Show Review: Warped Tour Battle of the Bands Rocks Reverb
One band to rule them all. With pressure mounting, competition fierce, different genres being represented and hours of anxious waiting, a Battle of the Bands event is never an easy risk. Yet the payoff is huge and the potential to get signed to a label and advance is massive. This year I headed to The Reverb after an entire week of frantic battling to see who would win the opportunity to play the Vans Warped Tour July 30th on the local stage at Molson Park (Toronto).
Disclaimer: I know I'm noted for my glowing reviews and I really prefer to speak about the bands that stir my soul, however the world of rock is not always so pretty. Hopefully I can be appreciated for my brutal honest and journalistic integrity because I don't sell out. If you don't like what I have to say about your band, then sorry. Try harder. Practice more. Impress me next time.
7:15pm Third Crisis
Some bands should probably just stay in their highschool gym. Third Crisis is one of them. It's clear from the first song that they could've used a little more practice as the guitarist's cord rips out mid-song and he frantically scrambles to plug it back in. The first song, by the way, was a Story Of The Year cover. The vocalist has that cookie cutter, pretty (but slightly whiney) emo voice that fails to impress. He shows a lot of heart and makes very animated expressions but the sad truth is that these kind of bands are a dime a dozen. Yet to be fair, they did beat out five other bands to even get the opportunity to play tonight so someone must have seen something in them. I just lack the insight on this one.
7:45pm Play Oliver
Play Oliver was a strange brew of jazz, indie and acoustic with members that very much looked like a beatnik garage band. With songs about growing up, speaking to the tortured teen, they too failed to impress me. The singer's voice almost echoes Incubus at moments and Thursday fans might find the songs singable, but their stage presence was mellow at best. Perhaps they summed it up best. "We've been on tour for a week and this is our biggest crowd," the singer proudly declared to a room of fifty people. Maybe not the sort of thing you'd want to admit... outloud.
8:15pm Future's Past
What can I say about Future's Past that I haven't already said? Over the last year, I've heard Ricky's vocals evolve to a solid level, his charming stage presence making him a star. Jason continues to blow me away as he drops down onstage for a heart-felt solo or swings his guitar around his shoulder, even though his dad and manager warned him not to. (Yeah, he pulled it off, by the way.) Garth's bass is more pronounced tonight and his jumps are dead-on, magically synched with the rest of the group. Nathan has a lot of heart and raises his sticks up high tonight, banging his drums, running out front and center with his usual energy to sing along to "Letter". Their antics keep the crowd interested, clapping, screaming, jumping, and girls nearly crying as they deliver one of their strongest performances, despite having just beat out five other bands the night before.
8:45pm The Knockouts
I don't know if I'm qualified to review The Knockouts, as I'm a strong believer that punk should not be fused with trumpets and trombones. Let's face it, not every band can pull it off like The Mighty Mighty Bosstones or Mustard Plug. However, I was impressed, given the fact that this band has only been rocking since January. And reportedly, they did have an enthusiastic section of skankers. The singer had a good voice remniscent of Less Than Jake or Reel Big Fish and the band functioned fairly well together. They're a fairly young band that seems to capture interested fans quickly. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.
9:15pm Rehab For Quitters
Someone outside said, "We're here for ROCK N ROLL!" Inside I understood a little better. Difficult to really classify, Rehab For Quitters has an old rocknroll rock feel with an element of drunken bar singalong. They definitely weren't lacking energy as the singer/guitarist strummed furiously on his Gibson and the active bassist went wild. They even had a smoke machine and a rowdy crowd of hooligans for added effect. Good listen!
9:55pm Organized Chaos
Organized Chaos wasn't afraid to speak out and encourage a violent malady of moshers. "Fuck Paul Martin, fuck Paul Martin, fuck Paul Martin, fuck Paul Martin," the singer bellowed, making us laugh. The guitarist looked bored as hell, but the band had the looks to match the attitude with spiky hair and studs in full effect. They were as abrasive as Lars Frederickson, as comically satirical as Fat Mike, and as driven as Justin Sane, but very much a highschool caliber band still. Evenso, I couldn't help but jump for joy when they busted out Antiflag's "Die For Your Government".
10:30pm No Other Way
Giving it their all, No Other Way had an attractive blend of emotional Bert Mckracken style singing and Avenged Sevenfold screaming. The guitars were particularly impressive with melodic chords, masterful solos and adequate heaviness. No Other Way tried to keep it light-hearted though, playing a surprising cover of "Fuck Yeah" from Trey Parker's Team America movie. They definitely had a Warped Tour kind of sound but unfortunately the crowd wasn't as big or as crazy as the band deserved. Nonetheless, keep an eye out for this band. They're going places.
11:05pm Fresh Meat
You know it's bad when you don't even really smoke but you're dying for a smoke break during a set. The Ghost Town nature of the room was eerie. The female singer for Fresh Meat had that whole punkrock school girl look down pat and she liked to talk about drinking but overall her stage presence (which consisted of looking down a lot) wasn't very thrilling. The unique-looking guitarist clearly belonged in the band but he too wasn't doing much in terms of energy. "I love Jagermeister," the singer declared. "Where's your shots of Jagermeister?" I later read they were sponsored by Jagermeister.. subliminal advertising is creepy. Isn't it a little early to be selling out? You haven't even bought IN yet.
11:40pm King Minus
King Minus was an older, more experienced band that brought an older, Social Distortion kind of crowd. Tattooed frontman Steve Plum was clearly energetic and passionate, stealing the spotlight with his strong presence. Their "Whoaaaaa-ohhhhhh-ohhhh" choruses had the drunkest people shouting along and the powerful guitars carried a great sound. They've played alongside heavy old school rockers like Kill Cheerleader and 80s style punkers like The Heatskores. The quick-paced drums kept the audience nodding and there was a kerfuffle of aggressive dancers upfront. I was wildly amused.
12:15am 68 Porno Mags
I heard a strange rumor that there were dirty politics lurking about and that 68 Porno Mags were said to walk away the winners tonight. So perhaps I had high hopes for this band but when all was said and done, I wrinkled my nose and opted to talk to some friends during the set instead of rock out. The singer/guitarist refused to cut his guitar strings and also states, "Hopefully we're in tune but I don't give a fuck if we're not." I crossed my fingers that they were because their music was uninspiring as it was. The bassist had a showy six-string bass but hardly used all the strings any ways. They had a hardcore edge slightly similar to Snapcase or SNFU and even did a super cool trick where the guitarists strummed their own guitars but played the neck of each other's guitars. Despite the gimmick, I couldn't see them winning, as was suggested.
12:50am Ever Since Eve
It's never easy for a band to go on this late in the evening when energy is waning and half your audience is spent, but Ever Since Eve pulled it off well. They had an amazing roster of talent with three guitarists and four singers (including one stellar screamer). Stage antics never ceased as the singer did a double guitar swing around his shoulders and fiddled with the mic stand, jumping around stage with fervor. The guitarist on the outer wings awkwardly ambled around stage like Sasquatch in the forest, constantly distracting my attention as I wondered, "Where's he going?" But hey, at least the intent to stay active was there. Their post-hardcore sound was equally harmonic and rowdy. Barring a slight microphone mishap, their fanbase of screaming girls reaffirmed that they still rocked.
In the end, bands were judged based on song quality, showmanship, crowd interaction and musical ability. The five judges ranged from Big Bop/Reverb booking agents to The Agency Group to Warped Tour representatives. The Reverb's Rosina admitted it was a close race but the winning band came in saying "We're fucking winning this shit" and that was the kind of attitude they were looking for.
1. Future's Past
2. No Other Way
3. King Minus
4. Ever Since Eve (a close call)
Warped Tour Picks:
1. Future's Past
2. King Minus
3. The Knockouts
The winner out of fifty bands this year is Future's Past! As a runner-up, King Minus received tickets for their entire band to at least attend the Warped Tour and The Knockouts received all the glory and honour of being an "honourable mention". This tremendous break will gain Future's Past exposure to thousands, the ability to see all their favourite bands and the chance to play in front of key music executives.
"You know a band is amazing when the hairs on your arm stand up," says Matty from England, after his first-time seeing Future's Past. "They've got loads of talent," he added.
The boys were speechless after the big win, with lots of hugs and lots of smiles going around. "I think I just shit my pants," Jason laughed.
"I can't even talk right now," Arda admitted, in awe. "We're playing for 35,000 instead of 100!"
"No sleep tonight," Nathan told BlogTO. "We're gonna party tonight... and I don't even party, so that should be funny."
For such a young band with so much heart, there can only be big strides ahead in the near future. Congratulations guys!
Thanks to all the artists for the photos I ripped off you.
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