and The Barrel Heads supplied it. I loved the way this band split the guitar solos between James and Alex; I was not so impressed with their levels, though. I heard every rip and shred from James, but not so much from Alex. Turn it up next time.
And how about lead singer, Mike. He was all showmanship. He was stripping mid song, marching across the stage with his own variation of a “gut strut.” At one point, he undid his pants and we could see the beginnings of a whale tale. If anyone wants to learn how to be raunchy while keeping a solid melody on their voice, look no further than Mike; especially during their last tune of the night, “Black Mamba.” These cats know how to rock.
Do you think there is a better, current rock and roll band than The Barrel Heads that resides in Montreal? Hit me up in the comments below with who I should check out next.
Written by Aaron Deck
Photography by Eric Brisson Eric Brisson Photography
*edited by Kate Erickson