Mahtay Coffee in hand, pita and notebook in bag, I trekked my way through sideways rain to Detour Music Hall and got set up for my pre-show interview with Heavy Hearts’ bassist, Jamie Gorman.
As I was wringing out my shirt outside of the venue and soundcheck started, I realized that I had made two big concert goer mistakes. I had one, not brought a towel, and two, not brought ear plugs. Pro-tip: always have your towel, and always bring ear plugs.
At around 8:40 p.m. the first act started their set. Honest Living is a St. Catharines-based alternative trio consisting of a guitarist who sings, a bassist who screams and a drummer. At this point in the evening there’s a fair crowd building in front of the stage. The music is rhythmic, distant sounding, and emotional and it’s near impossible to resist bobbing your head.
One of the first things that struck me about their performance was their tightness as a band. Nothing felt out of sync, there were no wrong drum cues; vocals and guitars were in key and in time.
Honest Living also achieves the feeling of relaxed looseness in their music as well as stage presence. The volume of the show at this point was basically perfect and I think that turning everything up to 11 later for the headlining bands was a mistake. My left ear is still ringing.
Overall, I was impressed with Honest Living and I’m excited to see them grow and play more shows.
At 9:30 p.m., Sinner, the St. Catharines-based hardcore black/thrash metal band, began their set. They opened up with a sound bite that says something about chaos and they began right away with crazy, heavy licks, frantic metal drumming, thick, sludgy bass and high screaming vocals. The band had me grinning and headbanging for their whole set.
Unfortunately, the crowd got a little smaller for Sinner in the time between bands but in this smaller crowd were audience members that really connected with the band, including myself. I was impressed by the darkness and intensity of their lyrics and performance.
The stage presence of Sinner was a highlight of the evening for me. The vocalist, Phil Paxton, was all over the stage, hanging from the railing and starting one-man mosh pits while still screaming his heart out. It was hard to focus on the story and not go join him. Every member of the ensemble was into the music and played well.
For those of you who are new to the St. Catharines music scene you might be thinking, why on Earth did a thrash/black metal band play after an alternative band and before a new wave emo band?
The answer is that many Indoorshoes shows at Detour have incredibly diverse line-ups and not only does this expose all attendees to new music that they might not otherwise ever listen to, let alone see live, it brings bands together.
On that note, here is my next pro-tip for you: stay and see every band. You bought the ticket and every band needs and deserves your support.
As I mentioned earlier, I got the opportunity to interview Jamie Gorman, the bassist of Heavy Hearts, prior to the show. We talked a lot about the music that inspires Heavy Hearts, about the process of putting together their debut album, Bliss, and how it differed from their previous EPs. On the fan favourite track off of the new album, “Basement Jesus”, Gorman mentioned that it “wasn’t even going to make it to the record”. The song ended up being really positively perceived.
Gorman and I also talked a bit about Niagara.
“One of the big differences between St. Catharines and other places is that St.Catharines is very quiet … everyone’s listening” said Gorman, in “other places, people are talking because they’re there to use the bar or whatever whereas, [in] St Catharines … the minute the band starts, there’s dead silence until [they’re] done.”
Later when Heavy Hearts hit the stage at around 10:15 p.m., the audience was swept away by dynamic rock drums, poppy guitar picking alongside more traditional punk-rock guitar and bass, and Justin’s heartfelt vocals. The crowd by this time was the biggest and most enthusiastic it got all night.
The band was full of energy and they played hard for the full set. Everyone was jumping around the stage and there was not a dull moment. Heavy Hearts’ vocal harmonies are notably excellent.
Heavy Hearts is easily one of Niagara’s best contemporary rock bands. After the show I met up with Chris McKirdy of the local grunge act, Redcoat, and talked with him about the show. McKirdy claims, “Heavy Hearts is the next Alexisonfire.”
The final performance of the evening began at 11:15 p.m. when Sights & Sounds took the stage. Fronted by Andrew Neufeld of Comeback Kid, this band has power. I was initially a little underwhelmed by the vocals. Neufeld is a great singer and I was shocked that there were points when he seemed to be struggling.
By this point some of the crowd had dwindled, but the audience that stayed were very excited and respectful fans.
The rest of the band sounded amazing. About halfway through the set Neufeld explains, in a raspy voice, that he blew out his voice a couple nights ago and that originally, the band didn’t think that they could play the show.
I’m extremely glad they did. Even with Neufeld’s singing hindered, it was an impressive display of their experimental alternative punk and the raw vocals seemed to add to the depth and realism of the performance.
Although Sights & Sounds’ set was short, on account of Neufeld’s throat, it is one that I won’t soon forget. The band’s dedication to playing the show and to interacting with their fans afterwards in Detour was an absolutely heart-warming depiction of community through art.
Sights & Sounds are not from Niagara, but their performance and charisma made them true examples of the Niagara Arts and Culture scene and spirit. Keep your eyes open for possible new Sights & Sounds music in the future and make sure to catch them the next time they’re around.