I found myself outside on the sunny, and extraordinarily beautiful, 20th of August. I strolled up to Benny park in NDG, and was greeted by lumbering, inflatable bouncy houses rising up above the shrubbery. As I sauntered closer, the cacophony of cries from sugar-high children filled the air. A breeze picked up and brought with it the smell of salty fries and sizzling hotdogs and cotton candy. It was as out-of-the-ordinary as any show I’d been to, but I was happy to be there nonetheless as the lineup was filled with great local talent.
The opening act was kid focused. The Brat Pak Band were thrown together last minute from the workers at a day care, but they served their purpose wonderfully. The band played cute songs and tried their best to warm-up the newly arrived children. They played “Puff the Magic Dragon,” and a song that had the kids picturing themselves as cats, (but not talking, because cats don’t talk).
Thicke Sugar was next. A five piece soul-rock band featuring Jeremy Juh Braziller belting out sharp hits and run-on melodies from his tenor sax. He danced, he played, he sang, all beneath a hot sun. No easy task, that. I loved the precision that Aaron Shepherd brought to his guitar. Despite having slick, sweaty digits, all his notes were crisp and pristine. Their musical stylings were rounded out by Shawn Thicke on vocals. Damn, what a voice this guy has.
Next up was another five-piece band, The Lef7overs. They primarily played the classic covers from the female-fronted hard rock catalogue. I loved the way Meghan Mulvaney, in a solid screaming pink dress, pummeled the vocals on “Cherry Bomb.” It was great to see Victoria Turner dropping solos with a guitar tone that cut through everything. Keeping everything tight and timely was Maryam Khalakhala on the drums. Playing outside is hard, and playing drums outside is the hardest. Khalakhala nailed everything with nary a slip.
Decked out in white fender guitars were Keenan Kerr and Pat Bernard of Summerled. They joked lightly with the audience, something that was a staple between songs, before pasting the party with their power pop-punk. They danced, clamored for the audience to do the same, and then danced some more. Watching Kerr jump around would be worth it at any price, although this show was FREE! He was never a second away from launching into a David Lee Roth jumping scissor kick, circa 1984; yet, once again, it was the drummer that took the cake. Jon Erskine is the consummate professional. He’s a fucking machine behind the kit. He’s a fucking animal. You can see it for yourself at Bucketfest 2.0, on August 26th.
And then there were The Barrel Heads. They were all raw rock and reverberating roll. Vocalist Mike Mosquitolini unbuttoned his 70s-era shirt, and swung around a pair of hips Shakira would be jealous of while belting out trashy melodies, resting in the sweet spot of their groove infused tunes. Said tunes were hotter than the sun due to Johnny B’s flashy fingers on the bass. His hair-waving head banging only intensified his energy, and the rest of the band feasted on it. There’s nothing better than dirty rock in a clean park.
Po Lazarus was up next, the quintessential throw-back rock band of Montreal. Vocalist Joshua Carey dressed the part, and played the part. The control over his voice he demonstrated was insane. He’d roll from falsetto to scathing screech to delicate croon with ease. Below it all was his flattening guitar tone. The stark green of it against his black jacket and pants added to his overall ambiance. Their last song of the night, “If You Are Alone,” set shivers up my spine as I swayed around, tapping my toes. It was the perfect ending for the perfect set.
Lastly, Annakin Slayd brought his brand of funk-infused rap-rock to the stage. They were a hype band, energetic and perfect for the bouncy castle bonanza at the back of the park. I always enjoy seeing rap groups with live instruments backing them. Slayd showed he could adapt to the organic flow of his counterparts. They’re opening for Styx, August 25th. Check ‘em out.
Finally, I must give some ink to the Einick Gitelman fund. They put on the entire show as a fundraiser for their charity. They’ve been using their efforts in the NDG area to support children in minor hockey who cannot afford equipment. It was wonderful to see the community come show support for them and help them to achieve their goals. It was a great park festival, and I for one, cannot wait to check it out next year.
Written by Aaron Deck
Photography by Michael Kovacs
*edited by Lia Davis