It’s always a great feeling when one of your favourite bands recognizes you from a previous show. That was the case when I caught Big D and The Kids Table for the fifth time at The Hard Luck in Toronto on Saturday, May 21st. The Toronto venue, primarily known for hosting a ton of metal and metalcore shows, was hit up by the Boston ska-punkers on their way back home from Montreal’s Pouzza Fest. With the night’s openers, Adam’s Mind and The Snails, also having a refreshing sound, it was a great night filled with friendly vibes.
Kicking off the night was Adam’s Mind, a ska band from Toronto (a description I wish I could use more often). They were a solid opener, starting the show with a few laid back ska jams reminiscent of something out of the 80s UK ska scene. Frontman Ronald Poon’s higher vocal register fit the tracks nicely and his stage presence was entertaining at times. His interactions with the crowd between songs, however, failed to be engaging and were a little timid and reserved. It was almost like a kids’ show host talking to the audience. Aside from that, the set was great. The music was received well by the ska-loving audience; at least a few people were dancing and skanking at any given time throughout the set. This number only multiplied when Adam’s Mind played one of their more upbeat, punk-influenced tracks which sounded like something out of Reel Big Fish’s musical catalogue. Although I wished more of their songs had that punch to them, their mellower stuff wasn’t bad either. Despite the fact that I probably wouldn’t go out of my way to listen to it in my spare time, it was good. Hopefully, Poon finds an on-stage persona that he can cling to that better fits the act that he’s leading.
Up next was The Snails, a group from Philadelphia who were playing their first ever Canadian show before heading over to Montreal for their Pouzza set. Right off the bat, they proved to be a classy bunch with each of the five members sporting some nice suits. Their music impressed me even more than their attire. They had such a diverse sound which ranged anywhere from 50s rockabilly and 70s classic rock to traditional/British wave ska. Not only was the material solid, but they preformed it exceptionally well. Frontman Todd Fausnacht has one of the best voices I’ve heard in a long time. The vocals coming through the mix had this perfect combination of rasp and smoothness to make them seem like they belonged to a female soul singer from half a century ago, and it fit the music so well. The backup vocals were equally solid, with bassist Ben Parry even taking leads on a couple of songs, including a cover of Helter Skelter by The Beatles (the second band I’ve reviewed this month to cover that song, hmm). The cover was an excellent choice to showcase his high range and ability to belt out some impressive screams. Their interaction with the audience was minimal, yet at the same time so effective. The band mostly transitioned into a different song almost immediately after the previous one had ended, but did so with such confidence and assertion that an introduction wasn’t even necessary. Seriously, if you have any appreciation for older music, check these guys out. If their recorded material has even a shred of the energy that their live show does, The Snails could very well be one of my new favourite bands.
Rounding out the night was Big D and The Kids Table. There isn’t much I can say about these guys that I haven’t said before. I will, however, say this: the vibe that these guys give off at their shows is unlike any other I’ve ever experienced. There’s always those one or two assholes that ruin that sense of unity for everybody (and yes, they were present that night), but all in all, it was an incredibly welcoming crowd. The audience, as well as myself, felt inspired by Dave McWane’s optimistic lyrics (whether they be about overcoming struggles, wanting to better yourself, or just living a happy life); the positive vibes certainly were certainly present among the crowd that evening. McWane as a frontman is also just as unique as the music itself. He’s one of the few frontmen I know whose performance seems to actually be enhanced by alcohol. Crazy, I know. Being drunk often leads to most singers being off key or making complete asses of themselves. McWane signature vocal style, however, is so unique that it can’t be “off” in the typical sense. There’s no doubt that the multiple beers in his system lead to a boost in confidence, one that he used to fuel his entire set and the crowd fed off of it. The performances from the seven other band members were solid as well, despite the lack of space to move around on that stage. The mix was pretty nice, aside from the keyboard which was, unfortunately, inaudible after the second song. They played a combination of aggressive punk songs for the audience to go crazy to, and a few slower, reggae/dub-inspired tracks so the crowd could catch their breath. It was a solid set from an equally solid band.
To put it simply, it was a great night. I found a couple of new bands to listen to, and I gained even more of appreciation for one of my favourite ska-punk acts. What made it such a highlight was how personal and casual the environment was. To see each band casually hanging out in the venue before and after their sets, which, in my opinion, is the way a show should be, really helped make the connection between the musician and the audience not only through their music, but through their personalities. It personalized the experience.
Make friends with your audience and it’ll make the night that much more fun for the both of you.
Written by Mathieu Perrier
Photography by Danielle Kenedy
*edited by Danielle Kenedy