This past weekend saw the inaugural Into the Night festival take its place on the Olympic Hall stage, and while the festival itself may not be new, it was the first year for the new branding. Some folks may remember the Groundswell Festival that took place in the same venue, but this year felt decidedly different as it seemed to be focused on bringing in some well-known acts from outside of the region to headline each of the two nights of the fest.
It was also a well-planned affair, as the two-day event offered a diverse line-up of acts, ranging from the day 1 offering of energetic pop-punk from The Flatliners, harder more aggressive punk-rock of Like a Motorcycle, and Spirit Of the Wildfire, and the local melodic rock outfit Outtacontroller. Day 2 was a bit more subdued (not by much), as it was a local trifecta of acts The Drug Rugs, Rain Over St. Ambrose and The Town Heroes, headlined by Juno award winning Said the Whale who hail from Vancouver. The festival itself was a 19+ affair, but it did include an all-ages show at The Pavilion on Saturday afternoon, which featured Like a Motorcycle and The Flatliners for the punk-rock Haligoons who couldn’t make it out on Friday evening.
I arrived at the Olympic Hall venue as Like a Motorcycle was taking to the stage, and it was a modest, yet rowdy crowd down in front of the stage, with a few Haligoons attempting to forge a healthy mosh pit (which would eventually have the band orchestrating some of the chaos on the floor). It was a raucous set from this tandem of Halifax-based punks, and as LAM worked through a set loaded with new tracks from the forthcoming album with a couple fan favorites played right off at the top of the set . The new material was more accessible, with a distinct Hole vibe shining through, the crowd in attendance was digging the new material as much as those early hard-hitting tunes. Kim, KT, Dave and Michelle riled up the crowd in preparation for the evening’s headliners.
The Toronto based Punk outfit The Flatliners have gradually moved away from their ska-punk roots, and moved towards a more polished alt-hard rock vibe, as opposed to classic punk rock. This is no knock on the band, as they hit the stage and slayed for their entire set, even taking a deep dive into their catalogue and busting out a collection of tracks from 2008’s The Great Awake which was a harder, more aggressive punk vibe that would sound perfectly at home on the stages of Warped Tour, and at times invokes thoughts of bands such as Rancid and Pennywise. Personally, it was hearing cuts from 2017’s Inviting Light such as “Hang my Head” and “Indoors” that resonated with 40-year-old me, as they are a bit more subdued and melodic. It was a killer night of punk rock in the Olympic Hall, which ran over into the early morning hours of St. Patrick’s Day, one could only imagine what state Like A Motorcycle and The Flatliners would be in for a 2pm All-Ages show.
Saturday Night’s St. Patrick’s line-up was clearly the less raucous of the two evenings, with that trifecta of local acts in Rain Over St. Ambrose, The Drug Rugs and The Town Heroes, and indie-pop darlings Said The Whale. Personally, the only act I was unfamiliar with was The Drug Rugs, as my only true exposure to their music was from an early morning performance in the Global Studios, so it was hardly indicative of the band’s potential. While you can read on their Spotify bio that the band’s sound is compared to acts such as The Smiths, St. Vincent, The Strokes and Iggy Pop, and I guess if you listened really hard and tilted your head just so, you could hear shades of those acts, but the one maritime act that I couldn’t get away from, was a more indie sounding Repartee with a healthy dose of The Brood’s musicality (thanks in large part to Billy Habib’s Bass mastery and those rad rubber galoshes). The poppy magnetism of Laura Kempton’s sultry vocal delivery is smooth, sweet and buttery, and just draws the listener in and demands your full attention. It was a kick ass start to the night.
Next up was a HAFILAX favorite, Yarmouth’s own Rain Over St. Ambrose. This is a band who is no strange to Halifax stages, and who returned to treat the Haligoon audience to some classic ROSA cuts such as “Broken Love”, “Wasted Days” and “Talk Talk Talk. This is a band who have managed to take post-punk, alt. rock and melodic classic rock, and tossed them into a blender and concocted this sound that is infectious and familiar. This performance was well received by the folks in the crowd and you just had to take a look around to see the legion of fans belting out the band’s tunes right back to them. It was an appreciative night, that also saw Rain Over St. Ambrose break out some new jams which will be appearing on the follow-up to Still Waking Up. This is a band that I will leap at the opportunity to watch perform, as they fail to disappoint. They would have also been a great compliment on Friday Night’s punk line-up.
Third on the bill was a pair of lads from Cape Breton, one of whom recently introduced the world to the Bernie, the latest digital assistant for our hectic schedules. The Town Heroes also recently expanded their ranks by welcoming the incredibly talented tandem of Aaron Green and Tori Cameron to The Town Heroes. On Saturday night, the Four-piece rock act hit the Olympic Hall stage and had the crowd packed to the edge of the stage and singing along with every tune the band unleashed on the suspecting masses. While it was great to hear the well-known tunes such as “Baton Rouge”, “Outer Space” and “New York City”, it was a treat to hear the band’s lead single “Only You” from their forthcoming record make it into the set. The set whipped by all too quickly, but man if you get the chance check out The Town Heroes, from Bruce’s maniacal work on the drums, to Tori’s sweeping bass work, or to the shoeless Guitar Wizardry of Aaron Green, and we’d be remiss not to mention front man Mike Ryan, who is the Town Heroes’ gregarious giant on vocals.
Batting clean-up was Vancouver’s Said the Whale, who were making their return to the region after close to a 2-year absence. In looking at the schedule for the two days, it felt counter intuitive to have Said the Whale closing out the festival. It initially felt like the old adage In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb applied, but from the moment the band hit the stage and launched into the opening salvo of “Step Into the Darkness”, “Camilo” and “I Love You” that notion was quickly eschewed. Fans of Said the Whale know that the band’s earlier material had a folky indie-pop vibe (think Hillsburn) and sensibility about it, and gradually morphed into a power indie-pop troupe. It was that fuzzed out, indie-rock sound on a track like “I Love You” that garnered the band a fair share of radio play and earned the band a loyal following.
On Saturday Night, Ben paused the set to bump up a fan requested tune that they rarely play, and not at all rehearse, so the core trio of Ben, Tyler and Jaycelyn played a loose and dialed back version of the sng to placate the audience member who kept shouting his request between songs. The most recent album As Long As Your Eyes Are Wide is noticeably more electronic based, and the material has taken on this indie electro-pop vibe that reminds me of Mother Mother (another Vancouver act albeit a far more subdued version). At the Olympic Hall, the band delved deep into their discography and gave the fans a great sampling of their entire history, opening up with some of their better-known songs, sprinkling in some deep cuts while also delivering a healthy dose of the new record. It was the perfect way to wrap up the Into the Night Festival.
While the shows ran well into the evening, and could always use a few more bodies in the room on both nights, Into The Night festival felt very much like a rousing success. It once again called the underutilized Olympic Hall home, which should be used more regularly as a live music venue, as it can hold a decent pack of Haligoons and offers great sightlines from all around the venue, not to mention it typically sounds great (as it did on both Friday and Saturday nights). It was a solid offering for the inaugural session, so now we look ahead to Into The Night, Vol. 2.