Words by: Chiara DiAngelo | Photos by: Curtis Sindrey –
How do you get Toronto pumped up for a weekend of celebrating the 100th Grey Cup, while at the same time bring together football fans from across the country? With music of course, and a lineup featuring three diverse Canadian rock and roll heavyweights including Treble Charger, Matthew Good and Sam Roberts Band. As the craziness of Grey Cup fever took over the Metro Toronto Convention Centre, with team-specific parties scattered throughout the building, the main event was in Molson Canadian House.
The party kicked off with hard rock rookies and Montreal natives Era 9, who were promoting their new single “Now You Know” from their debut self-titled album released last May. While bands who channel 80s classic rock and grunge-fueled vocals are in abundance, Era 9 succeed with their lyrical depth and honesty. On tracks like “Control Freak” and “Decrypt,” lead singer Philip Paolino’s vocals touch on topics like communication break-downs and control in relationships. Their use of arena-ready rock riffs, and the charisma of Paolino got the football-crazed crowd all warmed up for what was to come.
The party continued with pop-punkers Treble Charger. Having disbanded in 2006, they recently reunited earlier this year. Having only played a handful of shows since, they were still old pros. Their bodies may have aged and their voices grown raspier in the time passed, but they still knew how to rock out. They may have seemed an unexpected band to have on the bill, with many having written them off as no longer “relevant,” but the nostalgia factor they provided resonated with the audience and pumped up the evening’s sense of fervor. And there were definitely more than a few people deliriously fist-pumping and shouting out the lyrics right along with frontmen Greig Nori and Bill Priddle.
It took a few songs for the audience to get into their set, but by the time they got to third song “Brand New Low” from their 2000 album Wide Awake Bored, they were right there with them. Calling for hit single “American Psycho” the entire length of their set, the band finally gave it to them after performing “Hundred Million.” The wild reaction that ensued – it could easily have been high school again, back in their heyday. They followed up with slower jam “Red” before closing out with a worthy cover of Neil Young’s classic song “Cinnamon Girl.”
Anticipation was building in the room as the stage was switched over for B.C.’s Matthew Good. Having not performed in four months due to his recent trip into the studio to record his sixth studio album, his set focused heavily on older material, as per tradition, and Good’s set commenced with an ecstatic clap-along to the “K-I-C-K-A-S-S” cheer – because “that’s the way we spell success” – before he launched into three tracks from Matthew Good Band’s 1999 breakthrough album Beautiful Midnight: “Giant,” “Load Me Up” and “The Future is X-Rated.”
While Treble Charger was good for a trip down memory lane, Good proved why he is still such a heralded musician, continuing to churn out incredible material. Despite this, “Zero Orchestra” was the only song off his most recent record Lights of Endangered Species to make it onto the setlist before getting back to old favourites, including “Alert Status Red” and “Hello Time Bomb.”
Longtime favourites “Apparitions” and “Weapon” had the ability to transport you in time and space to the first time you heard them all those years ago. The set was capped off with the lengthy “Champions of Nothing” from his 2007 album Hospital Music. While Good commented that if the crowd “had better music taste, you’d be across the street at The Who,” I’m pretty sure there was nowhere else these diehards would rather have been. Surrounded by long-time fans either singing along to each and every word or lost in wonder at the captivating man, it was hard not to get lost in each marathon song.
Donning a denim jacket, shorn hair and a casual attitude, Quebec’s Sam Roberts was every bit the laidback “every-Canadian man.” The intensity that still hung in the air from Good’s set was instantly swept away and replaced with a raucous party atmosphere as Roberts played several of his hits, though the focus was rightly on last year’s release Collider. It helped that Roberts appeared just as genuinely excited to be a part of the Grey Cup celebration as the audience was to have him on stage.
Starting with “I Feel You,” the crowd participation really began during the third song “Where Have All The Good People Gone?,” which also featured some serious saxophone. Roberts then dedicated “Without A Map” to the memory of John Candy, well-loved Canadian actor, comedian, and former Argos co-owner. The keys lead-in into “Detroit ‘67” re-amplified the excitement, even resulting in an over-eager fan throwing something up onto the stage. Roberts replied with a “Holy shit, anything can happen here.”
Pumping up the crowd to newfound levels were the energy-inducing “Graveyard Shift,” “Last Crusade” and “Bridge to Nowhere.” Dancing around the stage during “Brother Down,” Roberts even threw a tambourine out into the crowd as a souvenir. As if the overjoyed audience needed another reason to cheer, the band ended their set with “Them Kids,” during which Toronto definitely proved that the kids actually do know how to dance to rock and roll.
Begging for more, the band returned to the stage for “Streets of Heaven (Promises, Promises)” and crowd favourite “Don’t Walk Away Eileen.” With so much singing coming from the audience, he let them take over towards the end. As the band departed the stage a second time, the love-struck fans were still calling out for another encore. Football and music fans alike made their way through the sea of discarded beer cups out into the chill of the night, until the big game of course.
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