Well, last week and for the few weeks prior, I have worked more that a 65 hour work week opening a restaurant. Saturday, April 27th was the opening weekend and I’m proud to say that everything went great. I needed something to reward myself with after all the hard work and I knew just the thing! It would be tight, but I was determined and knew that I could make this happen. As things wound down at the restaurant I called a cab to take me quite a distance. The $100 charge would be well worth it, in the end, I knew, as the driver rolled up to the Rockpile Bar & Nightclub in Etobicoke. Brighton Rock was due on stage at 10:30pm and I had made it here with about an hour to kill. Still wound up from work, I rushed inside greeting friends as I bellied up to the bar. After a few moments, I spotted fellow Decibel Geek writer Kate Campbell, the newest member of our team and joined her at her table.
Crutch was still on stage and I did not find them to be riveting, but again it had been a very long few weeks and I was still unfocused from the rush to get there, so I may not have given them my full attention. They were heavy and didn’t seem the best fit with Brighton Rock as the exhaustion finally set in full force and I began to yawn.
Between Crutch and the next band, Step Echo, I had the chance to chat with Kate and friends without yelling or straining to be heard. It turns out that Kate knows the drummer from Step Echo, so I was more settled in now and looked forward to checking them out, although still tired…..perhaps another beverage will serve to assist in perking me up?
Joe Cahill from 97.7HTZ FM radio station in St. Catharines took the stage to announce Step Echo. The 90’s were a strange time for music with the grunge invasion and 97.7HTZ FM was the only station that I would listen to in my younger days (and still today on the extremely rare occasion that I put on the radio) even though it was sometimes difficult to tune in in my area. That station played a good mix of rock music encompassing classics like Led Zeppelin and AC/DC to Motley Crue to Soundgarden and Alice In Chains (the more contemporary at the time) whereas some stations stuck to either the classic rock or the new rock. They were playing Metallica long before they became mainstream with the Black album and on every radio station, but the one thing that won me over to 97.7 was that one morning on the way to work they spun a song by Tora Tora (“Amnesia”) which I’d never heard on the radio and then they followed it up with Megadeth! No other station in Toronto at the time would ever have played a Megadeth track, let alone at 8:30am! Once on a trip to St. Catharines from my hometown north of Toronto I made my friends take a pit stop at the radio station, dubbed “The White House of Rock” and there are photos of me and another 97.7 worshipper kneeling on the front lawn bowing down with our arms outstretched…..“We’re not worthy!” At the time, the station was also a big supporter of Canadian music such as Tragically Hip, Rainbow Butt Monkeys (which were actually winners of their Rocksearch contest and in effect discovered by the station and later changed their name to Finger 11) and The Headstones. In any case, that was a long story to get to the fact that it appears that 97.7 is still a big supporter of the local Canadian rock scene as radio personality Joe Cahill announced the band.
I’m not sure of the title of the first song, but I was struck by the intensity of the lead vocalist and the good clear modern sound of the music. They even had a bit of a following as patrons of The Rockpile gathered in front of the stage, some ladies up and dancing along. The second song, “Pieces of Me”, certainly sounded like a hit single if it is not already gracing radio stations and was a great song with a good beat powering it along. “Crazy” was up next and then a short pause as vocalist Joel Degonia addressed the crowd. He let us know that the next song has reached several thousand hits for the video, produced by the grad students at Niagara College and now showing on You-Tube for “Just As Messed As You”. Next up was a ballad style track and the wave of tiredness overtook me again, not being a ballad fan per say and they lost my attention a bit here. I perked up, wide awake again though when they announced that they had included a cover tune on the CD and then launched into “Eyes Of A Stranger” from the Payolas and did an incredible job (prompting me to listen to it on You-Tube several times since: STEP ECHO – EYES OF A STRANGER). My only regret is that I failed to purchase their CD, Jagged at the show, don’t make my mistake if you see it for sale!
Joe Cahill again drew the attention of the crowd as he spoke into the microphone at about 11:10pm, just over half an hour late, announcing Brighton Rock. Stevie Skreebs on bass, Johnny Rogers handling keyboards, Mark Cavarzan on drums and Greg Fraser with his guitar all took the stage, unleashing the rage in the opening bars of the song “Unleash The Rage”. Vocalist Gerry McGhee had a delayed entry, joining the boys as the vocal parts of the song began. Perhaps these boys have no rage to unleash, but it was obvious that they were like caged animals who had just found freedom on stage tonight. Stevie Skreebs (who also plays bass in Greg Fraser‘s other project Fraze Gang) was very animated on stage and this was exactly what I had expected after seeing these boys play back in October. The show in October was one of the best I’d seen in a long
time, hence the reason I spent the cab ride to attend this one. Gerry, who was absolutely intense with his vocals already during this first song tonight, seemed like he really was unleashing some kind of rage. Check out the interview with Gerry and concert review from the October show that esteemed colleague Wallygator and I did here: BRIGHTON ROCK. “Young, Wild and Free” was up next as Johnny moved from behind the keyboards to jump on rhythm guitar. The whole band maintained that unleashed, caged animals look and feel as smiles could be seen everywhere on stage. “Barricade” followed and is a great anthem song, the crowd singing the line “breaking down the barricade” along with Gerry. “Hangin’ High & Dry” and “Outlaw” kept the momentum going until the band took a very short break in the musical assault as Gerry addressed the crowd. He officially announced that Brighton Rock was working on a new record, good news indeed! They “would not be playing any songs from it tonight until they were ready to be played”, he continued, “but instead we are going to play one of the most requested songs that didn’t make its way on the setlist last time, “Shooting For Love”. Then it was time for the “Hollywood Shuffle” and I was struck by how listening to Gerry sing was like a time warp as his voice sounds just as good as it did back in the 80’s. The whole crowd at The Rockpile already knew that these boys came here to rock, but they reminded us with the song of the same name, “We Came Here To Rock”, followed by “Can’t Wait For The Night” and “Who’s Foolin’ Who”. Gerry stated that the next tune would be his all time favourite BR song and they assaulted us with “Nightstalker”. A while back fellow Decibel Geek writer BJ Kahuna did an article on the top 10 songs called “Nightstalker” and how this one didn’t make the cut is beyond me as I agree with Gerry, it’s up there with some of my other BR faves. Never-the-less there’s some great music in that piece and here’s the link for you to check it out: TOP 10 METAL SONG CALLED NIGHTSTALKER The high energy “Bulletproof” showed that all of the band was into it 100% as they killed the track and brought the show to a close as they left the stage. We all knew that wouldn’t last long, but Joe Cahill took the microphone again to incite the crowd, not that we needed it and get the boys back on stage for an encore. “One More Try” had the crowd, members of the opening bands and even Mr. Cahill singing along before Gerry announced that they had a little treat for The Rockpile tonight. “C’mon Johnny”, he said as Johnny broke into the familiar riff of “For Those About To Rock (We Salute You)”, the AC/DC classic. Wow, Gerry sounds great singing this hard rock classic and even though it was an expensive road to get here for me, I wouldn’t have missed it for the world and I’m glad I made it. My only disappointment was that although we got to hear Gerry‘s favourite BR cut, we didn’t get to hear mine of “Power Overload”. Oh well, Brighton Rock was the perfect stress relief after the mind boggling exhaustion I had endured during the weeks previous.
While Brighton Rock was finished and the guys mingled in the crowd signing autographs and chatting with friends, with Greg “Shredder” Fraser spotting me and coming over to say “hi”. Greg and I chatted about the show, how Wally was missing tonight and also about some other bands that we have been introducing each other to.
Monique Richardson‘s Limitless took the stage shortly after, opening with the Led Zeppelin classic “Rock & Roll” and there was a crowd dancing down in front. Monique took her band through some great classic rock tunes including Toronto‘s “Your Daddy Don’t Know”, John Cougar‘s “Hurts So Good”, Scandal‘s “The Warrior”, all of which sounded great and the band did justice to these classic 80’s songs. C.C.R.‘s “Fortunate Son”, Pat Benetar‘s “Heartbreaker” followed and the crowd down in front of the stage continued dancing and partying along with Limitless. Then a real treat for me as Monique led the charge on Joan Jett‘s “I Hate Myself For Loving You” which was an
absolute favourite song of mine during my youth and I used to listen to it several times a day. Unfortunately, it was around this point that I could no longer hold out and the sweet song of deep slumber was fast descending upon me as I ducked out for the night. Limitless, however, did a fantastic job on these old favourites getting the crowd up dancing in front of the stage and maintaining the energy throughout their set. I look forward to the next time I can see them and give my full attention, maybe even hear some original songs of theirs if they have any.