Show Review: A Night At The Vatikan

I wondered if the bands had been picked by some randomized lottery system. They couldn't have picked a more diverse group of bands. Imagine a lineup featuring Rancid, followed by Kittie, add a side of Flaw, and wrap it up with Guns N Roses and Skid Row. United by a love of rock music but skewered by varying vocal skills, speed and intensity, this show brought out the hard rock lover in you.

The Vatikan sits inconspicuously at 1032 Queen Street West, amid halfway houses, Asian coffee bistros and road construction. If it weren't for the strange cluster of longhaired, black-clad rockers on the corner, you may have missed it. But then again, the flashing purple sign might have given it away. A forty-year-old woman wearing a conservative tan jacket walks by and wonders, "What's THAT place?"

"That" place is a hotspot for diverse music lovers. Whether you came with your ventriloquist dummy, dressed in drag, with intentions of creating a photo diary of the evening, donning a homemade t-shirt, with handcuffs strapped to your belt, or ready to swing your arms around like a windmill and thrash about like a hooked carp... you were welcome here.

It felt strange to be in Toronto listening to such raucous punk rock, which typically flourishes in West Coast environments, but I kind of liked it. The spiky hair singer belted out originals and his own rendition of Rancid's "Ruby Soho". They even had their own moshpit of seventeen-year-old girls - how cute.



Dee, the singer for I Hate Sally, was celebrating her birthday amid screams and a full house of obsessed fans. Tyler (from Sarnia - the city AND the band) declared I Hate Sally as his favorite band, without hesitation.

Though it's not central to my heart, there's always something endearing about a tattooed girl frontman - or should I say woman - that's unafraid to belt out primal scream-filled lyrics. Was I the only one here who didn't know all their songs?

Sifter - the band I came to see - got to a shaky start, slightly overshadowed by technical difficulties, but were soon rocking in full force. As the "softest" rock band here, listeners were impressed by Sifter's versatility, driving rhythms and monumental buildups. Dim experimented with his guitar, producing some interesting layers to the band's full, textured sound. Steve showed his abilities as singer/guitarist/keyboardist, as Devon and Vince kept everyone's heads nodding to the beat. The smoke machine and synchronized lighting intensified the experience. (But for a moment I almost wished I was a midget so the smoke would blow over my head and stop coating my contacts with film.) Sifter also generously hooked everyone up with their debut CD to celebrate its brand new release.

Cheerleader 666 packed the room from front to back and brought in a slightly older crowd. One guitar player had serious Slash style with cascading curly black hair brushed over his face, shirtless and tight-jeaned. The other guitarist played in classic rock tradition with wild solos and a constant head bopping beat. I couldn't really pinpoint one particular band they resembled but their set conjured up thoughts of ACDC, Skid Row, GNR, Rush and Buck Cherry. They had it all - the headbanging fans and the dancing girl groupies too. The pure rock was stirred in me and I couldn't help but grin and get wild with the best of them.

I was definitely not prepared for one of Canada's longest-running metal bands (disbanded as of 1988) to return tonight for a rare appearance! Half the room had cleared out but the people there were clearly old school fans. A Pauly Shore-looking fellow with wild eyes and even wilder hair came out into the middle of the floor with his guitar and started jamming out a furious thrash metal solo as the remaining bikers, metal dads, and old school Metallica fans encircled Anvil's singer. Suddenly I was transported into Wayne's World. At 24 I was definitely the youngest one there, immersed in a world I have only scratched the surface of, a world where jean jackets and long hair are essential survival tools and quick metal licks are anything but optional.

Afterwards my ears bled out the metal hum of leftover music, leaving the songs to replay themselves in my skull. It was definitely a night to write home about.

The purpose of this article is not simply to let you know how much fun I had without you... but rather to expose you to new local talent you may not have otherwise heard about. So check it out! or or or or

Special thanks to Tank Girl and I Hate Sally for the photos.

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