Who: Knocked Loose, Expire, Stray From the Path, and Stick to Your Guns
Where: The Opera House, Toronto, Ontario
When: 18 September 2016
In one word: Swirling
I got to the show right as Get The Shot from Quebec City were finishing up. I had intended to be there for them and the first openers, Out Of My League from Bowmanville, but if you’re a Toronto native you know what the TTC (dis)services can be like sometimes. So after scoping the merch table, and picking up an awesome Expire windbreaker, my cousin and I headed up to the balcony. This was the first time I’d been allowed up there since I recently turned 19, and the balcony is a 19+ designated area. I had no idea how much clearer the sound was up there, and I was lucky to have a railing spot for when Knocked Loose hit the stage. Their set was like one brutal breakdown from start to finish. Seeing as they are a pretty new band, I was shocked when at least half the audience knew, and screamed almost every word their entire set. Their debut studio album Laugh Tracks came out only a day before the show, and at least half their set was off the album. The inventive in-song time changes were seamless live, and they did not let the energy slip once. No boredom at all watching them. The vocalist hardly talked to the audience, but went into the crowd a lot. Gave the security a run for their money. In my opinion though, the drummer stole the show. He had charisma and energy that immediately caught the eye, and kept my attention on him. He shouted lyrics along with vocalist while playing some refreshing drum parts in a genre where percussion can be too much of the same.
Expire was the next band onstage. After listening to their stuff to prep for the show, I was afraid the vocalists punk-like, almost breathless style might lose its impact in a live setting, but it came across quite clearly. The delivered just the punk punch the audience had been waiting for after Knocked Loose’s continuously slow, heavier set.
I would have liked to see more in a sense of general stage presence from the instrumentalists, some songs they moved around and got hyped, but I feel they left too much play space for solely the vocalist to move around. He kicked ass mind you, and when they brought on vocalist Drew York from Stray From the Path, it brought the song to another level. The vocal chemistry between the two of them up there was really special, and it fit really well because the bands are similar in style.
Stray From the Path immediately lit the crowd up. Not shocking at all, seeing as Stray’s songs are complete attack, lyric wise and style wise. It’s really easy to get swallowed up in the excitement and scream along to whatever they are playing. People were almost piled on top of each other to have a chance at getting a lyric into to the mic if Drew even came close to the stage edge. Stray’s content is full of technical precision and the lyrics are aggressive attacks on acts of injustice. They are a very political group, so much so I like the call them the metal Rage Against the Machine. Both bands are very much “F*ck the system”. Drew York shouted “F*ck Brock Turner” before performing the bands song ‘D.I.E.P.I.G’, aimed at condemning sexual predators, and the audience’s insanely loud screams of accord were very satisfying to hear. It was the first in a string of their three final songs, and I have to say, the set of D.I.E.P.IG., Outbreak, and First World Problem Child back-to-back probably stole the show for me. All songs are off the album Subliminal Criminals which was hugely successful in the hardcore scene, and well deserved success at that. The songs came across perfectly live, the band performed with as much conviction as you would expect considering the powerful drive and punch that the songs have in the recordings. I would pay an embarrassing amount of money to see Stray From the Path if they came back again without a second thought.
Finally after a total of five openers, it was time for Stick To Your Guns. I saw Stick once before in Toronto when they were promoting their last full length Disobedient with the Amity Affliction. I knew they were good, but at that show I didn’t really get to appreciate 100% of the performance because I was jammed in a bad viewing spot; smushed between the far left stage speaker and the mosh pit. This time, I opted to hang back and focus on just taking it all in. They did something I had seen done before with a huge stage backing flag. At first, the flag depicted the eye symbol associated with their new EP “Better Ash Than Dust”, and the classic opening voice of “DIAMOND” began to play, lights went up, and some smoke drifted upwards. The flag then turned into the EP cover, a very basic see through anatomical drawing of a person with Saturn and other celestial objects in the background. Everyone’s attention was quickly taken from the flag when the band walked onstage as DIAMOND was interrupted by “JOOOOHHHN CENAAAA!!!!” and his theme song. They didn’t give us much time to laugh before ripping into “Nobody” off of Disobedient.
Stick is a hardcore band that has been around long enough, you can be certain that regardless of venue, sound tech, and acoustics, they will kick ass live. They have such a staple sound in all of their songs, and everything they put out has a bass driven punch like no other. The production on all of their material is what makes it so satisfyingly heavy, and it seems to carry over just a well live. They continued the set with popular songs from Disobedient, like further in the set “Nothing You Can Do To Me”, played 3 out of 5 songs from the new EP. They played a few older songs too; a lot from the iconic album “Diamond,” like the title track, “Against Them All,” and “Such Pain”. To my dismay, they only played one song, “Amber,” out of the older albums. I tried to go in the pit for a bit of Amber, but that ended pretty quickly. I got trampled about 2 seconds after a circle pit started swirling and retreated. Gotta love hardcore shows.
I was skeptical about seeing their newer stuff live considering the bands new affinity for clean vocal choruses and just more cleans in general, but vocalist Jesse Barnett did not stray from pitch or timing once and switched between cleans and screams with ease. He is definitely a guy who knows what he’s doing up there, it looks easy to him but his energy is overwhelming. He also talks more than most vocalists at shows, about his family, his own struggles, and what we can do as individuals to make the world better. Not in a smarmy way, but in a really inspiring way that follows in line with a lot of lyrics he writes for the band. I am a big supporter of what Jesse stands for and what he says at shows, but I think this time he could have been more succinct in his speeches to avoid slowing the momentum of the set.
Overall, this was probably the best hardcore show I have ever attended. The line up was flawless, not one weak link in the chain. This is a group of bands that should definitely tour together again, and I will certainly be on the look out for more individual shows. If you are a hardcore fan, or just a live music appreciator in general, this was definitely not a show to miss.
© Robyn Bond, Music Vice
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