Words & Photography by: Dakota King
The ‘force’ was present on the Fourth of May (the self proclaimed Star Wars Day) as Theory Of A Deadman, who released their sixth studio album, Wake Up Call, in October of last year via Roadrunner/Atlantic/604 Records, literally swept into Central Ontario’s gateway to cottage country amongst severe weather warnings to take a sold-out Mavricks Music Hall in Barrie, Ontario, by storm alongside Windsor natives Tarek Jafar and Justin Tessier, who are the embodiment of The Blue Stones, as well as the local troupe Punishment, hailing from Toronto’s more rugged and deep-rooted hard rock culture. Together, they left their marks on the many ticket holders that assembled for an evening of non-stop head-banging and a showcase of different rock stylings.
Laying the brick and mortar, Punishment served roaring vocals, and rumbling instrumentation that left a throat punch, onto a delicious platter as they ripped through their set. If you’ve been around since 2008, you know that with each show Punishment delivers. Brad Searl’s vocals, along with the musicianship of Kevin Gale, Mark Johnston, and Pat Carrano, sent the mass of onlookers into heavy-hitters from their full length album Remnants Of Things Left Unsaid…, as well as from their debut EP Beautiful Suffering. The audience, thankful for the transcending hard-rock trip, embraced the experienced musical bunch as many returned Searl’s interactions by throwing horns up, or clapping along when beckoned. From the start to the finish of Punishment’s allotted time on stage, the foundation was deposited for what would be a night that was all about the music and many were left with a taste of what was to come.
Two men took to the stage subsequently and perplexed faces sprung up within the crowd. Whispers of disdain fluttered out of the mouths of those who were instantly shut-up as the lads of The Blue Stones launched themselves into the first few notes and words that reverberated out, and into the ears of the folks watching. Dapper and ambitiously ready to win the naysayers over, Tarek, with his serenading vocals and wistful guitar lines, and Justin, with his mauling on the drums, tapped into tracks off their LP Blackholes that resulted in a raw, soul-filled performance. The Blue Stones manifested themselves into a duo that demanded attention, and you could not help but be pulled in. Furthermore, the band sounds just as sizeable and forceful as groups who happen to have more manpower in regards to how many instruments are being played. The two-piece may have been underestimated, but their energized indie, blues-rock sound proved appropriate for the bill that night, and the gentlemen undoubtedly garnered new supporters.
With The Blue Stones send off, the atmosphere of the bar stirred relentlessly until members of Theory Of A Deadman, or Theory, emerged from the cloaked sides of the stage and into the dark abyss. Before the lights rose, punters in the form of women jeered out to frontman Tyler Connolly “You’re so fucking hot!”, “I love you Tyler!”, among other statements to assert their affection. Opening with “Lowlife”, ruckus ensued as this was inarguably a fan favourite as well as the follow-up, “Bitch Came Back”. Switching gears, Tyler perched in front of a keyboard and his fingers danced into “Straight Jacket”, a track off Wake Up Call– a controversial album in the Theory world as it has fans divided over the bands undeniable new sound, kiboshing their affluent hard-rock portfolio in exchange of a more ‘poppier’ tune. However, having been in the business for 17 years and counting, it is evident that despite a change in tempo Theory’s fan base remains receptive, and voices not only sang-along to old school favourites “Better Off”, and “Santa Monica”, but to fresh musings “Straight Jacket”, and “Echoes”. Feeding off the intimate club ambience, frontman Tyler took the time to address the crowd in between songs- at one point even sharing how Best Buy is discontinuing the sale of CDs in the wake of Streaming. Before closing off the night with a two song encore comprised of “Rx (Medicate)”, and the notorious “Bad Girlfriend”, he posed an important question. “What would life be like without fucking music?”- an answer that none wanted to give, and an answer that should not be thought off until that time has come. Feeling incredulous after a solid few hours of live music, the crowd slowly dispersed as Theory disbanded and the lights were brought back up. Illuminating an empty stage, and a lonesome white bra, the wholesome good feeling of having witnessed a decent club show drifted out of Mavrick’s Music Hall, trailing behind the heels of sore feet and necks until next time.
Bitch Came Back
All Or Nothing
Wicked Game (cover of Chris Isaak‘s 1989 original)
Make Up Your Mind
Hate My Life