ROCK N ROLL IS ALIVE AND WELL IN SMALL TOWN CANADA
Date: August 3, 2018
Venue: Along canal outdoors + HH Knoll Lakeview Park
Location: Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada
Photos: Olivier (except last photo)
Port Colborne? Where the hell is that? That is the first thought that crossed my mind when I noticed that my favorite “new” band The Lazys were playing two separate gigs in Port Colborne, Ontario in early August. I then went on Google and put in the words “Toronto Port Colborne distance” and was pleasantly surprised to see that there was only a two hour distance between the two cities (it turns out that Port Colborne is considered a city and not a town). Port Colborne — as it names indicates — is close to the water and south of Niagara Falls. Being a glutton for good live rock n’ roll music, I simply could not pass up seeing The Lazys play live on two occasions in one day in one city.
The first show was a “private” radio affair type gig hosted by the hosts of the 97.7 HTZ-FM Biggs and Barr radio show. Normally, if I would see the word “private”, I would let it go and not bother attending but since I was going to see The Lazys play later on in any case that day, I thought that I would at least try to crash the party so to speak for The Lazys‘ first gig of the day. After sending a few unreturned Facebook messages to various people, I ended up contacting The Lazys‘ lead vocalist Leon Harrison and explained to him how I wanted to attend but noted that it was a “private” event and only radio contestant winners were apparently allowed to attend. The very affable Leon replied with a simple “Hey man I’ve put you down on the list” and with that, I was now thrilled to be able to attend both of The Lazys‘ gigs that day. It turns out that I didn’t really need Leon‘s help to see the band’s first show of the night but I’ll get back to that later on in this review.
I should point out that finding out that The Lazys were playing two shows in one day also put a kibosh on my friend Rich “the Meister” Dillon and I’s planned USA getaway trip to see a bunch of concerts. It didn’t help that Rich and I had some “friendly” disagreements on which bands to go see in that three day span, which was potentially going to include Kickin Valentina (in Ohio), American Bombshell and Junkyard (also in Ohio) and Dellacoma (in the state of New York). Anyways, as it turned out, the horrible recent traffic situation to get to the Canada – USA border became a big factor (since it might add an extra two hours of driving) and once I found out that The Lazys were playing only two hours away, I figured that would be enough to get my concert fix (I almost feel like a concert junkie).
Being consistently late to depart to go to concerts, I was quite concerned when I hit bumper to bumper traffic on the QEW highway again (you can read about my trials and tribulations in that regard in the preceding week while attending concerts using the same dreaded QEW). I knew that there were three bands — The Lazys, Crown Lands, and Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs — playing radio station 97.7 HTZ-FM Biggs and Barr BQ‘s event and I assumed that The Lazys would go on first given that they were the opening act later on that night for Canal Days, which featured headliner 54-40. With an advertised start time of 3:00 pm, I hoped that none of the bands would go on right away and luckily, I ended up being correct as I got to the “venue” by 4:00 pm just as The Lazys were about to take the stage.
Along the way, I noticed a sign indicating that Port Colborne’s population was only 19,000 people so I wondered how many people would be attending The Lazys‘ two performances. All I can say is that rock n’ roll is still alive and well in small town Ontario or perhaps even small town Canada. I remembered back in the early ’90s when I had attended a bar in Renfrew, Ontario (about 45 minutes from Canada’s nation capital of Ottawa) and I was quite shocked to hear Megadeth‘s “Countdown For Extinction” in the bar and people actually “grooving” to the song. That just didn’t happen in the bigger city of Ottawa where I lived at the time (or perhaps I just frequented the wrong bars in that city).
The Lazys live at 97.7 HTZ-FM Biggs and Barr BQ:
Although I had never been to Port Colborne and the directions where to go consisted of Victoria Avenue and another street, it was very easy to find where The Lazys would be playing. I was impressed with Port Colborne as it felt that quite a big chunk of the population was out and about taking in the various festivities that I understand would last the entire long weekend. It looked like Port Colborne was separated by a canal and there were many food trucks and other small scale attractions along one side of the canal. I quickly spotted where The Lazys were going to plays from a 97.7 HTZ-FM flag that I spotted. Eventually, I arrived at the makeshift party area, which consisted of a small stage on one side facing the smaller portion of a rectangle shaped area with a makeshift bar (consisting of coolers filled with beer) on the other end. Everything was outside, which was fantastic. Although the event was labelled a “private” one, the reality is that anyone could see the band perform since there was only a chest high “fence” separating the event from the public walkways alongside the event area. In any case, I was able to get into the event area (thank you Leon), got a beverage and made a bee-line towards the stage.
The stage was only about one foot higher than where people were standing and sitting, and was under some sort of makeshift tent. I always love outdoor shows and actually prefer catching a concert in the afternoon rather than in the evening. There’s something special about having the sun shine down on you while witnessing a kick ass concert. The last time that I saw a concert so early in the day — putting aside my attendance at rock festivals — dates back to seeing J’Nai playing at the Cactus Festival in Dundas, Ontario, Canada almost five years ago. I am not sure how many people were familiar with The Lazys or who had travelled from out of town specifically to see them (like myself) but there weren’t that many people near the stage. It seemed that people were taking a wait and see approach as most stayed seated or standing at least 10 to 20 feet from the stage. That did not deter The Lazys‘ enthusiasm in the least as the group launched into its set with gusto, big smiles and tons of energy.
Kicking things off with “Picture Thieves” from their new (and fantastic) studio album Tropical Hazards, I think that The Lazys won the crowd over with their classic AC/DC laced rock n’ roll, enthusiasm and Aussie laced English. Right away, I noticed that the band had a new bassist in the line-up. At this point, I didn’t know what was going on with original bassist Glenn “Willie” Williams but thought perhaps it was a visa issue thing given that when I interviewed Leon Harrison and lead guitarist Matty Morris back in May 2018, they had mentioned that three (or “technically four”) had made the move from Australia to live in Canada. The new bassist was tattooed seemingly from head to toe (I am exaggerating), had those bigger earrings that stretch the ear lobes and seemed like he had been playing with the band for years and years. I don’t know his name but he looked really comfortable out there while putting on quite the show with his high energy level and constant grin.
Although The Lazys‘ setlist was short and sweet, which was understandable given that they were essentially playing a radio contest promotional gig, there really wasn’t any letdown whatsoever as it was one great song after another. After possibly my favourite Lazys song was played (“Howling Woman”), Harrison announced that the next track “Little Miss Crazy” would be the band’s next single. Back when I had interviewed Harrison and Morris, the former had advised that the group’s next single would be “pretty catchy.” I was pleased to hear that the slide guitar filled “Little Miss Crazy” was going to be the next single as in my review of Tropical Hazards, I had identified that song and four others as in the “phenomenal” category. And Harrison was right, it is a catchy tune. Next up was the group’s first single from Tropical Hazards — “Nothing But Trouble” — as well as “Black Rebel” from The Lazys‘ self-titled album, which I think is the song that has served as the template for all the great ones on Tropical Hazards.
As seems to be the case at any Lazys show, Morris couldn’t just stay on the stage and wandered into the audience to play his guitar solo during the older track “Authority” which Harrison advised was written when they were like 17 years old (or something like that). Morris ended up standing on a table while the seated people around it looked kind of surprised. Not one to be left out from the fun, Harrison joined Morris on the tiny table while asking the crowd to repeat after him the following words “One by one, inch by inch, we’ll take it all the way.” I just loved The Lazys‘ enthusiasm and willingness to step it up to put on an unforgettable performance. Before the last song “Shake It Like You Mean It”, Harrison advised that he would be giving a free t-shirt to whomever came up near the stage and danced with him to the track. Although there were a number of females that could have taken a few steps to get there, I do believe that it’s a man who ended up doing a few dance moves before Harrison came over to him and put his arm around him while singing.
Overall, The Lazys put on a fantastic but short set. Harrison announced that they would be on the Canal Days stage at 6:30 pm and that was music to my ears as I would not have to wait very long (less than two hours) to see them perform again.
The Lazys’ setlist at 97.7 HTZ-FM Biggs and Barr BQ:
01. Picture Thieves
02. Howling Woman
03. Little Miss Crazy
04. Nothin’ But Trouble
05. Black Rebel
07. Shake It Like You Mean It
Crown Lands live at 97.7 HTZ-FM Biggs and Barr BQ:
Next up was the duo of Cody Bowles (lead vocals, drums) and Kevin Comeau (lead guitar, bass, backing vocals) also known as Crown Lands. I had seen the band perform back in January of this year when they opened for Last Bullet who were playing their last ever show at legendary The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto. I also caught the tail end of their set when they opened for The Lazys at The Casbah in Hamilton back in late April 2018. While I had originally thought that Crown Lands‘ songs sounded a little thin given that the only instruments (excluding vocals) were drums and guitar, or drums and bass, given that this was my third time seeing the duo, I was more used to the basic layout of the songs.
I was really impressed this time around with Bowles‘ singing. Sure, he sounds a lot like Rush singer Geddy Lee and having him behind a drum kit gives you a Neil Heart impression as well but he really can sing and very well at that. Comeau was his usual super excited self on stage going absolutely crazy while playing certain portions of songs. I was glad that they decided not to include a drum solo during their set this time around. Or perhaps they did as I ended up leaving after what I thought was the last song (a very good cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir”) but the duo came back for an encore as by the time I left the enclosed area, they were back on stage playing a song. I was surprised to be familiar with most of the songs played by Crown Lands including their single “Mountain” for which they shot a video for. Given that Bowles sounds so much like Geddy Lee and having previously seen Crown Lands play a killer rendition of Rush‘s “Working Man”, I was secretly hoping that they would play it again but they changed it up with their cool cover of Led Zeppelin‘s “Kashmir.”
Overall, Crown Lands put on an entertaining set but I wasn’t quite at the point yet where I wanted to purchase their CDs.
The Lazys live at Canal Days:
Given that The Lazys were supposedly playing at 6:30 pm, my priority was now to get to the next venue that 54-40 were scheduled to headline so I skipped Sam Coffey & The Iron Lungs‘ closing set at the 97.7 HTZ-FM Biggs and Barr BQ. I had no clue where the “park” was where The Lazys, Lowest Of The Low and 54-40 were scheduled to play but suspected that it might be walking distance. I asked for directions and it was confirmed that the park was indeed quite close by. My camera on my iPone indicates that the location where I took my photos of The Lazys‘ second show of the day was HH Knoll Lakeview Park. As it turns out, the park is a nine acre park and overlooks Sugarloaf Harbour and Gravelly Bay on Lake Erie. As I made my way towards the park, I was a bit worried for The Lazys‘ set as the park and the area facing the stage seemed so big and could easily likely pack 5,000 people. There were less than 20 people at the gate when I arrived shortly before 6:00 pm. How many people would The Lazys be playing to?
By the time that The Lazys took the stage — I think sometime before 7:00 pm — the crowd had started to roll in but most of the people’s camping like chairs were placed towards the mid-way point between the stage and the back, and there were only maybe 20 people near the front of the stage (with yours truly near the center on the barricade between the stage and general admission area). The Lazys kicked off their set with even more enthusiasm — if that’s possible — than when they had played the Biggs and Barr BR radio event earlier that afternoon. I was wondering whether The Lazys would be playing the same set as earlier in the afternoon and it certainly looked like it during the start of their set with “Picture Thieves,” “Howling Woman,” “Little Miss Crazy” and “Nothing But Trouble” being played in the same order as earlier in the day. I loved seeing the great camaraderie between the band members when they were on stage. All of the band members were all smiles and seemingly really enjoying the experience. Rhythm guitarist Liam Sheerer noted that it felt like they were playing a (big) pic-nic! By the time that The Lazys finished playing “Black Rebel”, one fan yelled out that he could go home now as the band had played the song he wanted to hear!
At this point, I was expecting the same exact setlist from The Lazys but they changed things up with I believe “Louder Than Youth” (from Tropical Hazards) and “Wild Heart Races” (from The Lazys). It seemed that The Lazys were getting close to their maximum allotted stage time as I could see Harrison speaking to a few people before announcing that the band would play “Authority.” I was a little surprised that The Lazys would have time to play two songs given that they were pressed with time as I assumed that the band would finish its set with its sing along classic “Shake It Like You Mean It.” Just like during their mid-afternoon set, Morris was looking to do something special with his guitar solo during “Authority.” After figuring out that he would not be able to go under the tarp or whatever was to one side of the stage, Morris elected to come down the stage and walked the barricade right next to the fans (including myself) in the general admission area. Unfortunately, The Lazys didn’t have enough time to play “Shake It Like You Mean It” and they shut it down after “Authority.” I was literally blown away by how good The Lazys‘ set had been. As I turned back towards the crowd, I was surprised (or maybe I shouldn’t have been surprised given how good The Lazys were) how the large lawn in front of the stage had filled with people. It wasn’t elbow to elbow by any means but all of a sudden, I couldn’t see the chairs at the midway point from the stage and all I could see were people standing throughout the lawn.
Clearly, The Lazys had made a great impression because there was a line-up waiting for them as they made their way to their merchandise table and it only grew bigger as Harrison and later Morris made small talk with each and every person that stopped by their merch booth. I couldn’t resist buying Tropical Hazards on vinyl as I have recently resurrected my vinyl collection but only purchase albums that I really like in that format. I ended up leaving after The Lazys‘ set as I had never heard of the Lowest Of The Low and although I had heard the name 54-40 before, I couldn’t name any of their songs. Such is the case these days with concert packages putting together bands of different genres. At the end of the day, I don’t really care as I can just go see the bands that I am interested in and skip the rest. Given that admission to the Canal Days was free (you could donate an amount if you wished), the price was certainly right! Amidst all of the negativity with rock n’ roll being dead, etc., it was nice to go to a small “town” in Ontario and see that people there appreciate their rock n’ roll. I think part of it goes back to what Reverse Grip singer Dru Broda told me in an interview back in 2014. There is simply too many things to do in big cities and people have too much choice. In smaller “towns” such as Port Colborne, there aren’t as many events so there’s more chances that people will come out and support rock n’ roll when it’s presented in live format.
As I was leaving, I couldn’t help but be thankful that there are still a few radio stations out there like 97.7 HTZ-FM and radio hosts like Biggs and Barr that support “newer” rock n’ roll bands.
The Lazys’ setlist at Canal Days:
01. Picture Thieves
02. Howling Woman
03. Little Miss Crazy
04. Nothin’ But Trouble
05. Black Rebel
06. Louder Than Youth
07. Wild Heart Races
The Lazys performing “Wild Heart Races” at Canal Days in Port Colborne, Ontario, Canada on August 3, 2018:
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