Wednesday night the Commodore Ballroom played host to Fox Seeds 2011; a true high energy battle of the bands. This years finalists were Gentleman Prefer Blondes, Louder Than Love and Head Of The Herd. As a special treat the Nova Scotian rockers The Trews closed out the night with a stellar set. All in all it was an evening of cheers, beers and one unfortunate selection.
As I walked into the show I noticed the diverse crowd. Many people were in attendance to support their friends and loved ones as they fought for the platinum award. This year the first place winner would take home a huge band-in-a-can setup (full prize list). It was about to become a no holds barred display, or so we thought.
The first band to play was Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. They were very underwhelming. The instrument work was amazing, but the vocals were poorly mixed and seemed to alienate the audience. In between songs the lead singer tried to break into an inter-crowd banter, but the mic was so fuzzy you could not make out a word he said. I found myself more fascinated with the odd faces being made by the bassist. Final verdict is they are a little to green to go to the big time. They need to polish up their live persona and really get their live mix together.
Next up was Head Of The Herd. This five piece was amazing. They had such an eclectic vibe on stage. An indie blues rock that left you entranced and begging for more. The four male members wore matching white dress shirts, skinny black ties and black suspenders, as the female member flaunted her beauty in a black skirt, and similar white top look. They looked so tied together and polished. But that was just the tip of the iceberg. These guys (and girl) could rock and sported a wicked stage presence. The opening song had one member contort his body as he powered out a beautiful harmonica intro. Each song seemed so unique. Their music demanded your attention, and seemed so organic and perfectly polished. Enough raw to keep it simple, but some skill entwined to show you what they had. These guys were amazing, I just want to say kudos to them. You had my vote.
Finally we it was Louder Than Love’s turn. They seemed to have the largest mob of support. From the second they landed on the stage, the crowd was chanting “LTL, LTL”. These guys were talented, and had a great presence on the stage. They were super polished and full of power. Every song seemed like it was a radio track. But that was the problem, they didn’t really have any originality, the sounded like more of the same. I found myself watching five talented young men, that just seemed uninteresting. The music sounded nice, the vocal work was great, but their was no hook. How could you decipher them from every other band out there. Still I saw potential in them, like they had it in them to be great, but they needed to make it their own. If they could steer away from the mainstream and find someway of creating something less pop-rock, they could be really amazing. The lead singer has an interesting look, but I feared he would become another rock crooner out there fluttering his lashes, instead of writing music poetry. For this I lost interest quite quickly.
After a short hiatus, the rep from 99.3 the Fox came out and brought with them the slip of paper. On it the name of the winner. The crowd began chanting again “LTL, LTL”. I rolled my eyes as Louder Then Love were uttered into the mic. This is the second year in a row where a band with a currently popular sound over took the creatively original and obviously better band. I mean I get that a pop band could sell some records (or digital tracks) better at first. People are sheep and will jump on any bandwagon as long as it is popular. But Head Of The Herd were beautiful, they had such a diverse sound and poetic lyrics. I just walked away with the usual thought in my mind – Don’t ever see a band because they are big, see a band because they are relevant to you. If the world followed this, we would have way less Britney’s and many more Jack White’s (sorry I’m a JW fanboy).
Within a mere moment of the winner walking off the stage the crew backed away and out walked The Trews. Those MacDonald brothers were their usually high energy, smiling from ear to ear selves. The set was perfect, playing great big tracks like So She’s Leaving and Hope & Ruin. The audience, revved up from the three band battle, began to dance around frantically. I love seeing The Trews, they play what they love and bring some of that East Coast with them. You can always feel that great drinking song buried somewhere in every track. They are a little over played on our local radio stations due to CanCon laws, but I think these guys are wonderful. Every show I have seen them play is better than the last. The Trews are a great representation of Canadian musicana.
The Trews Setlist:
So She’s Leaving
Hope & Ruin
World I Know
People of the Deer
The Trews photos © Jamie Taylor
Gentlemen Prefer Blondes photos © Jamie Taylor
Head of the Herd photos © Jamie Taylor
Louder Than Love photos © Jamie Taylor