The Steel River Band and EMPEROR T and the Suspenders
In case you’ve never heard of Barfly (4062 Saint-Laurent) before, here’s what it is in a nutshell: A hole in the wall tucked between Roy and Duluth that hosts a bluegrass night every Sunday, and is likely to be blasting hard rock or metal on any other night you walk in. Last Thursday night offered a microcosm of the bar’s unlikely dichotomy, as folk rock duo The Steel River Band opened for three-piece rock outfit and fellow McGill students, EMPEROR T and the Suspenders.
The first group, comprised of guitarist/vocalist/percussionist Alex Carey and mandolinist/percussionist Sam Quigley, kicked off the night with a mixture of traditional folk standards and more contemporary originals and covers. Despite boasting only two musicians, their foot-controlled tambourines gave them a richer sound than what their strings alone would have provided, and they had no trouble energizing the crowd, delivering impassioned renditions of Newfoundland classic “The Night Pat Murphy Died” and Johnny Cash’s legendary “Folsom Prison Blues.”
EMPEROR T and the Suspenders certainly kept the energy alive, playing a long set full of brief, uptempo rock/punk/funk tunes. The cohesion between drummer Robbie Rolin, bassist Joey Cowan, and guitarist/vocalist Alex Heymell—whose raspy, powerful voice is reminiscent of Chris Cornell’s—was definitely strong; but for next time, they should focus on quality over quantity, as Heymell consistently forgot lyrics and skipped verses on the band’s covers (“All Along the Watchtower,” “Johnny B. Goode,” “Where Is My Mind?”). However, they played like they were having the time of their lives on stage—and it rubbed off on the crowd—which in the long run, is much more important than a few lyrical gaffes.
— Max Berger
North Country Towers and Soulstice a Cappella
Since 2000, Soulstice a Cappella has been one of the most prominent a cappella groups on campus. Completely co-ed and featuring an eclectic mix of styles from the 1960s to today’s hits, the troupe’s sound is thoroughly relatable with just enough obscurity to keep you interested. Their latest performance, “After Midnight”, with opener North Country Towers, perfectly encapsulated their dynamic but fun style. My only wish was that I had been more awake when I arrived at Le Cabaret du Mile End (5240 Parc) on Sunday night, as the crowd around me was eagerly singing and bouncing in rhythm with the group. Each song was begging for you to sing along, and it is a true testament to the group’s talent that they managed to keep the energy going throughout the concert.
Not enough time is spent supporting a cappella groups on campus; it can’t be denied that the group has talent, so do yourself a favour and head out to their next performance.
— Morgan Alexander
Busty and the Bass
It’s fitting, that a band whose earliest jam sessions took place in the basement of Solin Hall, played the biggest show of their lives—so far—just a few blocks away from the McGill residence, under the bright lights of the Corona Theatre. Hundreds of students made the pilgrimage down to St. Henri to take in the free concert that Busty and the Bass received for winning the nationwide Rock Your Campus contest. It would have felt just like an indoor OAP—with TD providing the corporate presence that Provigo usually occupies—if not for the fact that no alcohol was being served.
Despite that minor setback for those who were looking to get a little tipsy on a Monday, Busty provided its own type of intoxication, mesmerizing the crowd as the band always does. The band was able to get through most of the songs in its catalogue, from the funky tunes like “Sum DrunkFunk” and “PS I’m Pregnant” to the wildly soulful “Mmmhhmmm”—even unveiling a Disney medley arranged by trombonist Chris Vincent. They eventually ceded the stage to the Arkells—veteran Corona Theatre performers who were excellent as usual—but surprised the crowd by coming out to join the headliners for spirited covers of Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” and Stevie Wonder’s “Uptight” to close out the night.
— Max Berger