Gallows with Anchoress, Baptists and Barn Burner @ The Rickshaw Theatre – November 24th 2012

A couple of times a year, that one show happens. That one that changes everything and seems to blow everything else completely out of the water. Although I had been looking forward to this show since it was announced a few months earlier, I had no clue just how fantastic it was going to be.

Being an old fan of Gallows (how can I even say that when the band has only been around for 7 years?), I didn’t know if this new formation would ever live up to the original line-up. The original singer, Frank Carter, had decided to leave the band at the same time I was in London last summer and I just happened to get a tattoo from him 2 days after the last show he played with them, which was at the London ULU. Since then, I hadn’t been in the same city as the band to watch them, so the most recent memory I had was the conversation with Frank. Wade MacNeil, then of Alexisonfire, hadn’t yet been announced as the singer, so I thought that I had witnessed the end of Gallows. At least, the end of when they were good. Boy, was I proven wrong on the evening of November 24th, 2012 at the Rickshaw Theatre in Vancouver.

For the year and a half between those two shows, it’s not like I hadn’t listened to Gallows. They released a song right after Wade’s arrival, as a free digital download. Titled ‘True Colours,’ it is simply a song under 40 seconds, released in August of 2011 to show the fans that Gallows were far from done, even with the departure of their original singer. Personally, I hated it. The last time Gallows released a single song via digital download between albums, it resulted in my favourite Gallows song, ‘Gold Dust.’ Exactly a minute, with lyrics that seemed to mean something. My favourite line, “If my blood was gold, would you let me bleed?” has stuck with me to this day, though the song was released in 2008. ‘True Colours,’ however, did the opposite. It spelled the word colours the way any good Canadian would, or even Brit. Americans don’t use the u, for reasons beyond me. But somehow, Wade’s best lyrical ability while flying to England after joining the band included the closing lyric, repeated 4 times was “Like the 4th of July.”

To most people, it was just a meaningless string of words. That’s why the concept of Gallows seemed to completely change in my mind. They had always been a British band, their last album with Frank titled ‘Grey Britain,’ and now they were making American references in their songs. Nothing against America, or anyone who is from the United States of America, but Wade is as Canadian as can be, and the others… Their accents will tell you their precise origins, but all of them have England in their blood. What exactly is the relevance of America’s Independence Day?

They then released an EP titled ‘Death Is Birth,’ which came out in December of 2011, and it still wasn’t what I imagined to be a Gallows record. With only 3 new songs, as well as ‘True Colours,’ I enjoyed the tunes, but it seemed like a different band. One that was less punk and a lot more hardcore. By the time their self-titled full length album came out, I was still sitting on the fence. Not to deny the quality of the songs, but could I really listen to them under the name of Gallows?

Since the live performance of the band is what got me interested back when I was 16, I knew that nothing would ever be able to convince me like a good show and with the announcement of the late November show in my hometown, it was just a matter of counting down the days. Without having heard little more than the singles from their self-titled release, I went in to interview 2 members of the band before the show, Lags and Wade. Having heard a few horror stories about the ex-guitarist of Alexisonfire, I was pleasantly surprised at what a super nice guy Wade is. And having met Lags a few times before, he was nothing but hospitable, so I went into the show with a positive view of them as people.

Right away, I knew I had to buy the record, so as soon as I got in the doors, I went to merch and grabbed one. With a friend I made before the show who was filming the set, we got comfortable on the couches right by the mosh pit that the Rickshaw recently installed. Sure, it’s off to the far side of stage left, but it seems a bit ridiculous to me… And yet, I’m the one sitting in those devilishly comfy seats. The tables also provided great cover for our camera bags.

The first band to hit the stage were local dudes, Anchoress. The first song had me a little confused about what they were all about, but after a few songs, I felt myself getting into it. It’s always difficult starting off a show, with the smallest crowd of the night. I also wasn’t totally fond of the vocals, but a handful of songs had a really interesting southern vibe and it got me grooving. Although they didn’t play it this time, last time I saw them, they played a song called “Murder in the Sky Over Burnaby” and being a Greater Vancouver local, I love songs that mention this place. It might have been a good way to garner a bit more attention from the crowd, who had mostly all arrived in wait of Gallows.

Next up, local heroes of the doom-punk scene, Baptists tore the stage up. For a band that’s only been around for a couple of years, it’s impossible to see on stage. From the pounding beats from drummer Nick Yacyshyn, to the energetic singer, Andrew Drury, Baptists are not a band to miss. They’ve all got the hair to match their performance, oozing rockstar all over the place. With the thrash-like sounds coming from guitarist Danny Marshall and bassist Sean Hawryluk, heavy doesn’t seem to cut it. Andrew kept running around the stage to make sure that everyone watching close by was fully involved. He even jumped into the crowd a few times to mosh with us and shook rock and roll into a few audience members. Their performance was first time I had even heard of Baptists and they have won a fan in me. My videographer friend also bought one of their tee shirts after they played. He also informed me that their drummer was previously the drummer for A Textbook Tragedy. Upon a bit of research since the show, I’ve found that they were comprised of a combination of a few bands, including JAWS, Sports and Ladyhawk. They announced at the show that they should be releasing a full-length at some point next year and I, for one, am looking forward to that.

The last opener before Gallows was a band called Barn Burner from Montreal. To try to describe this band, I am reminded of what someone at the show told me. “Black Sabbath much?” I don’t know if I would go that far, but they definitely have a Sabbath vibe, with a bit of modern hardcore and southern metal. But really, just go listen to them. They had a funky vibe and although most of their movements around the stage were minimal, the precision of their licks were worth it. With their long locks of hair that they waved around, it was a great distraction and it seemed to really rev the crowd up. After watching the physical performance that Baptists put on, it was hard not to compare, but being that the singer of Barn Burner is also one of the guitars, he has the task of focusing on numerous things at once. He played his riffs well while flailing his head and his hair around and executed it all with the style and grace. I first heard of this band by playing the Android version of guitar hero (Tap Tap Revenge 4) because their song “Holy Smokes” was one of the free downloads that was a metal song. No matter what introduces you to Barn Burner, however, they are band that make an impression and they sure impressed me live. Part of it was definitely due to the banter of the singer, but we can just leave that part out of the equation. It’s the rock that will capture and keep you.

Finally, it was just mere minutes from Gallows’ performance. I was nervous and excited, but mostly anxious because it always seems to take an eternity to change bands at a show. Between setting up the equipment and any last minute sound checks that they might need to do, I find myself more and more restless. Though, the music the venue played seemed to really set the mood. A few Suicidal Tendencies songs and I was just about ready to go, especially when it was topped off by “Institutionalized,” which happens to be my favourite ST song.

With a taste of the old (but not too old), Gallows started off with ‘Misery’ off of ‘Grey Britain’ and the crowd immediately went off. Wade was the last to enter the stage and we wound himself up by pounding the air with the microphone in his hand to the beat of the drums. He was facing Lee Barratt (drums), and they seemed completely focused on each other. Steph Carter (guitar) got into the performance instantly and was swinging himself and his guitar around. Laurent “Lags” Bernard (guitar) joined him quickly in the effort and the two raced around the stage, back and forth and in every direction. Bass player Stu Gili-Ross found his vibe in a lower stance. He is typically the one to play in a more static position with a very specific look on his face. I want to say it’s pouty, but he just purses out his lips and stares out in the audience really intensely while bouncing back and forth on his feet, as it he’s super pissed off or something. Maybe he thinks it makes him look aggressive, or maybe that’s his “I’m focused” face. Lags, all the while, is racing back and forth, holding his guitar well above his head and then swinging it in every direction. He is a man of showmanship.

By this point, Wade has followed the guitarists lead and is racing back and forth on stage and within a few songs, he took the leap into the audience. With songs ranging from ‘Leeches,’ ‘London Is The Reason’ and the more recent ‘Last June,’ the crowd seemed to feed off of the energy of the band. Although Lee is always very controlled and well-executed with his blistering beats, his energy seems to seep through his drumkit. Even when Steph would take a moment to focus on his more intricate parts by facing the massive stacks behind him, he seemed so into the performance that I didn’t need to see his face to feel it.

As they got to ‘Outsider Art,’ their most recent single, I paid extra attention to the audience. Wade had mentioned in the interview I done with him and Lags that ‘Outsider Art’ was his favourite song to perform because of the way the audience seemed to react when they played it. I even surprised myself with how many of the lyrics I knew. Singing the new songs in a crowd was a real special feeling. When ‘Odessa’ came on shortly after, it was special for the same reason, although in a different way because Lags had mentioned that ‘Odessa’ was his favourite on the album, though not nearly as many people seemed to know the lyrics. It captured my attention, though, and it started to really sell me on the newest album.

‘Vapid Adolescent Blues’ and ‘True Colours’ were another couple new ones to continue on the chain of new songs, but to change it up, they played ‘In The Belly of a Shark.’ Being that on my 17th birthday, I got a Gallows tee-shirt that depicted this song tattooed on my foot, to say I love it is a gross understatement. From the opening riff, to the frantic vocals, the recording gets me rocking in my seat every time. I wasn’t sure how I would feel about Wade doing the vocals, but surprisingly, I wasn’t too disappointed. It’s by far the most famous Gallows song (in North America, anyways), as it was featured on the real Guitar Hero (the 3rd one if I remember correctly), so it’s more of a fan sing-along than any of the others. Everyone in the mosh pit seemed into it, and I personally ran back and forth in every direction that my body was thrust. The only time I made it onto the floor is when my skirt got caught on some guy’s fist (ahem…), but as with all mosh pit slips, I survived and kept dancing. Keeping with songs off ‘Orchestra of Wolves,’ Wade announced that it was time for an old one. ‘Abandon Ship’ came blistering through the speakers and any old fan of Gallows in the pit was ready to go the moment the first “Mayday! Mayday!” hit and we sang in unison while smashing into each other with the utmost delicacy.

To cap it off, the band played ‘Cross of Lorraine’ as a final reminder of the new album. If it’s good enough to cap off the album that Lags called the definitive Gallows record, it’s good enough to almost end the show with. With heavy riffs and a simple, yet powerful drum/bassline, it seemed to combine all the power and grace of Gallows as a band. But anyone who has ever seen Gallows perform live knows that the song ‘Orchestra of Wolves’ is what has to cap off the evening. It’s unwritten rule, but a rule nonetheless. Wade warned us not to bother holding back and the moment that the song was recognizable, I knew he spoke only truths. There is never any point in holding back at a Gallows show at all, but of any song to really lose your mind to, this is the one. They never do encores, and they never bother putting on anything but the best performance, so why bother going off stage and waste the band’s time and the crowd’s time alike? They play their set and destroy it when it comes time for ‘OOW.’ Lags even strung up his guitar on some dangling cords and played it from a good 5 feet above his head.

The only thing I must say, however, is that I far from impressed with Wade’s vocals on this song. Not his actual vocal ability, but more so with his improvised lyrics. I’ve been singing ‘OOW,’ the album and the song, for years and years now. This is no time to change the words. Their previous singer, Frank, would often sing the first few lyrics of the song and then leave the microphone on stage while climbing random pieces of the venue, as well as the people watching the show. Notorious for falling off heights and getting injured, it was often to the soundtrack of this song. Although Wade might not be much of a gymnast, letting the audience sing such a profound song in Gallows culture, along with the guitarists who have been singing it for years, just might be the best option. Or maybe he just needs to do a little bit of homework to get the words right.

Other than that, Wade MacNeil has won me over as the new singer of Gallows. Be sure to check him out when he does his farewell tour with Alexisonfire this December!


Photos of Gallows © Ryan Rose


Photos of Baptists © Ryan Rose

Barn Burner

Photos of Barn Burner © Ryan Rose


Photos of Anchoress © Ryan Rose

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