This was the 10th edition of Recording Arts Canada’s (RAC) Concert Showcase event held at La Sala Rosa. The event featured four bands: Newdayz, Bound and Tethered, Sivell, and Nomad on Wheels, who were all competing for a free recording session at the RAC studios in Montreal.
As part of their training, the students or Recording Arts Canada were in charge of live sound mixing and stage setup. They performed admirably; there were lots of different setups for each act, and the overall flow between them and the overall sound quality were very good.
I’ve always felt bad for the band that has to open on a night like this, especially when it’s barely past 8pm. The crowd and judges are never as into it as they are later on, making it hard to win over a crowd that doesn’t know you or who only came to support their friends. That being said, I thought that Newdayz did an excellent job at getting the crowd of about 75 people energized with their unique blend of reggae, pop, and a little classic rock swagger for good measure. A lot of that can be attributed to the onstage charisma of lead singer Nodly Guerrier. She has a great presence, and a cool vibe that grabs your attention right from the start. The one thing that I found out of place was the lead guitar player (who isn’t picture on their official Facebook page), who I’m not sure is even an official member. It seemed like he would have been more comfortable in a trash metal band than the reggae/rock group he was playing in. A misplaced and somewhat lackluster guitar solo during the opening number was frankly awkward to watch.
The next act was by far my favourite of the night; Bound and Tethered have a sound that is more Grand Ol’ Opry than Saint Laurent boulevard, and it was a treat to hear them live. This Montreal duo of singer/guitar player Chris See Hoye and singer Stefanie Parnell have a sound that is mature beyond their years. Their music is not necessarily very original, but the songs have a timeless quality to them that overshadows any other shortcomings. It was a good thing that they had these great songs, as their stage presence was severely lacking. I never understood why some musicians would go up on stage and sell themselves short, yet that was what lead singer Parnell was doing every time she wasn’t singing. She was making awkward comments about their songs being too sad, and seemed uninterested in getting anyone’s attention throughout the set. I can understand that it’s hard to captivate a room full of people with one guitar and two singers, but it put a damper on their performance. That being said, musically it was flawless. They played all the songs from their debut EP including ‘’Rusted Nails’’ and ‘’Something Man,’’ and they sounded great in every aspect. Parnell’s voice can be both soft and sweet, and she can also pull out some country girl twang when she pushes it a little more. See Hoye was a great sideman and guitar player, and he also has a very pleasant voice that harmonized beautifully with his partner.
Next up was a rock band called Sivell from Trois Rivières. With a simple setup consisting of two guitars and a drummer, they played some no-frills rock that had a definite 90s vibe to it. The band looked like they had graduated high school late in that same decade as well. Even though I very much enjoyed the previous act’s music, it was nice to have a band come up and play some loud music. They’ve been playing together since 2010, and they sounded like a well rehearsed veteran group. Individually, these guys were probably the best musicians of the night, with a special mention to lead guitarist Johan Strohmeier who ripped a couple of short but tastefully awesome fuzz-filled guitar solos.
Nomad on Wheels was the last band to take the stage, and they sounded like they had lots of supporters in the crowd, as well as looking like the band that would take the crown before even striking a single chord. Lead singer and guitar player Aym Rick looked like he was going to be shredding solos all night, wearing a black leather jacket with a Gibson explorer dangling from his neck, yet the band’s sound was more U2 mixed with a little Muse than 80’s sleaze rock. It was less about guitar riffs and more about open chords and lots of synth textures coming from Jo-Annie Bourdeau. The band had the crowd on their side and as they exited the stage, I was somewhat convinced that the judges would give them the big prize.
Well, they didn’t. It was the underdog duo of Bound and Tethered that won the night, and I was happy for them. It was quite funny as some of the crowd stood there in utter silence with looks of bewilderment on their faces, wondering what had just happened. It was a nice surprise and I was the glad the judges went with the quality of the music and not just the stage show.
Written by Ben Massicotte
*edited by Kate Erickson