Cafe Natura was packed on Tuesday December 30th, 2014 at 7:15PM. Patrons were conversing over hot drinks and pastries as the staff were busy taking orders with love and care. Then something happened. As if a switch was thrown, everyone was gone and the cafe seats were empty. A quick trip down a flight of stairs to the basement revealed a station where hot coffee was brewing and cold drinks were on ice, and through an archway you could find people gathered around to take in the sound of live music.
Starting off the night were The Frasiers, a four-piece indie rock band with a dash of soul who had reconvened after breaking up back in August for a one-time reunion show over the holidays. “We hadn’t had much time to rehearse due to members of the band being out of town until recently,” says Brenden Fitzgerald, bass player for the band, “so we decided to go from the closing act to the opening act, especially after last night when all the bands got together and ran through the night. They all sounded much better than we did!” Despite having little to no practice behind them, Brenden and the band (comprised of Devin Williamson on drums and Anthony Marcello and Charlie Derrer both sharing guitar and vocals) still managed to put on a decent show, going through some of their original material peppered with covers of classic rock tunes by the Rolling Stones and The Beatles.
Gnaeus took the stage around 8:30 with an energy and openness that endeared them to the crowd almost immediately. Comprised of band members Aaron Alessandrini on lead vocals and guitar, Matt Fronzi on bass and vocals, Brendan Garlick on drums and Brad Irwin on the synth and guitar with backing vocals, Gnaeus brought a hard-charging alternative rock sound to the basement of Cafe Natura, evoking a raw energy that is rooted in distrust of one’s surroundings and frustration at the social systems that work unseen. “Don’t believe what you hear / And only half of what you see” seemed to be the mantra of this young band as they greeted the crowd with a full-bodied set, punctuated by the song “When You’re Gone” which tackled the feelings of a love not fully realized, and a second chance that never came.
Michael Mikus, lead guitarist and frontman of The Pixo Control, is out of control. When he takes the stage with the fantastic Keeghan Rosso on drums and incomparable Steve Edwards on bass, their grunge-rock melodies and brooding songs go from zero to sixty at the blink of an eye. Their stage presence is truly felt by the crowd as Mikus can go from humbly singing and playing - his hair hiding his face - to thrashing around the stage and pouring his heart out as if the music has taken him, with Rosso expertly pounding out complex rhythms and Edwards keeping the groove. Revealing a new song to the crowd, “Alphabetical Order” starts off with a simple bass line and drums at a medium pace, steadily plodding along as the first verse is sung with a detached engagement that is intriguing. When the guitars come in the song truly sprouts legs, and then progresses into interesting melodic directions, never settling into one groove. The crowd got very excited when the band started in on their cover of “Twist And Shout”, building up steam as the audience sang along and ending with a chaotic fervor and fire.
Great Chamberlain was the closing band, and frontman Chris West was joined by Nick Luck and Chloe Moore on keys, Michael Mikus on guitar, and Mitch Harris on drums. Chris’ unique brand of experimental folk music was a pleasant balm to end off the night, and for many, the year. He has worked with many artists as his backing band in the past, at times forgoing certain elements of his compositions (my first time seeing him was sans-percussion), however his music has a certain polymorphic quality that affords him the fluidity to entertain and provoke regardless. Such was not the case tonight however, as the crowd was treated to an ethereal wall of warm sounds and crooning that seemed to lift spirits and bring everyone closer together. Themes of love and connection were prevalent in his lyrics, and the closing number started out earnestly and built its way to an anthemic height that caused the room to twinkle and travel. A show that attendees would not soon forget, to be sure.
by Shane Erickson
Shane Erickson is a supporter of urban arts in his community, and a vinyl disc jockey/collector. As DJ Seith he acts as backing DJ for local hip-hop artists, and is head of the Soo York City Urban Arts Collective, which is a group of like-minded Northern Ontarians committed to furthering the positive tenets of hip-hop culture. Click for Soo York City