By Renee Trotier
I arrived at the infamous Sneaky Dee’s on Friday night with a ball of restless anticipation churning in the pit of my stomach. I had been waiting for the chance to catch Bison B.C. since March, when I had first witnessed them fill an opening slot for Shadows Fall. It was a short set but it was one which had absolutely blown my mind and left me breathless. Lucky for me the boys in Bison (the band insists that the B.C. is silent) are road hardened workaholics, and the seven months between shows only felt like an eternity. This time around they would be headlining, and since it was also a Friday night I did my best to check my high expectations at the door and prepared to enjoy the night I had been waiting months for.
With most of Toronto’s metal heads over at The Opera House catching the Nevermore gig, Oshawa’s Madman opened to a sparsely populated room. It’s a real shame too because this barely legal three- piece proved quite the spectacle. Complete with bullet belts and leather jackets, these boys play a brand of early 80’s thrash and traditional style doom that is surprisingly authentic, especially when you consider the fact that they grew up in the era of St. Anger rather than Kill ‘Em All. Impressing the small crowd with anthem style songs like “Toxic Metal” and the Black Sabbath inspired “Born a Witch”, Madman’s set provided the perfect atmosphere in which to get acquainted with the bar.
Teethmarks are a hard band to pin down, both in the musical and the physical sense. Playing a scuzzy blend of metal, punk and party rock that reminded me a bit of Norway’s Kvelertak, they are the type of live band that can energize a crowd through visual antics alone. Though entertaining as a group, it was their bald headed frontman who was the most engaging. He bounded around the stage as if privy to his own private well of adrenaline, jumping up and down and fist fighting the sky. I looked up from headbanging at one point only to catch him hanging from the ceiling (literally). While the music would have held up on its own, it was the performance which had me convinced. Teethmarks were fun, filthy and an overall welcome addition to the night’s roster of bands.
The crowd had swelled tenfold by the time Sin Dealer appeared on stage illuminated by an eerie red glow. The lighting transformed Sneaky Dee’s by giving the venue a warm, hellish feel that matched the band’s southern fried riffs and down tuned rock ‘n roll. The songs had a certain swagger, but what Sin Dealer amassed in groove they seemed to lack in personality and presence. Frontman Eric Kuthe and the band around him gave off a Daddy-O cool vibe that was almost too laid back, especially when compared to the energetic performance that preceded them. Their stripped down, back-to-basics rock did little to capture my attention, even when closing with a cover of AC/DC’s “Walk All Over You”. If the loud applause following their set was any indication however, it would appear that my opinion was an isolated one.
As everyone else made their way to the bar between sets, I staked out a spot at the front of the stage. I wanted to be as close to the headliners as possible, a decision which I did not regret when the mighty Bison B.C. jumped head first into the thunderous opening notes of “Slow Hand of Death”. I was immediately struck by the rawness of their sound, distorted and fuzzy and positively enormous in scale. The chemistry between all four members is undeniable when experienced live, and the crackling energy that passes between them combines to create a deadly force field you can actually feel hanging in the air. It is exactly this type of kinetic fuel that seemed to feed the audience, drinking greedily while the band stomped and swayed, pounding out riff after riff and solo after solo. It is the kind performance that is steeped in genuine emotion, giving you the sense that the band really feels the purpose and consequence behind every note played. Refusing a typical encore, Bison B.C. finished the show by instead thanking the fans, reaching far into their back catalogue to pull out the rare track “From Dark Skies” off their debut album Earthbound. As they exited stage left James gently placed his guitar against a stack of amps, the ravished audience left with only an empty stage and one thick final note vibrating in the PA.
When I finally regained by bearings, I exited the venue feeling cheerfully disoriented. My neck ached and my head pounded, but inside I was filled with the type of astonished relief that tends only to couple experiences that exceed your wildest expectations. In times of drought I had suffered, but in the name of Bison I was born anew.