When word came that The Arkells were going to headline the Canada Day show at Alderney Landing, I was ecstatic as I had missed out on their short-notice sold-out stint at the Seahorse and then their Dalhousie Show which also sold out rather quickly. The organizers were going to have to try hard to get me to avoid the show once they announced Glorious Sons, but the Arkells was a fantastic choice to open, considering the love the HRM has bestowed upon the band, their wildly successful release High Noon and its predecessor Michigan, Left.
I arrived on site at around 7pm, and found myself wading through an unusual mass of young folks (ranging from pre-teens to late teens) milling around the gates to the beer garden and not making any attempt to enter the concert grounds either. Once I made my way into the general admission pen, Party Boots was just getting ready to hit the stage. Now, this is a band who I was completely unfamiliar with going in, but they were a talented group of musicians who refused to be confined to any one singular genre. They deftly shifted between genres, ranging from dance-pop to a few folk-infused tunes and a stellar cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Lovers in a Dangerous Time”. Lead singer Rankin MacInnis even strapped on an accordion for a few interesting jams. Having missed Laura Roy and Elephants in Trouble, Party Boots was a good way to get my night underway.
Next up on the docket was Glorious Sons (the band who seriously piqued my interest earlier in the day at their Live 105 Live Hive acoustic performance – where the band covered “Ooh La La” by the Faces). The Kingston, Ontario quintet have been touring in support of their latest album The Union. The band’s bluesy post-grunge alt-rock was a distinct shift away from The Party Boots vibe. Recent single “Mama” kicked off the set, and the band tore through the majority (if not all) of The Union; fans were treated to the band’s singles (“White Noise”, “Heavy”) including the recently released “The Contender”. It was a solid set of greasy rock n’ roll, complete with lead singer Brett Emmons firing up a dart towards the end of the set (not before taking a haul off the bottle of hooch he had with him). As the set wound down, Emmons sat as the edge of the stage and sang a fantastic rendition of fan favourite “Amigo” and before the band bid the crowd adieu they tore into the aforementioned “White Noise”. This was a great showcase for the band, one which solidified this writer’s fandom.
Then it was time for the Hamilton, ON lads the Arkells to take the stage. The band hit the ground running and launched into the lead single from their most recent release High Noon, “Come to Light”. From there we were off and running, and for the duration of the 60 minute set Max Kerman bounced around the stage like a university student on a caffeine binge. Meanwhile Anthony Carone stood pat behind the keys, Nick Ditka and Mike DeAngelis held down the fort at stage left and Tim Oxford kept time at the back of the stage. The band sounded great, the weather held out for the most part (aside from the fog rolling in and cancelling the fireworks), and the crowd from my vantage point were on board. The band churned through a handful of tracks including “John Lennon”, “Oh, The Boss is Coming!” and “Never Thought That Would Happen”, before they welcomed local favourites Matt Mays and Adam Baldwin (looking every bit the part of classic Boss) to the stage to take on the Bryan Adams classic “Run To You”. You could hear the electricity crack and pop throughout the crowd during this performance, and as quickly as they came to the stage, Baldwin and Mays headed for stage right and the band mixed in a couple of deeper cuts (“Deadlines” from Jackson Square & “Dirty Blonde” from High Noon) with the prerequisites “11:11” and “Leather Jacket” (easily the band’s biggest hit to date). It was at this point that things got a bit weird, as the band thanked the crowd and left the stage for the evening. The crowd were hooting and hollering and begging for more, and it wasn’t until the organizers thanked the crowd and wished them safe travels that the concert crowd began to disperse.
It wasn’t until early the following morning that the news broke that the HPD had pulled the plug on the show 15 minutes earlier than previously planned, due to the intoxicated rowdiness being generated from that disruptive teenage faction outside of the gates. I must say, the endless stream of police vehicles cycling through the area couldn’t have helped. It just leaves a sour taste in concertgoers mouths, as we were cheated out of hearing “On Paper”, “Kiss Cam”, “Whistleblower”, “Ballad of Hugo Chavez” (a comparable 17 song set was played in mid-June). All in all, it was enough of a set to whet my appetite for the next time I get to see the band perform (which according to Max will be in January).