by Scott Roos
Photos by Scott and Deanna Roos
Being in the right place at the right time… Call it a skill, a trait or just simply luck of the draw, but serendipitous moments, like the one Regina’s The Hourhand had handed to them on Tuesday, April 5th, seem to always come around to help up and coming artists climb to the next rung of the giant ladder to nowhere that is the modern music business.
“I was on a road trip,” recounts Hourhand guitarist Cole Van Woert of his bands sudden addition to the bill opening for Monster Truck in Moose Jaw and Saskatoon. “I was gonna go buy a car and then I got the call from Gray (Farrow, Hourhand bassist/vocalist) saying that Jon Harvey (Monster Truck singer/bassist) wants us to open up for them because Big Wreck backed out so I turned the car right around”
Big Wreck, the headliner on a multi-date jaunt with Monster Truck and BRKN Love, had announced, via their social media on April 4th, that “Regrettably our camp has been struck hard with the COVID bug, and we are forced to head home and recuperate!”. Monster Truck, with a “show must go on attitude” in response announced “We have tested Covid free and ready to rock. For Moose Jaw and Saskatoon we will continue as planned with original tickets and venue!”. Hence the last minute Hourhand addition.
“I was at work and we got the message asking us to come do the show so of course we have to take the opportunity to do it,” added Hourhand bassist Gray Farrow.
“We got a set together in 20 mins. We had 20 mins to practice a set and (had) our first rehearsal since October yesterday (April 4th). We put this all together yesterday,” continues Van Woert.
For many fans unfamiliar with The Hourhand, this may seem to be coming out of the blue. But, in reality, they have a bit of a history with Monster Truck's Harvey as they recently took a trip out to Hamilton to work with the bassist in his studio.
As Farrow explains, “We recently went to Hamilton to record some tunes with Jon Harvey. It lined up pretty good and I’m happy we were able to do that and that was kinda the connection. He just texted us and said ‘come do the show’ so we did.”
Now, this whole thing would be a moot point had The Hourhand not completely risen to the occasion this past Tuesday night at The Roxy Saskatoon Music Hall. The kids from the Queen City delivered their signature blend of meat and potatoes retro rock and the crowd, pardon the food pun, ate it up.
“It’s just instruments in our hands and our voices. It’s fuckin' fun. It’s nice, we don’t rely on having a bunch of equipment,” said Van Woert.
In terms of the show itself, The Hourhand delivered a truncated but energetic live set at the Roxy. Van Woert’s incendiary guitar playing capped with the soaring vocals of Farrow and the blistering drumming of Dawson Dressler turned out to be the perfect start to an epic night of Rock n’ roll. Farrow, for his part, also saw this night as an opportunity to make connections with new fans and also try out some of the band’s new material.
“What I enjoy the most about playing live is the audience reaction because it’s the first time that you get to test new material. You learn how to read that and that’s my favourite part about it,” said Farrow.
BRKN Love were up next with radio friendly, grunge imbibed, mantras complete with Chris Cornell-esque hair, the preppy bass player (Nick Katz) and a kid hammering the skins like Animal from the Muppets (Russell Holzman).Toronto born frontman Justin Benlolo, who is the evil genius behind much of this band’s sound and style, crushed it on both vocal and lead guitar duties. Second guitarist Kyle Duke, provided a capable foil to Benlolo on occasional lead and co-lead guitar as well. Duke also supplied lead vocals on a tasty and timely rendition of Black Sabbath's "War Pigs".
Signed to Spinefarm records, BRKN Love are as legit as it gets and have street cred in their own right. In just a few months time they could easily start to headline and command a healthy sized crowd if they keep up their level of energy and word of them spreads. Their set was entertaining and inspiring to say the least.
Finally, Hamilton, Ontario's mighty Monster Truck played an entertaining slugfest of their patented anthemic 70's-esque, blues/rock stompers. Wild showmanship from the whole band with underscored dizzying energy from Widerman and the addition of singer-bassist Jon Harvey chiming in with his personal brand of accessible, singalong, and relatable melodies and you get one hell of a party. Opening with “Don’t tell me how to live”, Monster Truck pounded the audience with tracks like “Righteous Smoke” that go all the way back to their EP days when no one knew who the fuck they were, right up to favourites like “Sweet Mountain River” and “True Rocker”. Underneath it all was the keyboard wizardry of Brandon Bliss and the crash/bash drumming of Theo McKibbon (Dead Tired/Far From Heroes) who came in as a replacement for the recently departing Steve Kiely.
In terms of the venue itself, The Roxy Saskatoon Music Hall is still in the "soft open" stages as they still are a fairly new addition the the music scene in the city. Speaking with Office Manager/Assistant Buyer Kris Lesser after the show, NSMZ learned that thus far staff and ownership at the venue have been pretty pleased with the results early on.
"Of course with any new venue there is going to be a learning curve. But everyone had a great night. The music was awesome and the support for local live music is very apparent in Saskatchewan," stated an enthusiastic Lesser. "The news of Big Wreck coming down with COVID just before (the planned show with Monster Truck and BRKN Love) did throw a bit of a kink into the night but we were so glad when The Hourhand joined the Sask tour dates and The Roxy rocked all night long."
The venue will celebrate their grand opening on May 27th with a show by legendary Cancon rockers The Trews and on May 28th with S!CK!CK.