Big John Bates @ The Cellar Nightclub – September 14th 2012


Having never seen Big John Bates live before, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. To say they were fantastic would be putting it lightly. From Brandy Bones’ ability to maneuver and, almost ride, her up-right bass with utter control without missing a beat, to “Big” John Bates and his effortless flow of familiar notes streaming from his guitar, with a new twang, they put on a show not to be forgot.

John Bates, as I grew up to know him, was the original singer and founding member of Annihilator, a heavy metal band that thrived in the 90’s. After a stint as “Bates Motel,” Big John Bates was born. He played with the “Voodoo Dollz” until 2011, when he partnered with Ms. Brandy Bones, a Montana native. One might guess if they check out her footwear, but I guess only girls do that… John is from Ontario, but both Mr. Bates and Ms. Bones reside in Vancouver these days, so we were lucky enough to enjoy the LP release!

The Cellar nightclub is quite similar to an actual cellar in a lot of ways… Down a long flight of stairs, dark and small. It created a fantastic, intimate environment. The audience was shy at first, but we slowly made our way up the front and with encouragement from the band members, the area in front of the stage filled up.

From the rustic southern gothic punk music, to the style of the members, I was entranced. The two microphones at the front of the tiny stage both had animal skulls of some sort on the bottom of their stands. I’m not personally a hunter, nor do I happen to know much about animal skulls, so I couldn’t tell you what animal they were, but with special lighting, it really added to the ambiance. With everyone’s cowboy boots and the very wooden and classic feel of the stringed instruments played by Ms. Bones and Mr. Bates, I didn’t even bat an eyelash at the skulls. Even the venue itself seemed to fit, with not only the style and size, but the lighting, rugs and furniture on stage. I felt like I was in a saloon, in a western town somewhere down south.

They played songs from the album the show was promoting, Battered Bones, which was sold at the show only on vinyl, as well as many other songs, including a cover of a 16 Horsepower song. The banter between the two singers gave me the impression that their lack of CD’s was more of a pressing delay than a dislike for the compact disc. Although, being associated with the rockabilly movement gives them that much more credibility to some if they don’t bother with CD’s, so it’s possible this was done on purpose.

All in all, I had a heck of a time. Brandy’s tricks with her up-right bass and her wistful voice captured me, while Mr. Big John Bates delivered the goods you’d expect when it comes to his guitar playing. A lover of Gretsch guitars, he showed off what the instrument can really do. His style, mixed with a bit of southern slide meshed well with Brandy’s voice and they make a heck of a team! If you get the chance, pick up their new album, Battered Bones. For pictures of the show, check out:

Photos © Krystal Nōne

To Top