BOOM! Fuck it, I’m starting this review off with a bang! Why? Because that’s exactly how ERA 9 kicked their show off straight into high gear at Café Campus. Jumping straight into “Scripture” from their album Gravity, the combination of powerful vocals from Anthony and front-woman Laurie Normandin, as well as constant words of encouragement to the crowd got the whole venue on their feet, jumping, clapping their hands and singing along to the lyrics. I gotta hand it to Laurie’s stage performance. I don’t know if it was intentional but every time we locked eyes she gave me a deathly gaze. Bone chilling. I took a quick peek behind the crowd during their set and was surprised to see almost nobody sitting at the tables in the back. If you walked in without knowing who’s headlining the show one might assume everyone was here just for ERA 9; quite impressive for an opening band. The only real downside was it looked like all the band members were just a tad too crowded on the small stage and I’d love to see what they come up with at a bigger venue in the future, and maybe Laurie will get that mosh-pit she kept asking for at the next show. Lucky for us ERA 9 is based out of Montréal so it’s only a matter of time until they grace the stage.
Sounding off the speakers with an air-raid siren, Savage After Midnight took the stage in force with front-man Shi Eubank immediately engaging the crowd with fist pumps. Starting with “Unleash” off their EP 11:59 I took notice of the odd vocal arrangement in this band. Backup vocals were provided by guitarist Jeremiah Lipscomb, but there were also secondary vocals by James Thomas on keys. “Secondary” does not quite do justice for James’ voice though, which often traded places with Shi to do the heavy lifting and hold the song. I had listened to their EP on Spotify before and it doesn’t hold a candle to their live performance. It sounds too polished, almost clinical, like it’s missing something. Maybe it’s the raw unfiltered voice of Shi and James during their live set that gives it that special something but to me it was just way better. Of course, with a live set you can’t ignore the camaraderie of the band. I noticed Derek Bjørnson on drums standing up every chance he got to fist pump and sing along with the crowd. These guys look like best friends having the absolute time of their lives on stage and that energy translates directly into the audience. Although their EP doesn’t have many songs they continued their set with a new unreleased song called “Signals,” and a few covers of well known songs such as “You Oughta Know” by Alanis Morissette and “Like a Prayer” by Madonna. You can catch Savage After Midnight back in Montreal September 24th as supporting band for the Shinedown // Montréal show at Place Bell.
Coming up after what felt like an eternity between sets it’s finally New Years Day! They had squeezed the drum kit into the corner and setup the stage with banner stands blocking access to the back portion, which also hid any amps, so I was a bit concerned how that was going to play into the sound quality. Luckily *almost* all my fears were immediately put to rest as front-woman Ash Costello informed me “there’s no escape, no one to keep you safe” as she began “Come For Me” off their latest album Unbreakable. This was a really fun show for me, in large thanks to Ash’s comedic side as she talked and joked along with the crowd between songs throughout the whole set, teaching us words for singalongs and dedicating “Epidemic” to everyone in the crowd since we’re all weirdos like her. At one point around halfway through the set Ash stopped everything to tell us how happy she was with the turnout that she broke tradition to take a group selfie with us right then and there instead of waiting ‘till the end. That was the third or fourth time Ash mentioned how surprised she was that this many people came to the show. Honestly, I was thinking the exact opposite of her. I requested this show without looking at which venue was hosting, and when my phone calendar reminded me it was the first time I realized it was at Café Campus. I was surprised and confused, because I had assumed it would be at a much larger venue, like MTELUS or Théatre Corona. That said, there’s something special about smaller venues that allows for a more intimate and personalized performance that either isn’t possible or more difficult at larger venues. Case in point, close to the end of their set nearly the entire band came down from the stage and started jamming / dancing with the crowd. Dunno about Montréal but New Years Day will be at Toronto’s October 15th In This Moment show.
I was disappointed DIAMANTE was removed from the setlist for unspecified reasons; I had been looking forward to seeing her perform solo since she made a guest appearance with Bad Wolves in August but besides that, all three bands put on a killer show, with each being worthy of headlining bigger venues.
Written and Photographed by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Danielle Kenedy