Is rock dead? Maybe in the mainstream, but now it's lurking in the shadows, ready to break out into the light.
The chilly December night didn't let eager fans hesitate on arriving early for doors at The Jam Factory. The 150-year-old rustic building is a general events venue with a cafe on the first floor and open space on the second. Upon arriving at the doors, a soundcheck was finishing up and you could hear the building squeaking on the beats of the drums. Once upstairs where the concert would take place, there were about 30-40 people, including some of the band members who were talking to friends. A camera crew was running around and setting up video gear. Either a Toronto recap video or a music video was being made that night. There were lots of media and personal photographers too. When there's lot of photographers, it means there's lots of buzz.
dubé, a band of brothers from Ottawa Ontario were the first opening act. The young guys opened with a rocking energy to start the show off on a high energy level. The lead singer had a mature and gravelly tone to his voice and had supporting vocals by their drummer. Jumping around the most was the secondary guitarist; jumping onto the floor from the stage. Later that same guitarist brought out a hockey stick that was made into a guitar. How very Canadian, and it worked! They talked a little and questioned the crowd about if they know that they are all going to die someday. At first, I was like okay, a bit existential, but after the show and in online research, I had learned that they began as a band covering songs for their mother as she was succumbing to cancer. So, it's no doubt in my mind that the idea of death hangs around their head more often than other people. The high energy was constant throughout their set, setting the tone for the night.
The band of brothers wrapped up and next was Toronto's own Ready the Prince. Immediately in their music you notice that amongst the usual rock tropes, there is a groovier mood in their sound. Their guitar riffs were strong and identifiable, not muddled by clashing drums. The lead singer took a moment to talk about how cleopatrick and RTP met by playing at a local club venue in Toronto and being audience members to each other because there were hardly many people there. After he said that, I looked over to see cleopatrick members Luke and Ian cheering them on and jamming to RTP's set. It's nice to see artists supporting each other in the "artist's struggle." Their set was a bit more toned down than dubé, but only slightly.
The venue was half full of about 80 attendees but up to capacity at the sold-out show. 10:30 came around and cleopatrick arrived on the dark stage, only lit by four CRT television screens decorating the stage with grainy vintage videos and retro childhood videos from Luke and Ian's childhood. The boys began the set with some distortion sounds to add to the ambience and mystery. They broke out of the mystery and into a new unreleased track to then be followed by "Daphne did it." Everyone in the crowd was a fan as they were singing along to the released tracks, mostly from their EP "the boys." Luke, the guitarist and singer, gestured to part of the crowd that he wanted to crowd surf over them and he did while playing his guitar in true punk fashion. During their entire set the boys were very focused and didn't take time to goof off. In the small intermissions between songs, they played with more distortion to continue the ambient mood. The boys had great chemistry looking at each other's queues and looking like they were really fuelled the crowd's raging energy. They ended their set with their song "youth," my personal favourite. That song got the crowd's best reaction with everyone jumping in unison and yelling the loudest. Once they ended "youth", an immediate encore was being chanted. Cleo came back and rocked out another three songs looking like they didn't want to ever stop playing. But all good things come to an end, and 11:30 was the curfew. The string lights came on and fans began to flock to the members of cleopatrick and the merch table. Fans were sharing their admiration for the music or telling them this was their second or third show.
I found cleopatrick by chance on Facebook by seeing they had two sold out Toronto shows before and on my birthday. One click on Spotify and a couple listens to "the boys" and I was in. Their rock sound is really refreshing with Luke's mature and clear voice and Ian's drums that accentuate the intensity of their honest lyrics. Plus, the dash of distortion is cool. The way I describe cleopatrick to others is if Royal Blood and later albums Brand New had a baby. Their brand is also quite down pat with Luke and Ian's childhood friendship playing a big role in their imagery. Their anticipated next record is looking to be due by January 2019, so we'll see just how much bigger they get, because they will bigger.