Arnprior’s John Street Pub was pounding with hard rock music on Friday night, presented by four bands bringing different but complimentary rock genres to the venue. Headliners One Bad Son and their tour mates Say Yes dropped into town, supported by local Ottawa bands Eagleson and Crossing Jane.
The running joke of the night was how hot the temperature was in the bar, each band mentioning it at least once during their set. Bassist Michael Zane of Say Yes promptly removed his shirt two songs into his performance, and one fan yelled “take it off” to One Bad Son’s vocalist Shane Volk after he made a comment about the heat. The audience even briefly started chanting “we want A/C” during a break in One Bad Son’s set.
The night was somewhat politically charged as well, with Say Yes drummer Jordan Hastings sporting a t-shirt with Donald Trump and the words “Dirty Fucker” on it. One Bad Son’s Shane Volk introduced their track It Ain’t Right by saying that Trump was keeping the song relevant.
The show opened around 9:00pm with Eagleson, easily the heaviest and hardest hitting band of the night. The four piece band didn’t waste any time talking, seemingly preferring to let their music speak instead. The message that came across to me throughout their performance was an Orwellian “two minutes hate”, an attempt to incite the audience into a frenzy of passion and rage that was mutually felt by the band themselves. Singer and guitarist Tom Edward put in hard work to rally the troops in the audience, raising his fists in the air periodically as he screamed his lyrics with a raspy edge. Bassist Ryan Wolves was particularly fun to watch, exuding comfort and stage presence as he not only head banged but body banged his way through the set. His face was particularly expressive, plainly demonstrating the fun he was having on stage. The chemistry between Edward and Wolves was also especially evident as they interacted consistently throughout their steady and driving set. By their enthusiasm and persistence in encouraging the audience to come close to the stage, Eagleson engaged the crowd with their gritty and forceful rock anthems, having many audience members head banging at stage front by the end of the short 30 minute set.
Next up was Crossing Jane, who hit the stage around 9:50pm. The five-piece band played a 30 minute set comprised of both originals and covers, including a heavier, pop-punk cover of U2’s Vertigo. I found it refreshing to see lead singer and frontman Joel Lefebvre uninhibited by an instrument, allowing him to move freely and engage the audience without anything between them. That being said, what really stood out to me about Crossing Jane was their drummer, Andrew Parmelee. Parmelee stole the show with his explosive energy behind the drums, reminiscent of Blink 182’s Travis Barker or Metallica’s Lars Ulrich. Parmelee twirled his sticks, stuck his tongue out, and head banged so hard that it appeared he was in a trance. Equally, I felt entranced watching him, finding it hard to look away. Crossing Jane delivered a performance that was fun and light-hearted, encouraging the audience regularly to sing along and clap their hands. Towards the end of the set, the band slowed it down with Wildman, a song that Lefebvre touchingly dedicated to a friend who had passed away. The band finished strong with a cover of In The End by Linkin Park, highlighted by Lefebvre impressively fingering one of the guitarist’s chords for him as he strummed.
The third band of the night, Say Yes, took to the stage around 10:40pm. A three-piece band hailing from Burlington, Say Yes had been accompanying One Bad Son on their Ontario tour, with Arnprior being their second last stop. Say Yes blew me away with their unique brand of rock, standing out as my favorite band of the night. Their set was energetic and lively, their songs were easy to dance to, and they seemed especially relaxed and experienced on stage. Of particular significance were the vocal harmonies between bassist Michael Zane and guitarist Adam Michael. The two complimented each other nicely, sometimes in a call and answer style, and sometimes together in harmony. Due to the nature of a three-piece band, Say Yes had more room on stage and used it well, moving away from their microphones to dance around whenever possible. The band’s stripped down sound also allowed for dynamics and lyrics to be emphasized and well articulated. It was easy to sing along with many of their songs even if hearing them for the first time, particularly the band’s newest single Too Much, Not Enough, during which Adam Michael urged the audience to sing the “whoas” with him. Zane opened the next song, To See The World, with keyboard that made for an ethereal feel, an almost airy or otherworldly vibe that Adam Michael mirrored with echoey guitar and purposeful feedback. It didn’t hurt that the fog machine had started up during their set, adding to the spacey effect of it all and highlighting the song as one of their best. Say Yes presented a fun and fresh sound that I thoroughly enjoyed, their 35 minute set packing a punch that left me wanting more.
Saskatoon natives One Bad Son (OBS) hit the stage around 11:45pm, diving right into the first song of their headlining performance. The dance floor was quickly packed in a way the audience had been hesitant to accommodate the other bands with; it was clear that this was who the crowd had come to see. Unfortunately, luck did not favour One Bad Son for this performance. After their first song, Made in the Name of Rock and Roll, singer Shane Volk announced that he had come down with an illness that prevented him from hitting his trademark high notes. He apologized in advance for his vocals, which he likened to Johnny Cash in that they would be sung much lower than usual. Interestingly, a poster of Johnny Cash graced the wall beside the stage, and the members of OBS were dressed all in black, further invoking the Johnny Cash spirit. During their second song, Year of the Wolf, the bad luck continued for OBS when drummer Kurt Dahl broke his snare drum. Luckily, Crossing Jane drummer Andrew Parmelee was there to quickly provide a replacement. Next, One Bad Son played their new single Raging Bull, with Volk introducing it as their first number two song in Canada. Despite the hard time he was having with his voice, Volk was still engaging to watch, leaning over the monitors to get close to the audience and serenade them. It was clear that Volk had his heart in the performance, even if the rest of his body wasn’t cooperating. Volk was relatively light hearted about it, making fun of himself throughout the performance, and at one point telling the audience that if he died “with good rock and roll people, that [would] be fine by [him].”
Volk left the stage several times throughout the set, but the band continued to play, particularly during a cover of Metallica’s Master of Puppets. They also played a cover of the Talking Heads’ Psycho Killer, starting off with an impressive drum solo by Dahl. Volk asked the audience a few times throughout the set to help him sing, and the audience happily obliged. Volk was clearly thankful for the support, expressing his gratitude several times throughout the hour long set, which ended with Retribution Blues. Volk high-fived crowd members at the front of the stage and announced that he was going to “drink [his] blues away.”
It was disappointing to see Volk struggle, and to miss out on his full strength performance, but it was also heartening to see the audience support (someone even bought Volk a shot), and the support from the other bands on the bill. One Bad Son could have easily cancelled their performance, but they chose not to, Volk announcing to the audience that “this is rock and roll, we push through everything.” Volk also promised that next time he comes to Arnprior, he will scream for three hours straight in his eight octaves.
I’ve got that in writing now, Volk. We’re going to hold you to it.