Review by Natalie Zed
Early shows are always a tricky proposition. This concert’s ten p.m. curfew meant that the three bands had little choice but to start while the sun was still shining, with no local support. Luckily, this show succeeded despite these restrictions. The three sets were all a decent length and everything ran like clockwork (my hat off to the crews). While you could see that the artists were pressed for time, rushing to tear down, set up and sound check, as an audience member, I was treated to a neat, precise, high energy performance with little waiting and no fat.
Barn Burner started off the show joking about the strain of being on stage early, complaining they “just got up!” before their 7:20 p.m. start time. I really enjoyed their set. They have a great, dirty edge to their look and sound, something raw and gritty in their aesthetic that feels honest. They are distinguished by the “Western swing” of their riffs and a penchant for clever plays on words, like the song title “Keg Stand and Deliver.” They sing about booze and partying, but through a slightly world-weary lens that is as refreshing as it is entertaining.
By the time Barn Burner finished their set, the room went from half-empty to bustling, and would end up being absolutely packed by the middle of the show. Co-headliners 3 Inches of Blood were the band I was looking forward to the most, as my anticipation was richly rewarded by an excellent, high-energy set. This is the third time I’ve seen these Vancouver, BC-based traditional metal band perform, and my affection for them grows each time. Cancer Bats would later refer to them as “the most metal band we know,” which is both amusing and apt. They love what they do and commit to a traditional heavy metal aesthetic without a hint of camp. 3IOB ended the set with “Battles and Brotherhood,” a song imbued with magical powers that make it physically impossible not to pound your fist in the air and singalong.
Though it seems impossible, this was the very first time I’ve seen the ubiquitous Cancer Bats perform. Originating from Toronto, ON, this set had the feeling of a homecoming, something singer Liam Cormier enhanced by heaping love upon the crowd, extolling the virtues of Toronto and saying how wonderful it was to be home. Their set was tailored for Toronto, including older material such as “Grenades.” There was an overwhelming feeling of affection, both from the audience for the band and vice-versa, and as a fan of good vibes, I was thoroughly charmed. Cancer Bats are famous for their high energy performances. I know I’m a little bit spoiled in this regard, and that my standards are high. While they’re no Dillinger Escape Plan, they still give every drop of sweat and ounce of energy they can squeeze out of themselves, especially Liam Cormier.
Their set was incredibly tight, with not much banter, aside from a few outpourings of love. During the song “Deathsmarch,” guest vocalist Wade MacNeil (Alexisonfire, The Black Lungs) joined the band on stage and briefly took the mic before performing a gasp-inducing stage dive. For the penultimate song, Cancer Bats performed their cover of the Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage,” which went over incredibly well. Their rise in the hardcore scene has been meteoric, and to some extent I can see why. They’re high energy without being overly threatening, aggressive but positive in a way that allows for broad appeal. And there is something magical about a band that can appeal to both 15-year-old scene girls furtively smoking on the floor and huge, Punisher-type men with throat tattoos. They have something here, and it’s good to see something even a little bit strange can pack a room with rabid fans.