This past Saturday saw a robust crowd stream in through the new brewing facilities of the local craft beer proprietor Garrison Brewing, to take part in the 2nd annual Backlot Bash concert, which was being put on as a fundraiser for the Ecology Action Centre (a local organization dedicated to building a healthier, more sustainable world). This year’s line-up consisted of The Brood, Three Sheet, Alert the Medic, and the honorary Haligonians July Talk.
The concert grounds were neatly tucked away in behind the Garrison Brewing warehouse (across the street from the brewery’s retail storefront), complete with an assortment of food trucks (which included the Habaneros’ Gecko Bus and grilled cheese sensation Halifax Press), some Keg Bowling, Axe Throwing and a Pro Skates skateboarding demo course. You even had an assortment of Adirondack chairs set up around the grounds for those who wanted to grab a seat to watch the goings on.
First up were local progressive rockers The Brood, a four-piece outfit who will take you on a psychedelic aural expedition. I can understand those who explain that the band’s brand of music isn’t for them, as it is a bit left of centre, but when the band gets rolling it’s a fantastic experience each and every time. The Brood’s vibe isn’t overly aggressive, but their fusion of progressive jazz and surf rock makes for an atmospheric ride. The band’s set was over far too soon, but such is the plight of the opening act. It was a fun but brief encounter which was enjoyed by the somewhat sparse crowd in attendance.
Three Sheet was the only act on the bill I wasn’t overly familiar with, or had a chance to check out live. After digging through the band’s YouTube videos and getting hooked on “The Bears” (the recently released single), my interest was certainly piqued. Vanessa Furlong, Matt “Expedyte” Kliffer, Eric “EMC” McIntyre, Kevin Tilley, Ryan O’Quinn and Shaun “Uncle Fester” Ryan took the stage and proceeded to unleash a fiery set of tunes which got the crowd moving. The previously sparse crowd down in front was now filling up rapidly as people took notice of what was transpiring on stage. From EMC’s beat-boxing magic to Furlong’s soulful, hook-laden vocals, to Expedyte’s silver tongued flow, the band was as tight as they were musical. I can’t wait to hear more from this band, as they won over a whole legion of fans from this performance.
The sun had begun its descent behind the horizon as Halifax’s Alert The Medic hit the stage. If you aren’t familiar, these local boys are a power-pop four-piece making infectious, pop-infused rock music. Personally, Ryan MacDonald’s vocal tone reminds me at times of The Watchmen’s Danny Greaves, and as Alert The Medic wrapped their set on Saturday Night, my impressions were confirmed completely. There were moments where MacDonald even allowed the poppier sound to bleed through, and struck a sound reminiscent to that of Hedley. The entire band seemed to be having a great time, a sentiment that was shared by the adoring crowd. It was also fun to see a band want to share some banter with the crowd, but it almost resulted in a condensed set; the banter got a bit away from the guys, but they managed to reel the chatter in and hurried to wrap their set up.
As much love and praise that the crowd heaped upon the first three bands of the day, there was no mistaking who they were there to see. From the moment July Talk took to the stage to get set-up, to the opening chords of the band’s latest single “Push + Pull”, the crowd was ready to roll alongside the Toronto-based rock outfit. It was a sentiment that was mutually shared, as Leah was sporting a Sex, Drugs and Lobster Rolls shirt that was presented to her moments before the set kicked off, and the band shouted out the Carleton’s very own Mike Campbell for being the reason that they’ve felt so welcomed here in Halifax. While the band’s impending sophomore release Touch doesn’t drop until September, Peter, Leah, Ian, Danny and Josh were more than happy to let the Haligonian crowd hear what they’ve been hard at work on. Over the course of the evening, we heard 7 of the album’s 10 tracks, interspersed between July Talk hits such as “Gentleman”, “Guns & Ammunition” and “Summer Dress”. It’s hard to believe that we are only now getting a second July Talk LP considering the number of tunes that are already well-known tracks.
The band charmed the pants off of the audience; at one point Leah waded out into the crowd and stood at the rail and presided over her flock. She danced and shimmied her way around the stage, as all the while Peter growled and snarled while perched at the keyboard or menacingly banged away on his guitar. Having been able to watch the band perform a handful of times now, it’s hard to deny the chemistry shared between Peter and Leah, not to mention the way their voices perfectly balance each other. It’s been less than a year since the band was here, but hopefully we’ll see them here again soon as the touring cycle for Touch ramps up. It’s hard to imagine anyone leaving the Backlot Bash disappointed, as July Talk perform like they’ve been on stage for decades. The slate of opening acts were all extremely talented, but it’s hard to eclipse the intensity of enthusiasm of the headlining act.