Lee Aaron, Coney Hatch, Sven Gali & Deraps live at Sound of Music Festival Concert Review


Date: June 16, 2023
Event: Sound of Music Festival
Venue: Spencer Smith Park
Stage: Access Storage Stage – West End
Location: Burlington, Ontario, Canada
Reviewer: Olivier
Photos: Olivier

Exactly one year after attending the Sound of Music Festival for the first time, I was back at what is arguably the best music festival in Canada. If you read my review of Skid Row‘s performance last year, you’ll know that I wasn’t pleased with the overall set up and particularly how to get into the West Stage’s “Front Row” section. That being said, since I was familiar with the set up this time around, I had no issues accessing the West Stage’s “Front Row” section. It was of course a lot easier accessing this time around since I arrived for the first band scheduled to play and very bare grounds people wise compared to last year when I arrived just as the second last band started its set and having to make my way through the sizeable and packed crowd. In any case, for those who don’t know, the Sound of Music Festival started as a marching band parade in 1980 and eventually morphed into Canada’s largest music festival. The amazing thing about the festival is that it is completely free of charge to attend unless you happen to elect to purchase a ticket to the “Front Row” section. As an avid concert goer, I always prefer to be near the front of the stage whenever I attend a concert so I was more than happy to fork out the bargain price of $58.52 Cdn ($45.00 Cdn plus surcharges) to see four great bands from super close.

There can be two to three stages going on at once during the Sound of Music Festival so it’s always heartbreaking when you have to make difficult choices when two or even three bands that you like are all playing at the same time but on different stages. The Sound of Music Festival‘s organizers are smart enough to have groups of similar genres playing on the same stage on one given night. It always seems that there is one stage during one evening that hosts “hair metal” bands from the ’80s and this was indeed the case this time around on the second day of the four-day music festival with two great artists/bands from the ’80s (Lee Aaron and Coney Hatch), one that should have started in the ’80s and whose run got cut way too short due to the grunge era (Sven Gali) and one newcomer proudly carrying the ’80s torch (Deraps).

I have to confess that although I was excited at the prospect of seeing Lee Aaron, Coney Hatch and Sven Gali playing from the same stage in one night, Day Two of the Sound of Music Festival became a “must attend” event when Deraps were added to the Access Storage Stage line-up for that night. Who in the heck are Deraps you might ask? Well, they happen to the hottest new band to come out of Canada. I use the term “to come out of Canada” loosely as drummer Josh Gallagher is actually based in Perth, Australia of all places but hell, this band is so good that I am going to always consider them a “Canadian” group. To be fair, I believe that all or most of Deraps‘ gigs to date have been on Canadian soil although they are scheduled to play the Stonehead Festival in the UK on August 26, 2023. In any case, Deraps released their debut self-titled album last year and I placed it at #7 on the Sleaze Roxx’s Top Ten Albums of 2022. So yeah, I was really pumped to see Deraps play live because for the most part, they have been playing all over the place in the province of Quebec (with the city of Montreal being about a five hour drive from Toronto).

If you’ve ever been to Burlington, it’s a very pretty city with lots of bigger styled homes all along Lake Ontario. However, it’s not really designed for lots of traffic. I knew that even though the Sound of Music Festival was only about an hour away from my place, it might well take me about double the time to get there during prime rush hour traffic to see Deraps play at 5:30 pm. I ended up leaving my place at 3:43 pm and made a quick pit stop at my work office along the way. Surprisingly, traffic was really good on the QEW highway but grinded to a halt just when I entered the city of Burlington. I drove south to Lake Ontario to reach Lakeshore West where the Sound of Music Festival was located. Unfortunately, it became painfully obvious that I would probably not make Deraps‘ set if I stayed on Lakeshore Blvd. West (one lane in each direction!) for any length of time as traffic was simply not moving. I was about 2 km away from the Sound of Music Festival when I made the executive decision to park my car on a side street and simply walk the remaining distance. I am glad I did because traffic really didn’t seem to move on Lakeshore Blvd. West during that time and I was able to make it to the Access Storage West stage with about 10 minutes to spare.


Unfortunately, there weren’t many people at the Access Storage West Stage when I got there which was a real pity because I felt that Deraps would likely be the highlight of the night! I was greeted with a familiar face in Brian Ronald who currently moonlights as a photographer for my friend Rich Dillon‘s CGCM Rock Radio. I first met Brian back in 2016 when he was affiliated with Decibel Geek and I ended up sharing a hotel room with four Decibel Geek contributors (Rich, Brian, Shawn Irwin and Mikael Svensson) while attending the Rock N Skull Festival in Joliet, Illinois, USA, which was tons of fun. Sadly, the Rock N Skull Festival went through some real hard times, scaled down to a much smaller event and now is no longer due to the death of its organizer Justin Murr who passed away due to Covid complications. If anything, this, along with the fly by night Ontario rock festivals that have gone belly up or gotten cancelled over the last few years (2019’s Roxodus Music Fest, 2019’s Hair In The Fair Rock Festival and 2022’s Rock N’ Rumble Music Festival), has made me appreciate how the Sound of Music Festival seemingly keeps coming back bigger and bigger, year after year.

In any event, Deraps consisting of Jacob Deraps, Josh Gallagher and a tall bassist, whose name I couldn’t quite catch that night and who reminded me of deceased Metallica bassist Cliff Burton, made their way to the stage with little fanfare. To be honest, I was disappointed that there weren’t more people in the audience to see them but whomever was there seemed quite interested in hearing them play. Gallagher was the first to greet the Burlington crowd from behind his drum kit. The man had a huge grin that never left his face for the rest of Deraps‘ set. The three Deraps band members launched into their track “Sex, Drugs & Rock N’ Roll” and we were off to the races. Just from that one song, it felt like you were seeing something special on stage with Gallagher and the Cliff Burton look-a-like bassist laying down a very solid Van Halen-ish groove which allowed Jacob Deraps the chance to absolutely shine on guitar. I’ve always found that the truly great guitarists can almost talk with their guitar and that’s what it felt like when Jacob was playing.

Although there is no question that Jacob Deraps is a true guitar virtuoso, he also handled the lead vocals on most of the songs. The vocal harmonies between him and Gallagher were so good. Gallagher‘s harmony vocals reminded me of the terrific harmony vocals that Van Halen had when both bassist Michael Anthony and guitarist Eddie Van Halen were in the line-up. I didn’t realize this when listening to Deraps‘ debut self-titled album but Gallagher also handles some of the lead vocal duties since he sang most of the lead vocals on the third track played by Deraps at the Sound of Music Festival — the very groovy “Make Ya Groove.” Just like Van Halen, Deraps aren’t limited to just one style of music as their set had a bit of everything from the back burning scorchers like “Sex, Drugs & Rock N’ Roll” and “Fuck Off” to the ballad “On My Mind” to the easy to sing along to “My Side of Town” to the groove based party track “Make Ya Groove.”

I was pretty sure that Deraps had a new bassist as the Cliff Burton look-a-like seemed a lot different than the photos that I had seen of William Lachance. Speaking of the Cliff Burton look-a-like, he was quite tall and seemed to be thoroughly enjoying himself. It looked like he would be at ease playing bass to any style of music. He seemed to be playing without a pick which I can only imagine must be hard on his fingers. His bass was hanging quite high meaning that his elbow was constantly bent with his wrist hanging while playing. More than a few times, I was thinking that he might end up suffering from carpal tunnel syndrome playing in that manner. I later learned via a reply comment from Deraps on a facebook thread that the name of their new bassist is Thaddy Lavoie, and let’s just say that the man has the skills and the chops to hang in there with two of the most talented young musicians you’ll get to hear in Jacob Deraps and Josh Gallagher.

Speaking of Jacob Deraps, I can’t say enough about just how good off a guitarist that he is. He possesses that same “it” quality that Eddie Van Halen had. It’s really no surprise since Jacob has been covering Van Halen songs and posting YouTube videos of his covers for many years now. In addition, Deraps also sometimes end up playing as a Van Halen tribute band such as at Kingston’s upcoming Voodoo Rockfest on August 12th where Deraps will apparently be playing a set of original tunes but also as a Van Halen tribute band. Deraps have definitely mastered the feel good party rock that Van Halen delivered on their first six studio albums (with David Lee Roth). Jacob Deraps‘ guitar playing was so good that I could just have listened to him play guitar all night long. This is probably the first time that I was genuinely excited to see each Deraps band member take time on stage to play an extended solo. Usually, I can’t wait for the types of solos to be over but since each Deraps band member is so talented, I was more than happy to see them each take a turn to shine by themselves.

You’ve to give major props to the Sound of Music Festival for giving Deraps a lot of time to play despite being the first act to play and obviously the one with the smallest following considering that each band after them had been around for at least 30 years. Deraps ended up playing eight songs out of 11 from their debut self-titled album. Considering that there are two short instrumentals on Deraps‘ debut album, that means that the group ended up playing every song from their debut record except surprisingly, the ’80s flavoured “Veins of My Heart” which I think would have gone over really well live at the Sound of Music Festival. Towards the end of their set, either Jacob Deraps or Gallagher announced that they were going to play a couple of covers. The band then launched into their cover of Rush‘s instrumental “YYZ” which is not an easy track to play. Usually, I wouldn’t be that excited to hear a band take on an instrumental track as one of its last songs but the Deraps band members really nailed that classic song. Next up was Deraps‘ cover of Van Halen‘s “Hot For Teacher” which was simply mind blowing. It was great that Deraps were choosing to play songs from bands that realistically will likely never play live again. Deraps closed off their smoking set with their cover of Sweet‘s “Ballroom Blitz” (which can be found on their debut album as well).

I was really BLOWN AWAY by Deraps‘ performance. They were so good! I didn’t want them to stop. Deraps set the bar way too high for any band to follow them and although Sven Gali, Coney Hatch and Lee Aaron understandably had bigger followings and bigger crowds watching them, Deraps truly stole the show on this night. I think that where the biggest discrepancy between Deraps and the other bands was when it came to the guitar solos. There was simply no following Jacob Deraps in that regard and any solo from guitarists Andy Frank (Sven Gali), Sean Williamson (Sven Gali) and Sean Kelly (Coney Hatch, Lee Aaron) simply paled in comparison to what Jacob Deraps had previously played. Jacob Deraps was simply at a way higher level guitar playing wise.

Deraps’ setlist:
01. Sex, Drugs & Rock N’ Roll
02. My Side of Town
03. Make Ya Groove
04. Bass Solo
05. On My Mind
06. Live Fast Die Slow
07. Wild To The Woman
08. Guitar Solo
09. Fuck Off
10. YYZ
11. Drum Solo
12. Hot For Teacher
13. Ballroom Blitz

Deraps performing “Sex, Drugs & Rock N’ Roll” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2023 (video from Josh Gallagher‘s YouTube page):

Sven Gali

From what I can tell, Canadian rockers Sven Gali had not played live in about three and a half years. Unfortunately for them, their new EP 3 was released back on June 12, 2020, which was arguably at the height of the Covid pandemic. Sven Gali have kept somewhat busy since that time with new material consisting of their cover of Triumph‘s classic track “Spellbound” and their new single “Monster”  from their oft-delayed studio album Bombs and Battlescars. The problem that I have with Sven Gali is that I love their debut self-titled album, which was released back in 1992 and which reached gold status in Canada. However, I don’t really like any of their more grunge like material after that aside from their cover of Triumph‘s “Spellbound.” Songs matter. If you don’t like a band’s songs (or at least half of the ones that they are playing live), it’s going to be tough giving them a really good review no matter how well the group performs in a live setting. That’s the case here for me with Sven Gali.

I counted that Sven Gali played 11 songs with five of them coming from their debut self-titled album. Sven Gali opened with a slower paced track that I didn’t recognize before launching into “Freakz” which seemed to get the crowd really going. There was a much larger crowd out to hear and watch Sven Gali play (compared to Deraps) including a bunch of younger people (in their 20s) which was great to see. Quite a few people in the crowd were really into Sven Gali‘s set. As previously mentioned, I really enjoyed the tracks played from the band’s debut album — “Freakz”, “Disgusteen”, “Love Don’t Live Here Anymore”, “Tie Dyed Skies” and the set closer “Under The Influence.” I also really enjoyed their cover of Triumph‘s “Spellbound” but the rest of the tracks played didn’t do much for me. It could be that they played one or two more songs off their debut album but I didn’t recognize those ones if they were played. It had been about four years since I had heard any of these songs. I think most of the crowd was in the same boat as me since the songs played from the debut album definitely received the best reaction from the audience.

I was really impressed with Sven Gali frontman Dave Wanless‘ singing. He sounded great! The rest of the band consisting of guitarists Andy Frank and Sean Williamson, bassist Shawn Minden and drummer Dan Fila put in a strong performance and seemed really tight. At one point during one of the songs played, Wanless made his way into the “Front Row” section while shaking hands and giving high fives to various people in the crowd.  You have to respect Sven Gali who opted to delay the release of their upcoming album Bombs and Battlescars until the return of Frank who was exiled in China for a while due to that country’s quite restrictive Covid policies (until they finally relaxed them). Overall, Sven Gali put on a spirited set but I just didn’t feel that connected due to not really liking half of the songs that they played. There was one young woman who proclaimed very loudly and proudly at the end of Sven Gali’s set that “That’s my Dad” which was touching to see.

Sven Gali performing their opening track live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2023 (video from HEARTS N HARMONY‘s YouTube page):

Sven Gali performing “Disgusteen” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2023 (video from HEARTS N HARMONY‘s YouTube page):

Coney Hatch

Coney Hatch were up next. I had seen them live for the first time back at the end of December 2022 when they put on an awesome performance at the El Mocambo in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. I was really looking forward to seeing them play live again. Guitarist / lead vocalist Carl Dixon and bassist / lead vocalist Andy Curran in particular seem to be such down to earth guys and they were truly appreciative of the opportunity to play the Sound of Music Festival. Interestingly enough, the week before, Coney Hatch had played the Sweden Rock Festival so it must be a neat feeling for the band to play one festival in a totally different country before coming home and playing another festival right in their backyard. In fact, Curran noted to the crowd that he now called Burlington his home so obviously it was very cool for him to be playing in his “backyard.” Dixon on the other hand announced to the crowd that Coney Hatch would be playing material from all four of their albums. He joked that the band likes to release an album every 28 years with the reference being the time that passed between the band’s third studio album Friction (1985) and their next one titled Four (2013).

Coney Hatch elected to start off their set with “Blown Away” from their latest studio album Four. It’s a simple but easy song to get into. From there, Curran took over on lead vocals from Dixon as the band launched into the bass driven track “Stand.” From there, it was time for what Curran‘s now deceased father described as the group’s ‘barn burner’ which was none other than the faster paced “We Got The Night” from their debut self-titled album, which was released way back in 1982. The great songs just kept on coming with “Boys Club” (sung by Curran) and a couple of tracks that I wasn’t as familiar with (“She’s Gone”, “Fallen Angel” and “This Ain’t Love”).  Coney Hatch followed up with I believe their cover of The Angels‘ “Marseille.” I really enjoyed all of the songs in their set unlike Sven Gali who really had two genres of music rolled into their set with songs from their ’80s influenced debut album (along with their cover of Triumph‘s “Spellbound”) and their subsequent more grungy tracks. Any song from Coney Hatch could likely find themselves on any of their albums since they have consistently played the same style of music throughout their career.

What I really like about Coney Hatch is that there seems to be a real genuine friendship and bond between the three remaining original members (Dixon, Curran and drummer Dave Ketchum). Dixon noted that it was really cool to be playing with his friends 42 years later. Curran then reminded the crowd that Dixon once had a terrible motor vehicle accident (in Australia) that had him literally clinging for his life. Curran candidly indicated that they didn’t think that they would ever see Dixon again so it was really special to still be playing together at this time. Dixon couldn’t help taking a good natured shot at the newest Coney Hatch member / guitarist Sean Kelly by indicating to the crowd that Kelly had been in the band for nine years now and had finally learned the songs.

Coney Hatch closed off their set with some of their best known songs including “Hey Operator”, “Devil’s Deck” and the cult classic “Monkey Bars.” Overall, Coney Hatch were true to their word playing songs from each of their albums with five from Coney Hatch (1982), one from Outa Hand (1983), three from Friction (1985) and three from Four (2013) along with one new song called “It’s About A Girl.” Curran noted that “It’s About A Girl” was one of two new songs from Coney Hatch‘s latest live album Postcard from Germany (Live), which was available for sale at the merch booth. Apparently, these were the first copies available for purchase in Canada. By the time I made my way to the merch booth to purchase Postcard From Germany (Live), there were none left so I “settled” for purchasing a copy of the band’s other recent and reissued live record Live At The El Mocambo. Coney Hatch delivered exactly what I was expecting from them which was a good time rock n’ roll concert.

Coney Hatch’s setlist:
01. Blown Away
02. Stand Up
03. We Got The Night
04. Boys Club
05. She’s Gone
06. Fallen Angel
07. Fantasy
08. This Ain’t Love
09. Marseille
10. It’s About A Girl
11. Hey Operator
12. Devil’s Deck
13. Monkey Bars

Coney Hatch performing “Fantasy” , “This Ain’t Love”, “Hey Operator”, “Devil’s Deck” and “Monkey Bars” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2023 (video from PETE DOVE PIX‘s YouTube page):

Lee Aaron

I must confess that I was getting a little tired by the time that Lee Aaron was to hit the stage with her more than capable band made up of her husband John Cody on drums, Dave Reimer on bass and Sean Kelly (once again) on guitar. Yes, Mr. Kelly was doing double duty on this night since he is the guitarist for both Coney Hatch and Lee Aaron. I shouldn’t really complain about having been tired that night (with my work week and sporting activities having caught up to me) because Lee Aaron and her bandmates had way more reason to be since they had been stuck in airports / airplanes for the last few days leading up to their Sound of Music appearance. Lee Aaron was scheduled to play the Iceberg Alley Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada on June 15th, which was about 24 hours prior to her Sound of Music Festival slot. To make matters worse, I understand that Lee Aaron, Cody and Reimer had to travel from British Columbia to Newfoundland (which is essentially across the length of Canada) to get to the Iceberg Alley Festival. The air travel time is a minimum of 2,770 miles between those provinces.

The day of the Iceberg Alley Festival, Lee Aaron had posted the following message on her Facebook page: “32 hours and counting into our Air Canada travel adventure (that has included 3 cancelled flights, a delayed flight and missed connection and sleeping overnight on airport benches) and we are finally pulling away from the gate in Montreal – St John’s bound. Iceberg Alley festival we ARE coming😜❤️🎸🎤😘🇨🇦😎!!!” If that wasn’t enough, the distance from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Burlington, Ontario where the Sound of Music Festival is located is just under 2,000 miles so that entailed yet another flight for the band. In any case, Lee Aaron and her bandmates made it to the Sound of Music Festival and there was no apparent sign that any of them were tired in any way aside from perhaps Lee Aaron‘s singing, which was a tad not as strong as I have heard her in the past. Considering the amount of flights and delays that she had to endure during the last few days preceding the Sound of Music Festival, not having her voice at top notch level is certainly understandable.

Lee Aaron opened her set with “Vampin'” from her album Radio On!, which was released back in 2021. It was a bit of a slower and newer track to start the show and it wasn’t until the band launched into the familiar “Hands On” that the crowd seemed to really get going. Lee Aaron noted partway through the show that her band had been very prolific in releasing new material since her “rock” comeback in 2016. She is certainly right in that regard with five studio albums — Fire and Gasoline (2016), Diamond Baby Blues (2018), Almost Christmas (2020), Radio On! (2021) and Elevate (2022) — and one live record Power, Soul, Rock N’ Roll – Live In Germany (2019) under her belt since that time. Although I wasn’t crazy about the opening track “Vampin'”, I really enjoyed most of the other new tracks that Lee Aaron played including the gorgeous ballad “Twenty One” from Radio On!, the anthem “Rock Bottom Revolution” from Elevate and “Diamond Baby” and the surprising encore “I’m A Woman” from Diamond Baby Blues.

Lee Aaron did a good job including some more obscure songs from her past into her setlist including “Lady of The Darkest Night” from her Metal Queen record (1984), “Powerline” from Lee Aaron (1987) and Nasty Boyz from Bodyrock (1989). All of the other songs which you might expect to hear her play (except “Sweet Talk” from Bodyrock) were included in her set including “Sex With Love” and the title track from Some Girls Do (1991), her first Top 40 hit “Only Human” from Lee Aaron, “Hands On” and “Whatcha Do To My Body” from Bodyrock and her trademark song “Metal Queen.” Lee Aaron did a great job introducing her band members noting that both her husband / drummer John Cody and guitarist Sean Kelly were book authors while bassist Dave Reimer had built his bass from scratch. Speaking of Reimer, he did a tremendous job with his backing / harmony vocals. He also seemed to really enjoy himself on stage. Cody‘s drumming definitely gave a harder edge to all of Lee Aaron‘s material. And it might be just me but I thought that he looked like he enjoy himself a little more playing the Lee Aaron material than the Coney Hatch stuff.

Overall, Lee Aaron and her band members put on a solid set. I actually ended up leaving right after “Whatcha Do To My Body” thinking that would be the last song played but Lee Aaron ended up coming back for one encore (“I’m A Woman”). As I made my way towards the exit, I could heat the last song and I noticed that the crowd was clearly not as big for Lee Aaron as it had been for Skid Row the year before on the same stage. That’s not a knock to Lee Aaron as Skid Row‘s first two albums were multi-platinum sellers and the US group does not play that often in Canada.

Lee Aaron performing “Vampin'” and “Hands On” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2023 (video from PETE DOVE PIX‘s YouTube page):

Lee Aaron’s setlist (as per setlist.fm):
01. Vampin’
02. Hands On
03. Black Cat
04. Powerline
05. Lady of The Darkest Night
06. Diamond Baby
07. Nasty Boyz
08. Some Girls Do
09. Sex With Love
10. Fire And Gasoline
11. Only Human
12. Twenty One
13. Rock Bottom Revolution
14. Metal Queen
15. Whatcha Do To My Body
16. I’m A Woman

Lee Aaron performing “Watcha Do To My Body” live at the Sound of Music Festival in Burlington, Ontario, Canada on June 16, 2023 (video from Paul M‘s YouTube page):