Showmanship

Wednesday night I headed out to The Ballroom for Indie Night In Canada to see the band MIC LORDZ & SAUCE FUNKY (MLSF). I was excited about seeing this band, i’ve wanted to for a while. I didn’t bother to find out what time they’d perform, so i got there pretty early.

Paul Husband and his partner Kristen Cholak have been organizing Indie Night In Canada since 2007. This is the first year they’ve had sponsors. Paul was also celebrating his 50th birthday that night. Upstairs at The Ballroom, 16 bands performed on 2 stages. There were some pretty good acts. In fact, i found myself at times having trouble deciding which of the two stages to watch.

Since i was early i decided to look around the venue for a good spot to photograph MLSF. I started taking pictures of a wall outside on Queen Street under an overhead light. A guy in an “I heart NY” t-shirt was walking by and i asked him if he would mind standing still for a minute so i could see the shadows. He said i should come upstairs and see the bands. I introduced myself and he said his name was Matt. He said he was with the band ONE DIVIDED. He said ONE DIVIDED had nothing to do with math. He asked if I could be sure to check out his band and I agreed.

MLSF finally arrived and I asked the guys to pose for some photos with me. MLSF are Dayun “Boots” Marjanovic (vocals), Mike “AlerG” O’Phee (vocals), Liam MacNaughton (drums), John “Rogé” Rogers (bass), Matt Lalonde (guitar). Paul Husband said there would be a media room available for us, but we weren’t able to access it and instead, the only well lit spot was a cold cellar downstairs where they store wine. A closet basically. I had to try to get a good shot of 5 guys in a closet. The first pose I wanted was reminiscent of a picture RHCP took for a Rolling Stone Magazine cover. They stood in a row looking modest. The next shot I asked for required each man in the band to pinch the nipple of the man beside him. I was surprised at their reactions – they feigned shock at my request. I believed them for a minute until they started exclaiming “she wants nipples, lets give her nipples” and started tearing off their shirts. They had a lot of fun with the posing and I was really happy with the shot I got in the end.

Back upstairs, I saw ONE DIVIDED come on stage. They’re a 3 piece band consisting of  Matt Silver (vocals/guitar), Tyler McIlveen (vocals/bass) and Matt Godin (drums). I was only mildly interested until I noticed the bass player, McIlveen. He started singing backup and he was good. A really nice voice. He also became very animated on stage. Flicking his hair, running across stage, bouncing around and playing like his life depended on it. As they moved through the songs in their set, McIlveen actually looked like he was loving it. He was having a great time. Silver stands at his mic and sings and Godin is at the drums doing his thing. McIlveen is the show. Totally entertaining. I would go out to see them again just to watch McIlveen . When I mentioned it later to their Manager, he told me a record exec told him McIlveen should calm down. What? Calm down? McIlveen’s amazing. Never listen to a record exec. Corporate Rock sucks. If anything, the rest of the band should learn to play along with McIlveen’s antics. When you’re only a 3 piece band, you’ve got to “bring it” to the stage. McIlveen is entertaining.

Corporate Rock sucks. ~ OhJustEatIt.ca

I watched a few other bands and I noticed it everywhere. There were some really good acts, nice music, professional playing, but very few entertainers. Very few stars. I’m sorry to tell you musicians, you can be a great musician, but if you’re boring to look at, no one will want to watch you perform live. Today live gigs are one of the only places left to sell CDs and merch. I suggest some of you need to polish up your act.

I can’t find the quote on the net, but I believe it was Sharon Osbourne who said “there are no more superstars”. She should know a thing or two about superstars, especially being the wife of the prince of darkness. At the “Retirement Sucks Tour”, Ozzy Osborne received a standing ovation when he came out on the stage. The entire crowd. Not just the floor. How many musicians can do that to a crowd? Not many.

MLSF finally came on stage. Now these guys are entertaining. Apparently, two members started out with a Hip Hop group. When they joined with three others they became a very funk/hip hop/rock band. Their songs are fun and full of energy and they’re a riot to watch on stage. They play with the crowd, jump around on stage, jump on the bar, make animated faces and gestures. They even ask the crowd to pose while their drummer takes a picture from the stage – now that’s interactive. They’re very fun to photograph (although difficult to capture because they don’t stand still!). This is a band I could watch over and over and never tire of. I’ll have fun following where they go from here.

I left The Ballroom and walked down Queen West to the Velvet Underground to see DREAMERS at their CMW gig. Now here’s another band who knows how to perform. DREAMERS, Paul Maconko (vocals), John Bernardo (guitar/backup vox), Steven “Suggy” Sugrim (bass/backup vox), Matthew Coelho (guitar/backup vox), and Jeffrey Moretta (drums), are my favourite Toronto growlers. I haven’t seen them perform live for a while and I was very impressed Wednesday night. They were working very well together, their music was tight and, most of all, they looked like they were having fun. They looked like they were having the time of their life! They play off each other, bounce around with their guitars, make faces at the crowd, and do the Captain Morgan pose on their amps. I found myself smiling as well as banging my head while I watched them. I wonder if recording their EP “Shenanigans” has helped with developing their music. They sounded great. I’ll have to ask them about that.

Now, let’s talk about showmanship. I see bands all the time. Most of them bore me. A lot of them perform to empty rooms. DREAMERS was performing at 1AM to a practically empty room. They didn’t hold back. They didn’t play with sour faces and wish they were somewhere else. They love their own music. They love their band. It shows when they perform.

Legend has it, Jon Bon Jovi gave CINDERELLA their big break after watching them perform to an almost empty room in Philadelphia. Do you think they would have impressed him if they stood still with their guitars and sang with a poker face?

A good performer draws the audience in and gives them an experience. People can stay home to listen to music. They go out to see bands for the experience. So, give them an experience. That’s why they call it a “show”.