I know half of the readers on this site are gonna jump right into this review with a mouthful of smart-ass comments on how this is called S.C.E.N.E. Fest, but the festival's acronym stands for St. Catherine's Event for New Entertainment, and has been up and running for 11 years. It's been one of the largest all-ages independent music festivals in Canada, and attracts thousands of kids from all over every year, most of them coming from the Greater Toronto Area.
2006 featured 121 bands, sharing about 16 stages in 11 different venues (which were, for the most part, bars), and cost only a measly $23 a ticket for a full day of ragin'. I had attended in 2004 for the first time, catching a lot of amazing bands like Bear vs. Shark and A Northern Chorus for the first time, and was desperate to be part of the festival again to hopefully have a similar experience.
I had travelled all the way from New Brunswick, in the Maritimes of this great country, to Toronto, Ontario, and had met up with some close friends from the Niagara/GTA area. We got a hotel room at this place called the Knight's Inn, which was right across the street from Red Square, one of S.C.E.N.E.'s venues. I caught about 9 acts over the course of the day, and while it was a pretty enjoyable time, it just didn't match up to my expectations. Maybe it was the bands I chose. Maybe it was the fact that the number of attendants had easily tripled since the last time I went. Maybe it was from the outrageous number of beers I had consumed. Either way, here is a short review of the acts I had caught. I'm pretty sure all of these bands have a MySpace, so please check out these great artists.
CITY & COLOUR (DALLAS GREEN)
3:00-3:40 - Market Square
This was the first gig I caught during the festival, for it was right outside on a large stage in a parking lot beside the Market Square. Needless to say, it was packed, and I'd estimate over 300 people were in attendance to catch Dallas and Co. play some tracks from the surprisingly huge Sometimes record. While the sun was nice and the vibe was good, I couldn't help but feel terribly bored watching this Alexisonfire side project in person, and I didn't stay for the entire set, instead catching some of the final World Cup game at a bar across the street. Dallas' voice, as always, was in great shape, but that didn't help the fact that City & Colour just wasn't main stage material, especially when the band prior to him had the crowd dancing to some jazz / funk rock only minutes before. It also didn't help that, whenever Dallas stopped to speak, girls in the crowd were screaming his name continuously. I've always been a fan of Dallas' solo recordings, before and after the City & Color sessions, and had even seen him play to 3 people in the back of Alexisonfire's tour van in 2003 and really dug it, but City & Colour should be left to play coffee-house shows and theatre-seated gigs.
BLACK LUNGS (WADE MACNEIL)
4:20-5:00 - Big Bucks
Wade MacNeil, another Alexisonfire guitarist and vocalist, performed with his new side project, Black Lungs, at another packed venue called Big Bucks. Literally the punk rock answer to City & Colour, Black Lungs play a fusion of folk-punk and piano-laden rock, much like a mix of Mike Ness' (of Social Distortion) and Dave King's (of Flogging Molly's) solo materials. Although the music was rather slow-moving like City & Colour, Wade's distorted guitar and raspy singing voice makes all the difference, and proves that he is not the only AOF member who can put the mosh to a halt and still entertain. Wade MacNeil has also always had great stage personality, and having a whole stage to himself gave him the ability to excel at just that, telling stories from the being on the road in between songs and, of course, getting some laughs from the crowd. God knows if Black Lungs will ever release a record like Wade's counterpart has, but if they should, it will definitely appeal to those of us Alexisonfire fans tired of hearing the ever-growing weakness that is "Save Your Scissors" on every radio station and video network 5 times a day. Definately one of S.C.E.N.E.'s highlights
ATTACK IN BLACK
5:15-5:55 - Mansion House
Hailing from Welland, Ontario, Attack in Black is comprised of ex-members of Ontario hardcore cult legends, A Day and a Deathwish, so it goes without saying how great these guys are and how much potential they have in becoming one of the bigger and better bands from the Ontario punk rock scene. Think a softer and more delicate version of New Mexican Disaster Squad, both politics and music-wise, and you would have Attack in Black. They pulled in a pretty decent-sized crowd at the Mansion House stage (which was about half as big as the mainstage at Market Square) and performed their most popular tracks, which made for a good moving crowd. One thing I noticed with Attack's performance was the sound quality. Even on their heavier and louder tracks, like "Take Back Compassion" and "Cave In," the amps seemed too quiet, and were barely audible, even with two guitarists. Also, maybe it was the fact that it was a rather large stage for the type of crowd that were in attendance and the music being played, but the band itself didn't seem all that excited to be there, but then again, this was my first time catching these guys live and maybe they just didn't have much for stage presence. While the music was great and full of energy, watching 15-17 year-old kids go wild on each other in the pit was far more entertaining than just watching Attack in Black perform. Bummer!
6:15-6:55 - Mansion House
Again, Rad Affair is a band made up of ex-members from A Day and a Deathwish (they share the same vocalist), and play a more skatepunk-influenced version of hardcore. Compared to Attack in Black, Rad Affair is much more like ADAADW, almost too much so, and are chock full of chants and mosh breakdowns, so they brought out a much more energetic crowd, predominately made up of floor-punching youngsters. Other than Rad Affair's lead vocalist, there wasn't much for stage presence here either, but again, the insanity in the pit made up for it. Rad Affair ended their set with a Kid Dynamite cover where the pit immediately erupted, and I didn't even notice which track they covered!
7:15-7:55 - Mansion House
I know I skipped Del the Funkee Homosapien's set to see this, but I am almost positive that everything that Matthew Wedge touches is gold. This went for Fordirelifesake, and it now goes for Welland's RosesDead, a rabid lunge-for-the-mic fusion of melodic and metallic hardcore. I've caught these guys twice in my small hometown of Fredericton, but seeing RosesDead play for over 200 purely insane fans was a totally different experience. The band were downright intense live, taking full advantage of the room on stage to swing guitars over kids' heads and tossing mics into almost hungry-looking mouths. Without a doubt, RosesDead was one of the most anticipated at this year's S.C.E.N.E. Fest and they didn't disappoint. It's so rare that you can see a band that holds the same intensity live as they do on their album, but RosesDead always goes above and beyond, and at S.C.E.N.E. `06, they really gave it their all, from start to finish of their too short set. Finally, an intense and mosh-y melodic hardcore band that doesn't need tight clothes, black fingernail polish, or whiny background vocals to make it in today's underground punk/metal scene. Another highlight of this year's S.C.E.N.E. Fest.
8:10-8:50 - Level Three
`80s hardcore punk-influenced political act, Fucked Up was the probably the biggest reason why I wanted to be a part of S.C.E.N.E. Fest this year in the first place. Easily the most underrated and overlooked band in hardcore punk, Fucked Up wore their name on their sleeves and tore it up at Level Three amongst a more diverse crowd than any of the other sets I caught. All the favorites were played, including "Baiting the Public," "Generation," and the classic anti-cop anthem "Police," to which the crowd at Level Three went absolutley ape-shit. George Pettit of Alexisonfire took bass guitar duties when Fucked Up's bassist couldn't show, which brought in a lot of curious kids who got slaughtered in the wild mosh pit. Floor-punchers, head-bangers, and push-moshers all united to make up the, hands down, straight up, best show at S.C.E.N.E. Fest this year. Fucked Up was loud, angry, but catchy, and most of all, fun, and seemed to appeal to all sorts of people; the kind of music I like best, and, goddammit, they do it the best. Although I left kind of disappointed they didn't have any merch for me to bring home to show off to any of my jealous buddies at home, these bruises and scars all over my legs and arms will do just fine.
9:00-10:00 - Market Square
Having just caught Fucked Up's set that ended around quarter to 9, me and my crew made a mad dash to Market Square in order to get at least a semi-decent spot to see Alexisonfire, but we really had no hope in hell. By the time we got there, we had to watch from hundreds of feet away from the stage to catch even a glimpse of their set, so I can't give an accurate review. I could hear them pretty well however, and Alexisonfire was still tight as hell, playing some newer songs ("Boiled Frogs" and "This Could Be Anywhere in the World") that were rather good, considering the songs they play from Watch Out! aren't always fun to see live. I'm also starting to see the impact and influence this band has on the Niagara / Greater Toronto Area music scene. It's not just the fact that they're a band from a small town who made it really big rather quickly, but more so the fact that they are a group of really good dudes who have done a lot for the music community in their area, whether it be making shout-outs to smaller bands in front of sold out crowds, putting their close band friends in their music videos ("Waterwings" and "Your Funeral Mama") or bringing along one of those bands on an important tour (Keep It Up, Cancer Bats) or helping put together a festival like S.C.E.N.E. every single year. Their music now isn't the same stuff I fell in love with on their self-titled release, and some of their career moves haven't been so impressive (such as signing to Vagrant Records, or touring with Underoath), but my amount of respect for Alexisonfire has never shaken. I love these guys.
KEEP IT UP
10:10-10:50 - Level Three
Out of all the small venue sets I caught at this festival, this was by far the most packed, most sweaty, and most intense. For each and every song, the crowd went absolutely ballistic, from start to finish. Keep It Up plays old-school youth crew-type hardcore, so I was pretty shocked to see the large turnout since the festival was comprised of bands like Boys Night Out and other emo/screamo acts. Rumour has it that KIU don't play a lot of shows, and despise touring, so maybe that's why so many fans were in attendance? Anyway, they played some old and new stuff, and even a cover of "Small Man, Big Mouth," which left the band just as bruised and battered as the crowd was feeling. Vocalist Chris O'Toole was on his 'A' game that night -- plenty of mic-tossing, bad mouthing, and even called out Alexisonfire haters, saying "You wouldn't say shit to their fuckin' faces, because they're great guys, and you're all a bunch of fuckin' cowards!" which was followed by a huge applause. Like Fucked Up, KIU brought in a diverse crowd of kids, but they all looked the same by the end of it: completely and utterly destroyed! Great highlight of the festival.
12:15-12:55 - Red Square
After a long-needed power nap, I managed to see Fever Out! at this place called The Red Square which was right across the street from our apartment. It was after midnight, and they didn't have a big crowd, but it was still a fun show. Imagine if Municipal Waste started listening to a lot of Suicidal Tendencies and Youth of Today, and you'd have a sound very similar to Fever Out!. Vocalist Andre Zadorozny has always been a total machine on stage, and such was true when he was in At the Mercy of Inspiration, but this statement holds even more true with Fever Out!, a band you can tell he enjoys being a part of more. One thing I must point out about this band is the talent of both their guitarists. Their tightness amongst such chaos was ridiculous, but most of all, their thrashing and shredding parts were executed flawlessly. There were a few movers and shakers in the crowd (most of them totally drunk from the day's festivities), but none could keep up with the energy exerted from the men on stage. I'll agree that their music isn't for everyone, but definitely catch these guys if they play near or in your town!