Gig/Concert: Scene Music Festival 2009
Venue: St. Catharines, Ontario, Canada
Date: 28 June, 2009
Headliners: Every Time I Die, Cancer Bats
In one word: Ballistic
This year’s S.C.E.N.E. Music Festival in St. Catharines gave me a serious case of deja vu, being a carbon copy of ’08 in terms of the format, venues and, yeah, the weather. The only real difference was the line-up, with the standard of bands appearing at this year’s Scene festival being of a higher calibre. My experience at Scene last year had felt like merely a teaser, as I was only able to attend for a few hours, and that meant I missed out on all the big name bands – no such worries for this year, as I was in St. Catharines until the wee hours of the night, soaking up what has now overnight become one of my favourite festivals in the gig calendar.
The buzz began with Polar Bear Club at the main stage in Market Square. PBC were even better than I remembered, which wasn’t a huge surprise having first seen them live at the arse end of 2008 at a show in Toronto that I was rather apathetic about. Seeing the band here and now, in the light of the day and the height of the summer, Polar Bear Club are a bigger and badder animal. Six months of rehearsing and gigging has no doubt made their performances tighter, and the Rochester hardcore/punk band also seem to have a few new songs under their belt; or at least older ones that now made a bigger impression on me a second time around, Another Night In The Rock being one that I’ll pinpoint. Man on the mic Jimmy Stadt was once again bearish (yeah, that’s a real adjective), as he snarled out the vocals which are often the rough side of the sandpaper, with the instruments proving the backing melodies which are often less abrasive and grating – the rough with the not so rough. An excellent way to kick off the day.
“Thankfully The Snips are not a ska band, or at least The Snips are not Reel Big Fish – so the trumpet wasn’t coming in at the end of every bar.“
Over at the outside stage behind Mansion House, a strong crowd gathered in anticipation for The Snips. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this band; the name was telling me it must be some kind of punk band, but then the warning bells went off when I noticed a trumpet sitting on stage. Fearing that The Snips might be a ska band, I planned my exit in advance, with the gap in a safety barrier or the porthole window in the neighbouring car park both looking like viable options for an emergency exit. Thankfully The Snips are not a ska band, or at least The Snips are not Reel Big Fish – so the trumpet wasn’t coming in at the end of every bar. The trumpet played more of a cameo role for the most part, as its player – who had an uncanny resemblance to Shia Lebeouf – had other duties like backing vocals and guitar. So that was a relief.
At first I was enthused by The Snips, who came out all guns blazing, with some meaty chug-a-long riffs providing ample Duracell power for The Snips cocktail of punk, pop and metal. After five or six songs though my interest had waned, especially as the trumpet was becoming more prominent, and it was time to move on.
Away from the bigger venues and bigger crowds, I came across People You Know who played to a crowd of a dozen, including Cancer Bats guitarist Scott Middleton. This all girl group from Toronto had the odds stacked against them, what with being stuck at the back of 73, which was pretty much the temperature in C inside this veritable bakers oven of a venue which was in dire need of some A/C. People You Know had a very raw indie sound which had drawn me inside, with punchy hooks, simple progressions and beats. There was a wicked vibe to PYK’s intimate little gig – well worth getting a little hot and sweaty for.
The next couple of hours are from about 5-7 p.m. are a fuzzy blur – I caught snippets of about half a dozen bands, all of which have been blown from my memory by Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah. Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah know how to make an impression. Or “Heck Yeah Frig Yeah” as frontman AL911 jested, as their show began a couple hours before the watershed. But nah, don’t be mistaken; Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah didn’t have any qualms at all about using bad language, or being offensive. AL911 taunted passers by who walked along James Street past the open-windowed front of White Haut where HYFY were playing;
“You guys are nazis! Anybody not inside here is a fucking white supremacist! Fuck you! Keep walking, keep walking!…”
Probably the best example of self-promotion through reverse pyschology – because after all, nobody wants to be labelled a nazi.
AL911 really is a psycho on the microphone. He put on a gripping performance – gripping in the sense that it’s like he’s got you by the balls, and you better not walk away or you might just lose those family jewels. Till the noise stops, AL911 is the alpha male and your the fucking omegas at the bottom of the food chain, so its your duty to feel privileged enough to stand there and enthralled. It not as if you’d want to walk away anyway, because the music is pure dynamite in a can. Loud, trash, crass, class.
One guy in a Casualties leather studded and spiked jacket made a pitiful attempt to become part of the HYFY party – after circling three times like a wolf, he walked away shunned. There’d be no mosh pit or circle pit here; just a crowd that were partly bemused and partly scared shitless into being in a statuesque but appreciative state. However, AL911 did meet his match, as he picked the alpha female in the audience to dance with for a song about “other peoples girlfriends” – he grabbed a girl in a blue dress, spun her round once with an awkward pirouette, then she turned walked away giving with a dirty look, very clearly unimpressed.
Hell Yeah Fuck Yeah were awesome, but they’d turn out to be the lengthy side-note to the Cancer Bats, whose show over on the main stage eclipsed every other performance at the festival. The Cancer Bats were on amazing form. The skies opened just as their set began at 8:00 p.m. and the rain bucketed down, quickly creating puddles on the stage, and ultimately meaning that the Cancer Bats would close the main stage and not the festival headliners Every Time I Die, who got rained off to an alternative venue. This was some kind of divine justice, because Cancer Bats gave the kind of performance that deserved to close the main stage at any festival – a well-timed downpour seems to bring the best out of bands and festival crowds, but this was something really special.
The Cancer Bats were sublime. This was kind of show I’ve been waiting to see from the band, and their performance at Scene ’09 will be etched in my mind for many years. Liam Cornier was totally ballistic – his energy levels were off the chart, and the connection with the crowd was ultimate, with the singer and his crowd feeding off of each other and becoming more and more intense. Particularly brilliant moments included Lucifers Rocking Chair, during which the moshing was perhaps at its most delightfully violent, while a cover of Beastie Boy’s Sabotage was a surprise treat to a deserving SCENE crowd who have turned up to support the Cancers Bats at the festival for a few years in a row.
“This was some kind of divine justice, because Cancer Bats gave the kind of performance that deserved to close the main stage at any festival…Liam Cormier was totally ballistic – his energy levels were off the chart, and the connection with the crowd was ultimate.“
As the Cancer Bats set came to an end, the lights went out on the main stage, creating pandemonium as hundreds of fans ran to L3 to catch Every Time I Die there. I decided against being a sardine inside that venue to see ETID, and instead ended up seeing some other bands, of which I will give an honourable mention to Distance Between Stars. DBS’s music stopped me in my tracks as I walked by Mansion House and I listened to them for ten minutes or so, while a kind girl also very generously gestured to me to take her spot near the window to let me take a few photos. I then walked away as DBS’s set came to an end, but as I heard an encore kicking off I found myself jogging back to hear some more of their sprightly female-led rock. I’m sure I’ll check them out properly at some point in the future.
Later I had a rather scary moment as I witnessed a hundred or so teenage girls freak out for Marianas Trench who are seemingly the latest pin-up boys of pop-punk. Seriously, it was like Beatle mania, and the band had to make a Hollywood exit from Big Bucks which involved them sleeking off from the stage and then a garage door being pulled down by security guards to separate the band members from the screaming girls – a very bizarre (read: lame) incident. So that was quite disturbing, but lets forget about that – the story of Scene ’09 was the barnstorming show put on by the Cancer Bats.
We can only hope that the Cancer Bats are back at Scene once again in 2010, because without them things just wouldn’t be the same. The rain would be welcome back too.
© Brian Banks
I am rather fond of shooting ‘Bats in black and white… – Brian