Sometimes instrumental bands speak just as loudly as those who use words, and the preliminary round of Rockalypse was a night that proved this to be true. The Rockalypse competition was organized by Sincop8ed Noize, and took place at the Leonardo Da Vinci Centre in St. Leonard, an area of Montreal. It featured the talents of twelve bands, six of which were to be eliminated by the end of the night. They competed for the chance to move on to the next two more rounds with the ultimate prize of having the chance to play a music festival in Italy.
Brandon Mignacca of Chair Warriors fame kicked off the evening as the emcee. He got the crowd riled up for the performance of the first band, MOOCH. With their laid back, garage band look, they were a good fit to start the night, playing catchy hard rock songs the last of which being “Dirty Rose.”
MOOCH set the tone for a fun and relaxed evening and, unfortunately, VennacavA had the audience feeling uncomfortable within seconds. There were technical difficulties for all twelve bands of the evening, but arguably no one handled that worse than VennacavA. Most bands either silently motioned to sound technicians, or discreetly tried to fix the issue themselves, but this band’s frontman promptly stopped singing the song mid-sentence, appearing frustrated and awkwardly pointing out that the band, “Clearly did not do a sound check.” When the technical difficulties were finally mended, the band opted to scrap the first song and moved on to “Down on the Road” instead of repeating prior events. The rest of their set continued smoothly, and they had the audience’s pity and support.
Though he may not have been selected as one of the top six, post-rock musician, Jean-Mo’s set was definitely one of the most memorable performances of the night. Most bands were loud and energetic, but Jean-Mo silently took to the stage to play a solo instrumental set, using his homemade ‘guit-harp’ and effect pedals. The guit-harp itself was stunning to look at and it was mesmerizing to watch him play his three cinematic tracks. That being said, the tracks were a tad repetitive and far too lengthy to keep the audience engaged, especially as Jean-Mo didn’t take a few minutes to address the audience between tracks.
Bilingual pop-rock band All Aboard, was an obvious winner. They used the stage in its entirety, dancing and jumping around every corner, and this had the crowd really moving. They managed to gain a large fan-base after only a few verses. New fans sung to the chorus of their original pieces. “Fall into My Dreams” and “Animals” were crowd pleasers, drawing in the most skeptical of audience members. People of all demographics enjoyed the set and even went as far as demanding an encore. Though time constraints did not allow for that encore, the band was selected for the next round so fans can anticipate that encore relatively soon!
The second post-rock performance of the evening, Piranhas Can Fly, put everyone in a trance-like state with their instrumental set. They started the set with an audio clip from Chaplin’s “The Great Dictator,” and set it to a backdrop of ambiguous images on the screen. As the audio clip slowly faded out, the band began playing a slow, goosebump-instilling piece that changed into one of rapid urgency. Though it used no words, the performance somehow spoke volumes about today’s world politics. They finished up with a nine-minute song that didn’t feel nearly long enough. The song was eerie and hair-raising, and played to the appropriate background of skulls and skeletons. It mixed moments of subtle sound with louder screeches of the guitar, making it perfect for the score of a Kubrick Hitchcock film.
Alternative rock band, Keychain yanked everyone right out of that trance with their set. Their songs were similar to those of Rage Against The Machine, alternating between rapping and screaming. It was hard to make out any of the lyrics but their songs were riddled with an anger that was reflected in their violently active moves.
Coincidentally, Third Place was the third band to be selected for the next round with their punk-rock set that channelled the likes of Billy Talent and The Red Hot Chili Peppers. They also had moment of rapping but their set was funky unlike the angry set just prior.
After a few more hard rock bands, Jukebox Ocean was the final band to play. Standing there in socked feet, the members of Jukebox Ocean seemed shy at first but the band quickly warmed up to their own music, smiling and appearing to have fun. The more fun they had, the better they sounded and the better the audience felt. It was nearly one a.m. by the time they played but anyone slowly falling asleep in their comfortable seats was awoken in a soothing fashion by their funky, at times reggae-inspired, sound. Unlike what is stereotypically expected, all eyes frequently fell on the drummer who, with a constant smile on his face, moved as though his drum kit was as much a part of him as his own heart. The guitar player was ‘Claptonesque.’ His fingers moved faster than the eye could follow. The band in general played together so well that people could be heard talking about them long after the show ended.
It only took judges Kevin Jardine, Philippe Jolicoeur, and Albe Gtr a few moments after the show to hand over the envelope containing the six bands who are to play in the semi-finals. Royal Hills, Jukebox Ocean, Piranhas Can Fly, Third Place, Key Chain, and All Aboard all advanced. The second preliminary round will take place on January 30th, followed by the semi-finals on March 5th, with the final round on April 2nd.
Written by Franca G. Mignacca
*edited by Danielle Kenedy