Saturday, February 17, 2007

Reviews:: ECMA MAX TRAX Rock Showcase

Well the ECMA's are in full swing here in Halifax, with tons of events taking place across the city leading up to the nationally broadcast awards show Sunday night. Being the old man I'm rapidly becoming, I'm not out much, but I wanted to take in a small piece of the festivities. I settled on Friday nights awkwardly named MAX TRAX Rock Showcase at the Marquee. The lineup for the show consisted of On Vinyl, Mardeen, In-Flight Safety, Carmen Townsend and The Shakey Deals, and Mark Bragg.

I hadn't been to the Marquee in years. In fact I was trying to remember the last time I was there, and I think it might've been with Ack and Shawn for a boxing day show featuring Ack's basketball homie Kunga219 and The Goods. But that was at least 5 years ago, so suffice to say, it had been awhile. While in Toronto, I'd heard the Marquee was shut down for awhile, but then renovated and re-opened. I was fairly impressed, it seems like the intent was to class it up a bit, with candle-lit tables and booths ringing a dance-floor type area right in front of the stage. It wasn't quite what I remembered, but it was still a good place to watch a show, despite the pillars right in front of the stage that blocked some of the performers if you were on any kind of angle. But the sound was good, so I had no real complaints.

Local radio personality "Anna Z", of a station I won't mention due to their use of the generic, fatass "radio in my finger" guy for their annoying commercials, performed hosting duties for the evening. Fredericton's On Vinyl had the tough task of playing first, when the Marquee was still pretty much empty, and good ole Anna Z didn't do them any favours by mis-pronouncing their album's title. As you're no doubt aware, I recently reviewed said album, Strode Dodger, and I enjoyed it, so I was looking forward to hearing On Vinyl live. I wasn't disappointed, as the guys did a great job. I think they were a little nervous at the start, as playing the Marquee for the first time genuinely seemed to be a big deal for them, but they loosened up and the crowd got warmed up as the guys cranked the rock up. They slipped in a new song that seemed to go over well, before closing with a rocking rendition of Caught Up that was very well received by the crowd.

Halifax's Mardeen were up next, and they were welcomed warmly to the stage by a crowd that had grown to a fair size by now. Mardeen is a band I'd heard good things about but up to this point I'd hadn't had a chance to check them out. They were fairly businesslike, and got straight into their set. Mardeen's sound was a change of pace, not quite the straight ahead rock of On Vinyl, so I found it a little hard to get into them at first, but that might be because I wasn't as familiar with their material. The crowd enjoyed it though, and they did have an interesting stage presence - you could've told me they were a British band and I would've believed it, not exactly sure why.

After Mardeen finished their set, the area near the stage proceeded to get jammed with people as anticipation for In-Flight Safety's set was high. The biggest name on the bill went through a quick sound check and then left the stage to be brought back on by Anna Z's intro, proving they're already learning how to act like a big band. In-Flight Safety have a big, kind of sweeping sound, so I was interested in seeing how that translated to a live show. In short, it translates pretty well. Their drum sounds were big and powerful, and they had two keyboards on stage which also gave them a different dimension then the other acts. John Mullane pretty much had the Marquee crowd eating out of his hand, and his stage banter sounded like that of an old pro. Despite some brief issues with John's mic level, their set of songs from the Coast Is Clear, with a new one and an old one thrown in for good measure, was tight and the crowd was into it from start to finish.

But those who took off after In-Flight Safety finished might've missed the act of the evening. Carmen Townsend & The Shakey Deals were up next, and although the floor in front of the stage was rather empty when she started, it filled in the hurry. In fact some drunk chaunce plowed in beside me and yelled to his friends "This is AWESOME, who the hell are they!". If that's not a good endorsement, what is? A Cape Breton native, Carmen kind of brings to mind a barefoot, flame-haired Janis Joplin. She attacks her guitar playing and vocals with a passion, in fact she had everyone in the place fired up by her guitar chops before she even opened her mouth. I have to say, because me and herohill associate Mr. MRC moved down in front of the stage before her set, I don't think I made out one word she sang. Still her performance was the perfect capper for me.

And it was indeed the capper, because even though Newfoundland's Mark Bragg was the closer on the bill, we jetted before he came on. Apologies to Mr. Bragg, but I'd never heard o him, and it was one o'clock by then. As I said, I'm old, what more do you want from me? But you should all check Mark out anyway, as I plan to, I'm sure he's excellent. So there you have it, my ECMA experience in a nutshell. It was a good time, all the bands put on a good show. The east coast of Canada is producing some great music right now, I encourage all our Canadian herohillians to check out the ECMA broadcast Sunday night on CBC.

Posted at 2:58 PM by naedoo :: 0 comments

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