ONE NIGHT ONLY WITH REVERSE GRIP!
Date: February 18, 2016
Venue: Cherry Cola’s
Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada
The sleaze rock landscape in Toronto, Canada strongly appears to be changing and sadly some of its best acts in recent years are departing. After Midnight Malice officially called it quits in January of this year, it was now the turn of Reverse Grip to presumably say an unofficial good-bye during the following month. With Reverse Grip advertising a “one night only” show but falling well short of declaring that this was the end of the band, the reality is that the sleaze rock group tried but was unable or uninspired to continue without its leader and drummer Dylan Broda once the latter moved to Finland. While losing a drummer usually does not spell the end of a band, Dylan Broda is much more than that as I would literally see on this night and taking into account the leadership and older brother status that he brings to the other two Broda siblings in the band.
Reverse Grip will always have a special place in my heart because they were the first “new” sleaze rock act that I saw play live a little more than four years ago that made me think that perhaps Toronto had some great up and coming bands that might be able to carry the torch of all those great ’80s sleaze rock bands that we know and love. Reverse Grip‘s show in November 2011 opening for Tracii Guns‘ version of L.A. Guns also sparked my interest in writing and covering hard rock/heavy metal music and the rest is history. Back in late 2011, Reverse Grip had just released their self-titled four-song debut EP and were the epitome of the young party hardy rock group with the exception of their bassist Eskander Mirza who was eventually replaced by Kramer White in 2012 just before the group released its full-length debut album Hunger For Chaos. The classic Reverse Grip line-up of White, drummer Dylan Broda, guitarist Sean Broda and singer Dru Broda then started touring the world including as opening act for Lordi during an impressive European tour. Following the return from their world tour which had the sleaze rock group play in Brasil, Japan, Australia and many European countries, and with presumably a lot of momentum on its side, the group instead seemed to lay rather low with no new material forthcoming.
Fast forward to the spring of 2014 where I interviewed White and Dru Broda, and less than a month later, Reverse Grip debuted a new drummer in Kris Lamb while opening for the legendary L.A. Guns (this time the Phil Lewis led version). Despite getting some professional photos with the new line-up, all was surprisingly quiet on the Reverse Grip front for more than a year. I remember running into White — who is also a big fan of music in general — at quite a few concerts during that time span and he did not know himself what was going on exactly with the band when I specifically asked him about it at a Steel Panther concert in May 2015. The explanation finally came in December 2015 when Reverse Grip‘s frontman Dru Broda advised Sleaze Roxx that replacing drummer Dylan Broda turned out to be extremely difficult and more so than they ever thought given that Dylan was the leader and oldest sibling in the group. Dylan Broda‘s leadership would be on full display during Reverse Grip‘s gig at Cherry Cola’s and I’ll touch upon that later in this review. With Dylan making a visit from Finland to Canada, the classic Reverse Grip line-up of the three Broda brothers and White reunited for what turned out to be a very fun yet a bit sloppy night of rock and roll.
I made my way to a pretty packed Cherry Cola’s at around 10:30 pm at which time the first opening act Wide Open Throttle had apparently just finished playing and the next act Chemical Burn were setting up. Sleaze Roxx writer Mark Hovarth was already at the venue’s bar and we had an enjoyable time chatting including with Reverse Grip guitarist Sean Broda who provided some details about what led to the band’s hiatus and the neat story of how the group was able to set up a tour of Japan a couple of years ago. I have never spoken to Dylan Broda so can’t vouch for him but I have always been impressed with the two other Broda brothers who both have a brain on their shoulders so to speak along with their rock and roll spirit. I also ran into Kramer White who somewhat excitedly advised of his new project with drummer Kris Lamb and a “killer” singer. I am definitely looking forward to hearing what they have come up with together. Chemical Burn were soon playing on stage and I dug their brand of what seemed like at times southern rock n roll. The group’s lead vocalist Eddie Aresenic was short in stature but made up with a great voice and a look and vibe that reminded me a lot of Tesla‘s Jeff Keith. Towering guitarist Skid Rowe — not the most original name there — was impressive with some killer guitar solos.
After Chemical Burn‘s set, I spoke to Aresenic and asked if the band had any CDs for sale. He responded that the band did have an album but he did not have any copies for sale on this night as they had sold out at their prior gig. Aresenic went on to advise that the album was available digitally which might be fine for most people but not an old school guy like myself who likes having a physical copy of an album. It seemed that this was a missed opportunity for Chemical Burn. It reminded me of Mach22, whose Like My Chances EP landed the number one spot on Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2015 and whom I had seen live for the first time back at the M-Pre Party in Columbia, Maryland, USA last year. Impressed with Mach22‘s set, I had sought out their lead singer Lamont Caldwell but was disappointed to hear that the group had forgotten to bring CDs with them to the gig. Whatever the case, Chemical Burn appear to be a band on its way up and which even recently announced that it is on a bill at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 11, 2016 with none other than The Cult along with the Headstones and The Glorious Sons.
The one Reverse Grip band member that I had yet to see at Cherry Cola’s was frontman Dru Broda who was perhaps hiding in the back. It wasn’t until Reverse Grip started setting up on stage that I clued in that the bearded young guy with the fedora type hat that I had seen all evening long was none other than Dru Broda. Just like his brother Sean Broda who was almost unrecognizable two and half years later in June 2014 due to his new short hair and big beard, Dru Broda had switched his look quite substantially. Ironically, it was almost a natural evolution for the singer who undoubtedly has received a lot of comparisons to Guns N’ Roses frontman Axl Rose with his look, on stage demeanour and even his microphone! Eventually, Axl Rose was sporting a beard so in hindsight, it was not surprising to see Dru Broda sporting the same. Prior to Reverse Grip finally kicking off their set, drummer Dylan Broda took his two younger brothers and White in a huddle to presumably give some inspiring words before what could well be the group or at least this line-up’s last gig together. And that is when Dru Broda‘s words to me back in December 2015 rang true because I could see Dylan Broda‘s leadership front and center within the band with my own two eyes.
Reverse Grip hit the stage with “Tease Me” from their album Hunger For Chaos in front of what appeared to be a packed crowd. The one thing I noticed right away — given that I was looking for it a little bit — was that Dylan Broda did seem to have a distinctive drumming style and really pounded the shit out of his drums. Despite the pretty small stage, frontman Dru Broda was still able to move around a little bit with his sometimes likely Axl Rose influenced moves. Surprisingly, the next song “Midnight Fox” was barely recognizable with Dru Broda‘s vocals seemingly drowned by the music. I started getting worried that the sound might be off and that it would be a painful sound decapacitated evening. My concerns turned out to be for naught as the band seemed to rebound right after with spirited versions of “The Fire” where frontman Dru Broda got the crowd to sing along, the groovy “Dancin’ On A Bullet” and another sing a long favorite “Sold My Soul.” Dru Broda did a good job at that point in addressing the crowd including warning the crowd about the dreaded moment in the night when the band plays a new song which turned out to be the riff based “Alibi” which was quite good on a first listen.
From then, the group launched into a Misfits cover of “Where Eagles Dare” which I admittedly did not know as I am not the biggest Misfits fan. “Quick And Dirty” followed from the band’s Hunger For Chaos album and another new song which I was later informed by White was called “Apocalyptic Now” and which was the best out of the three news songs played. Dru Broda then dedicated the last new song to be played — “Wake ‘The Fuck’ Up” — to Donald Trump and the surprising Americans who appear to be well on their way to voting in a man with rather polarizing views as their next commander in chief. Interesting times indeed. I got to say that I was not fond of “Wake Up” which saw Dru Broda sing in a growling fashion and which seemed quite the departure from the sleazy hair metal music that the group first played on its self-titled EP. Next up was “You’re Goin’ Down” before the group sadly sped up their biggest “hit” single — relatively speaking — “Nasty Reputation” to the point that I found that the song’s melodies and hooks were kind of lost in the process. Reverse Grip ended the night with the song “Bone And Disown” for their old school fans and which I later learned from White was the group’s first song ever written.
I was a little surprised that Reverse Grip didn’t play “Mirror Mirror” from their Hunger For Chaos album given that song has a really good Guns N’ Roses like melody to it and was one of the four tracks that the group shot music videos for with the other ones being “Sold My Soul”, “Dancin’ On A Bullet” and of course “Nasty Reputation.” Another track that I was surprised not to hear was “Enjoy The Chaos” which opens the Hunger For Chaos album. Finally, I would have liked to hear other tracks from Reverse Grip‘s self-titled debut EP which songs I have always thought had more melodies and hooks to them. Overall, I had a great time seeing Reverse Grip play live once again and it was the first time that I was catching the band play a headlining set. The evening was definitely a lot of fun although it did feel like I was not catching Reverse Grip at their best. That is somewhat understandable given that the group had been on hiatus for quite some time and likely only got a few practice sessions in with drummer Dylan Broda visiting from Finland. Will this be the last time that I ever see Reverse Grip play live? I really hope not but fear that may well be the case. Only time will tell so for now, all I can say is thank you to Reverse Grip for some great music which will live on even if the group calls it a day.
Reverse Grip’s setlist:
01. Tease Me
02. Midnight Fox
03. The Fire
04. Dancin’ On A Bullet
05. Sold My Soul
07. Where Eagles Dare (Misfits cover)
08. Quick And Dirty
09. Apocalyptic Now
10. Wake Up
11. You’re Goin’ Down
12. Nasty Reputation
13. Bone And Disown