Review and photography by Rodney Gitzel
Anyway, these 'battle of the bands' things always put me off a bit. I've lost count how many I've been to, over the years, and almost every single time the eminently qualified judges don't pick the bands (or songs, as the case may be) that I like the best. It's the tyranny of my own tastes, isn't it? How could I not be right? The judges obviously don't have a clue! So, with that in mind, I plunked down to the side of the Starfish's stage, already bemoaning the fact that the best band would not win, tonight.
First up was, in fact, the best band. Or so I thought. Straight from Oslo, Norway, the Saddlesores! "We used to be Napalm Death, but we wanted a change," said the lead Saddlesore. A change to? A change to crunchified twangabilly. To a young Elvis in cahoots with Pantera. [Note: I later recanted that description...] To songs about cars and getting run over by a truck. Cooool. These guys were really tight and had both a sense of humour and lots of stage presence and style. And, I must admit, I've never seen a drummer twirl a cowboy hat on the end of a drumstick, before...
Sadly, not many people were in the Starfish to see the Saddlesores. This changed drastically for Harvey Switched, who must have unloaded a busload or two of fans out front. They and their fans came out swinging. Well, no, actually, the band came out and played a not-so-little sequenced ditty on an old strap-on Portasound keyboard. THEN they came out swinging.
The most important thing to know about Harvey Switched is that they are LOUD. L-O-U-D. Yeeeps! The five-piece plays the usual mix: some hard rock, some metal, some Platinum Blonde, some Brooklyn hardcore. The band's singer -- you'd probably recognize him, he looks just like the overgrown rich kid who used to beat you up in grade eight -- is definitely the focal point, with his contorted face, Johnny Rotten-like emoting and teenaged bad boy attitude. And when this band cooks, they cook. Yow! Unfortunately, about half the time they don't cook, they just reheat things in the microwave. Plod plod plod...
A regretable session of "beers for jokes" followed, as Scratch, the night's emcee and a self-declared "professional wannabe artist rock star media slut" (I wonder if that all fits in his passport) tried to get audience members to entertain us. And these jokesters certainly were trying... Eeeeg.
The busload of Harvey Switched fans was replaced by a busload of Malchiks fans, meanwhile. When there's eight people (including four horns) in the band, there are that many more friends to bring along, I guess. They led off with an odd country-ska version of "It's a Small World After All" mixed in with some metalized ranting. The singer then tossed his wig, leaving him looking like Peewee Herman meets Pinhead. Hmmm.
The Malchiks definitely get points for effort -- and for their names, especially the Four Hornsmen of the Apocalypse (Death, Pestilence, etc.). They mixed in a lot of little bits of other music into their basically ska attack, but ska bands have to be TIGHT in their playing, above everything else, and the Malchiks were not. Can you say 'kiss o' death'? Still, their crowd loved them, and they've got the basics -- and the schtick -- down. Another year to get themselves together and they may be unstoppable.
So with the bands done, it's time for that interminable wait. I knew that my picks followed the order of performance, the Saddlesores, if nothing else, having been the most consistently good throughout their set. Still, I had a bad feeling they might get edged out by Harvey Switched. Sigh. Wait wait wait.
Ok, here it comes... . #3, Harvey Switched! Wha???? #2, the Malchiks! Hmmm. And #1, winning serious amounts of cool stuff, the Saddlesores! Yaaaay!
Well, Iíll be darned. Judges with taste! :-)
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