Gig/Concert: S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival
Venue: St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Date: June 28, 2008
Headliners: Cancer Bats, Ill Scarlett, Teenage Head
In one word: Stormy
A flying visit to SCENE 2008 by Music Vice Editor Brian Banks
St. Catharines is a town tucked down in southern Ontario, near Niagra Falls and the Canada-USA border. I’d never been here before, but if asked to describe it I’d be prone to spurt out rather cliched descriptors like ‘quiet’, ‘quaint’ … or, on a bad day, ‘dead’. Thankfully for me though, the day that I was in town was the day of Scene Festival 2008. SCENE is very much a ‘local’ event with most the bands coming from the Niagara and Toronto regions.
My time in St. Catharines on Sunday was very limited. My only way to get in and out of the town on the same day by public transport was to catch the a train which arrived there just before noon, and then left later by catching the 6.11pm back, which was the last train out of town. Scene Fest was scheduled to kick off just after 2.00pm, but before that a heavy storm had rolled through the town, lashing the streets with rain and bending trees sideways… thunder and lightning too, very frightening, you know. So, just like at Wimbledon every year, rain affected play, and Scene Fest’s 2 outdoor stages at Market Square and Mansion House both seemed to be at least an hour behind schedule. Actually all the times at the indoor venues were running late too.
Time was against me, but thankfully the 13 venues at Scene Fest were all concentrated in a small area. I decided it was best to just go from venue to venue and follow my ears till I found a band playing that I liked. My rock radar kicked in and guided me to the inside stage of the pub venue Mansion House. The window was open to the street outside, and I stood there for a moment listening to this band, Frankie Whyte And The Dead Idols. The drummer looked behind and then the singer too, both beckoning me to come inside. I didn’t exactly need an invitation, but it was cool to have one.
“The first and lasting impression I have of Frankie Whyte & The Dead Idols is that they are a band that seem to have their heads in the right places, and any ill-fitting attitudes or ego’s appear set-aside.“
I stood inside the venue taking some shots, and listening to this band until their set ended. The vibe through-out for FW & DI was just really cool. I’m not about to spew some pretentious metaphor to exaggerate how good they were. They were just cool. Some good tunes, particularly “Shout It Out”, which I noticed had stopped me in my tracks from taking photos, to just leaning against the wall and tapping my foot. The first and lasting impression I have of Frankie Whyte & The Dead Idols is that they are a band that seem to have their heads in the right places, and any ill-fitting attitudes or ego’s appear set-aside. They have fun playing their songs while also acting as their own public relations masters by beckoning passer-bys to come inside, and by encouraging people at the back of the room to get a little closer to the noise. A good attitude goes a long way to helping make or break a band.
It was getting near 4pm when I headed back over towards the main stage at Market Square, dropping in to some venues on the way but not finding anything that made me stay for more that a couple of minutes. I caught The Creepshow’s set at the main stage, and if you’re not familiar with this band then you might guess from their name that they fit into the whole horror-rock/punk/pyschobilly/rockabilly type of genre. The Creepshow’s gig started brightly and the crowd were buzzed about it at first, but gradually their interest wained and so did mine. I’ve always find it to be something of a conscience effort to listen to this kind of music, which is why I was always kind of relieved that the average Misfits album was under 30 minutes in length. If the Creepshow had been playing a smaller and more intimate venue and to fans of their style of music, as opposed to an outside venue in front of a largely disentinterested crowd, then it would have surely been a different story. But alas these if’s and but’s are pointless, and things fizzled out rather fast.
It was 5pm before I knew it, and I didn’t have much time left before I’d need to walk back to the train station to catch a ride home. I tried to see and hear as many bands as I could as I made my exit from St. Catharines. I followed by ears around from venue to venue as I reluctantly made my exit, but nothing stopped me in my tracks. That was until I found myself back at Mansion House, which was pretty much the last stop on my route back down and around St. Paul Street. There was a big line-up at the front of Mansion House, so I dashed around to the back street via a parking garage, then past the security dude at the back gate to catch Hunter Valentine who had just began a set on the outside second stage at Mansion House.
Hunter Valentine surprised me. I didn’t have time to stay for their full set, but I witness this all-girl trio deliver a performance which smacked of confidence and a very genuinely real attitude. There is a bit of grit about Hunter Valentine that comes from the lead guitarist and singer Kiyomi McCloskey who rasped out songs with a spiky self-assuredness, a confidence that over-shadowed the drummer and shy-and-retiring looking bassist. But it’s not a negative thing that McCloskey stood-out; this is very much the makings of an archetypal female lead singer, and she’s got the style and pipes to pull it off. And she’s got balls!
Hunter Valentine play songs that ring-out the voice of disaffected youth, the young and the heartbroken. Their tunes are clean, without screams. It’s been noted and reported elsewhere that this band built themselves up by playing to audiences at Pride concerts, finding fans in the gay & lesbian community. However, their music is by no means restricted to nor targeted towards lesbians. I can easily picture this band building a massive female following, especially teenagers, and I’m sure many guys might take a shine to them too; be they straight, gay, bi, tri, or whatever. The band are radio-friendly and ready made to target mainstream success.
HV’s sparse audience included a few young and a few randoms like a mother with a pushchair and a mini video crew. So, as with the Creepshow, the crowd was less than ideal. But then again that is to be expected at festivals, especially one’s set in towns which are more open to the average local who might not normally attend a rock festival. There was not enough people watching the band for them to kick up any kind of atmosphere, but HV held their own and did not falter. All-girl bands are still a pretty rare thing and this one deliver some very decent alt rock, with plenty of scope to grow.
© Brian Banks