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The new year started on a high note for young headbangers in St. John’s, with an all-ages rock show at Treble Lounge on Jan. 11.
Outside of the show, Ian (Bean) Phillips said he attends every all-ages show he hears about.
A gathered group of young people was quick to note that youth-friendly shows often take place less than once a month in the capital city.
“There’s a reason why there are so few all-ages shows – because the venues make most of their money selling alcohol, and obviously they can’t sell alcohol to kids,” Phillips said.
At a low, low price of only $5 a head, five bands on the bill and approximately 40-50 people popping in throughout the afternoon, it was obvious that despite the impressive midday turnout, the bar wasn’t going to be making much money – if any – that day, but it’s not about the money for bar owner Brad Tulk, it’s about giving kids a safe place to celebrate their shared love of rock ’n’ roll and heavy metal music.
"When I was a kid, (all-ages shows) were integral in providing a social setting to meet like-minded people,” Tulk said.
“It was probably the kindest and most accepting group of people I've ever come across in my life, and the scene helped to shape me into who I am today,” he added.
“I have the ability to pay it forward, and help another generation of kids express themselves and make music with their friends."
Fresh off the stage from his performance with opener heavy metal band Kaspam Cult, Bradley Dyke showed his gratitude for both the opportunity to attend and perform at the all-ages show.
The band, whose Facebook bio reads, “Local teenagers. We play heavy music. Please book us for your show,” played their second live set at the Jan. 11 show.
Dendron was second on the bill, the five-piece band playing their brand of prog rock/metal. With both harsh and clean vocals, this band put on an impressive show, mainly thanks to the frontman’s incredible stage presence.
Their songs generally untitled, the band finished off with “The Build Up Song,” – “it builds up, and then it’s gonna break down,” vocalist Peter Burton explained.
Last Cigar followed, this one-year-old three-piece band playing the stand-out set of the day.
The aggressive vocals, à la Metallica’s James Hetfield, Motörhead’s Lemmy Kilmeister or Alexisonfire’s George Pettit, made me question if vocalist Nick Fagan had started smoking in utero.
Musically, the heavy/stoner metal band was tight, with much of their lyrical content focused on societal issues, showing wisdom beyond their years.
After playing originals like “Pitchforks,” and “Green Nicotine,” Last Cigar finished their set with Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” inspiring a singalong in the moshpit.
Thrash metal trio Pearl was fourth on the bill. These young musicians also show promise, easily impressing me with a drummer vocalist, rarely seen in the local metal scene.
A personal favourite was an instrumental jam, and the surf-rock medley that the band finished with. The thrashers paid homage to two heavy influences, covering Metallica’s “Seek and Destroy” and Black Sabbath’s “Paranoid.”
Mantra closed the show, the grunge-rock band hitting the stage around 7 p.m. The clean vocals were somewhat inaudible over the wailing guitars, as the four-piece played a number of original songs from their debut album, “Lucid.”
The organizers of the show, Mantra boasts a lengthy list of accolades considering their young age, having put on their own skate park show, released an album and opened for Our Lady Peace during George Street Festival, all in 2018.
Like the rest of the bands on the bill, their age does place some limitations on their music careers, but thankfully, the all-ages scene seems to be alive and well in St. John’s.
“We owe our existence to the all-ages shows we played growing up, so it's extremely cool to see the new generation organize and pull off one of the more high-energy shows we've seen in a bit,” Dendron wrote on Facebook the following day.
“Keep doing what you're doing!”