I want to start by saying that I was under the impression Music Nova Scotia’s New Music Friday’s at Casino, NS, started at 9:30 p.m., when in fact, it starts at 9:00 p.m. So to Poplar Street who kicked the night off, I sincerely apologize for missing your set this past Friday night at the Harbourfront Lounge. I hope to catch you next time.
A little bit about New Music Fridays: this is an initiative started by Music Nova Scotia in order to promote new bands, give them an opportunity to play a weekend crowd, and hopefully catch some new fans in the process. The whole event is a tiered system. The opening acts are relatively green in terms of performance, but at the end of the night, come the headliners; the veterans of the Halifax music scene with a crowd base to prove it.
Entering the dimly lit lounge, The Band Before Time was setting up. Twenty minutes later they started their set. In spite of their timid stage presence, apart from front man Charlie Grant’s interestingly robotic yet also lizard-like moves, TBBT knew how to build a song and deliver a climax with hammering bass, driving lead, sweet harmonies, mellow tones (not the band) and smooth lyrics.
They gave a great groove to the casino lounge with songs like “POW”, where keys player Bryce Tully made his fashionably late entrance, adding to the ongoing lounge-lizarding. Bassist and lady-killer Jeff Bethune played a relatively simple but sexy bass, keeping one’s heart thrumming with good vibrations the whole set through, and I’m not sure how many settings lead guitarist Jasper Crace shredded on, but shred he did and kept true to the music, even when switching mid-song. Certainly a band on the up: evolving into greater musicians even through their set. Check them out at bandbeforetime.com
With a new album out as of last month and soon to be hitting the Music Nova Scotia Awards Gala in Liverpool, Andrew Hunter and the Gatherers captured the somewhat growing casino audience right away with the most energetic bass player I’ve ever seen. Sam Nijjar spun circles (literally) about the stage and while I sometimes feared for his bass (often not strapped to him at all), Nijjar was clearly the bass master of the show. They sang of the “Good Old Days” and one couldn’t help but feel good. The energy of this trio only got more intense as their set went on. Hunter’s solos were always well placed and the bass covered the void of ‘rhythm guitar world’ perfectly. Drummer Bryan Page drove the band onward as Hunter sang his heart out and Nijjar knocked his knees to the beat.
Such unrelenting spirit even won them some dancers out front of the stage. Wishing more people had filled the lounge to see this band, given their gig record with The Trews, Joel Plaskett, Matt Mays and more, I don’t think they’ll have an issue finding fans to fill their seats. A grand audience or a few patrons of live music makes no difference to these guys: they love what they do regardless, and it shows. The only ironic thing that must be said of this band is that the only true “gatherer” for Andrew Hunter was the on-hand tech, Greg Wagner.
Setting the stage for the final act of the night, The Stogies, who are possibly my personal favourite band of the Halifax scene at present, ripped on stage, rocking in usual Stogies fashion: hard hitting and right on the money. With classic organ and steaming solos, The Stogies could have rocked until the dawn. The biggest energy, and always the biggest hair, Blake Johnston (guitar/vocals) and his progressively shorter-haired posse: Sean Carver (bass), Dave Driscoll (guitar), Dave Lidstone (drums) and Jason Keddy have only gotten bigger and better since I covered their Natal Day show at Alderney Landing this past August.
Heading to Toronto this week to make a bigger name for themselves at Indie Week, this casino show was a farewell party of sorts for the band, so it was only fitting they rock a classic cover of The Who’s “Baba O’Riley.” I wish The Stogies the best of luck on their Ontario tour and we’ll see yas when you get back.
All things considered, the way is clear: New Music Fridays at Casino Halifax are a great place to hang out, sip some drinks, take a gamble on some wonderful up and coming bands and still be able to hedge your bets on your favourites.
- Anthony Leclair