A ROCKING AFTERNOON CROWD WHILE CHASING A GUINNESS WORLD RECORD
Date: March 27, 2017
Venue: The Earl of Whitchurch
Location: Whitchurch-Stouffville, Ontario, Canada
As I was heading back towards the bit metropolitan city of Toronto, I couldn’t help but think that I had uncovered one of Canada’s best kept secrets. But I am getting ahead myself. Let me start from the beginning.
I first learned of Tri City Villains because the Canadian band had the foresight to invest a little bit of money into a sponsored ad on Facebook in advance of their first venture into the province of Ontario in Canada. Tri City Villains also knew how to market themselves to an ’80s metal fan such as myself. Three things caught my attention about the ad. First of all, you had the photo or cartoon of a scantily clad sexy woman in what appears to be a bikini and almost knee high tight black boots with the caption “She’s On Fire.” The ad caught my attention as this type of ad usually only used by ’80s type heavy metal bands. Second of all, the band name Tri City Villains also screamed ’80s style hard rock or heavy metal. Finally, there were slew of tour dates within a very short time span including a number of dates in the province of Ontario.
Based on this limited information, I ventured to Tri City Villains‘ website without having heard any of their songs yet only to discover that the group had a couple of videos, notably for the songs “She’s On Fire” and “Brick In The Face.” After mostly listening and watching a little bit the two videos in question, I was sold that Tri City Villains should be featured on Sleaze Roxx from now on. As I started scouring Tri City Villains‘ website, I noticed that their self-titled debut album was available for streaming. One listen of the album confirmed that I had to catch this band play live if at all possible. Luckily for me, there were three tour dates in the Toronto vicinity so hopefully at least one would work for me. The first of the three Toronto area stops was on Friday, March 24th at Duffy’s Tavern in Toronto, which is pretty close to the Sleaze Roxx headquarters, but alas my wife’s work schedule did not bode well for my appearance at that gig. The next stop was at The Earl Of Whitchurch in the rather small town of Whitchurch-Stouffville with its population of only about 45,000 people, which of course pales in comparison to Toronto’s 2.6 million people.
What made the Whitchuch-Stouffville stop intriguing was that The Earl of Whitchurch venue was in the midst of establishing a new Guinness World Record by hosting the longest concert ever, which started on March 17, 2017 and was running 24 hours per day until April 2, 2017. A new act was scheduled to go on each hour which means that every day, 24 different artists or bands would be playing. As it turns out, Tri City Villains were booked to play twice at The Earl Of Whitchurch during their tour jaunt through the province of Ontario. Tri City Villains‘ first gig at The Earl of Whitchurch was advertised for March 25, 2017 but was actually on March 26, 2017 at the stroke of Midnight. The band’s second gig at the location was on a Monday (March 27, 2017) afternoon at 1:00 pm. Given that I was dead exhausted over the weekend (taking care of little kids all day long is way more exhausting than a normal work day in my opinion), I elected to take a chance and try to make the band’s Monday early afternoon gig. However, in order for that to happen, a work meeting outside the office would have to finish in a timely manner to allow me enough time to make it to the Whitchurch-Stouffville rural area.
Although I did not know much about Tri City Villains, I was grateful that they were making the trek from Halifax, Nova Scotia all the way to Toronto, which is driving wise almost 1,800 km (or just over 1,100 miles). Pretty unbelievably, that does not even cover one third of the distance to get through Canada from east to west (and vice-versa)! For those not familiar with Canada, it is a very vast country. According to NationMaster, Canada ranks second with the United States of America in 2013 for boasting 3.8 million square miles and only trails Russia’s 6.6 million square miles. While the USA has a population of close to 325 million people and Russia close to 147 million people, Canada is way behind in that department being just short of 36.5 million people. Accordingly, to get from one major city to another in Canada, or even one big town to another, you may easily have to drive a few hundred kilometres. Touring Canada by way of driving is not for the faint of heart!
I really did not know what to expect as I headed towards The Earl of Whitchurch. Would there be anybody there to see the band play at lunchtime on a weekday? As it turns out, I just made it for the band’s start time of 1:00 pm. I entered the venue and was greeted by a friendly chap who advised of a cover charge of $5.00 with the proceeds going to the United Way. The friendly doorman also encouraged me to purchase a t-shirt with respect to The Earl of Whitchurch‘s Guinness World Record attempt. I quickly scoured the downstairs level looking for Tri City Villains and started to cringe as I could hear the band playing “She’s On Fire” with the sound emanating from the upstairs level. “Great,” I thought. “They’ve started early. How many songs have I already missed?” After quickly ordering lunch from the bartender, I made my way upstairs. I was kind of shocked to see that there were quite a few people in the rather cozy quarters. To my left was the stage with plenty of lighting and drapes to cover the sunlight peaking through the windows with cameras on both sides of the stage near the stairwell. To my right was a slew of people standing and sitting on the bar like stools. Luckily, there were a few empty chairs at the front because it looked quite crowded to my right. Accordingly, I parked myself in one of the empty chairs for what turned out to be an awesome rocking’ set!
Now, I am usually the type of person that likes to know the songs ahead of time before going to a concert and only a couple of times in my life have I been truly blown away by songs that I didn’t even know. This turned out to be one of those occasions and quite a bit similar to when I saw and really heard Ammunition for the first time at the Rock N Skull Festival back in late October. When I saw Ammunition, I found myself singing along to songs that I did not even know and here I was doing the same thing with Tri City Villains whose material was for the most part unknown to me. After catching the ending of Tri City Villains‘ latest single “She’s On Fire” (for which they shot a video), I really enjoyed the next two songs, which turned out to be two unreleased tracks called “All Hail The Night” and “Money In The Bank.” Why I even found myself singing along to most of the easily to learn chorus for the song “Money In The Bank.” You might be wondering what kind of music that Tri City Villains play? Well, it’s straight up rock n’ roll and a cross between AC/DC and more classic rock mixed in with some rough and at times gruff vocals from guitarists Steve Cole and Jay Corkum who split the lead singing duties. It’s the kind of music that any sleaze rock / AC/DC fan will likely love right off the bat and that was definitely the case for me. The fourth song “Stuck All Over You” saw Corkum handle the lead vocals if I recall correctly and veered slightly away from the band’s mostly meat and potatoes delivery.
It seemed that the Tri City Villains band members were having a great time onstage. Corkum was a ball of energy jumping around and seemingly handcuffed a little bit by the tiny stage. Cole was a bit more stationery but pretty animated with his arms whenever he could while singing lead vocals. Bassist Dave Pickup could sometimes be seen full out head banging or doing a funny little strut while walking along to the rhythmic beat of the songs. As much as I would like to comment about drummer Sean Sawler‘s performance, I could hardly see him given that I was facing dead on to the middle of the stage and Corkum was front and center. Nevertheless, Sawler definitely kept a steady beat to Tri City Villains‘ stellar songs. Next up was a surprise cover of The Cult‘s “Wildflower.” While neither Corkum nor Cole will be mistaken for Ian Astbury anytime soon, one or both of them did a pretty good job singing the classic Cult song.
Next up was more great straight up meat and potatoes rock n’ roll with “Heart Attack,” “Rock N Roll Machine” and “Cardfall.” Just like every song played by Tri City Villains on this afternoon, these three songs were instantly likeable on a first listen. I was surprised to see that the cozy second floor quarters of The Earl Of Whitchurch seemed to be getting busier with people as Tri City Villains‘ set went on. At one point, there were even some ladies sitting on the floor in front of me. Although the closest people in the audience to the band were sitting down (including myself), it was still a great atmosphere, and especially considering that this was an early afternoon gig! Corkum at one point joked that they were quite happy with the crowd on hand for the band’s afternoon gig given that a couple of nights earlier, there were literally only three people in the audience for their Ottawa gig. It should also be noted that Tri City Villains‘ first gig at The Earl Of Whitchurch (on March 26th) was apparently completely packed to the gills. I am sure that any band can appreciate that it is going to be hit and miss in terms of audience numbers when you do your first tour in another province or country.
More stellar original material followed with “Waste Your Night” and “Painkillers And Rum” before the band played an awesome cover of AC/DC‘s classic “Jailbreak” song, which happens to be my favorite AC/DC song! How about that? This was the first time that I was hearing the song played live and Tri City Villains killed it on that one. I must have been quite into the song because a few of the band members (whom I was meeting for the first time after the gig) noted that they could see me singing along to “Jailbreak” as they were playing it. Tri City Villains closed out their surprisingly long set with their very good track “Brick In The Face.” Tri City Villains ended up playing likely a full hour since they finished at 1:58 pm by my count and were getting the “shut it down” hand signal towards the end of their last song from one of the organizers. Luckily, Tri City Villains‘ last song was almost finished by that time.
I was pleased that the band brought along copies of its debut EP, which I was more than happy to purchase. I was actually secretly hoping that the album would be available for purchase if I attended one of Tri City Villains‘ gigs in the province of Ontario. The drummer Sean Sawler‘s brother — perhaps his twin brother if I remember correctly — Glen (hope I got his name right) was handling the merchandise booth and was super friendly even finding Corkum to provide me the band’s setlist. I noticed that Tri City Villains videotaped their gig but no videos appear to have surfaced on YouTube just yet. Accordingly, I have broken Sleaze Roxx protocol of only including live videos of the actual gig in concert reviews and I have included a video from Tri City Villains for their track “Brick In The Face” for your enjoyment.
As I left The Earl Of Whitchurch on my way back to work, all I could think about was what a great show that I had just attended and how I could not wait to listen to my newly purchased Tri City Villains‘ debut self-titled album! Mark my words, you’ll be reading about Tri City Villains — one of Canada’s best kept secrets — on Sleaze Roxx hopefully for a long time to come!
Tri City Villains’ setlist:
01. She’s On Fire
02. All Hail The Night
03. Money In The Bank
04. Stuck All Over You
05. Wildflower (The Cult cover)
06. Heart Attack
07. Rock N Roll Machine
09. Waste Your Night
10. Painkillers And Rum
11. Jailbreak (AC/DC cover)
12. Brick In The Face
Tri City Villains‘ “Brick In The Face” video:
Tri City Villains band – Brick in the Face Director – Dillon Garland