On March 31st King's Christian Collegiate played host to easily the best concert production in the GTA this year, featuring the exceptional band Downhere as the main act and two very good bands, Montreal based onlyforward and Alberta's Gaetz Avenue. Most concerts featuring three bands have a weak link but either of the opening acts could easily stand on their own as the main attraction.
Newcomers, Gaetz Avenue featuring the duo of Benjamin Mullen and Danielle Heykants, exploded onto the scene singing "Here I Go" a song with a fast moving pop/rock beat. Immediately Heykants took control of the crowd. The lady knows how to work a crowd and has unbelievable stage presence for someone new to the scene. Mullen's command of the keyboards was worth the price of admission in itself. "Rescue Me" was a folk/rock song featuring Heykants on the guitar. The two harmonize together splendidly creating some catchy hooks as in the aforementioned "Here I Go".
Many of those in attendance probably had no idea who Gaetz Avenue was before the concert because they were here to see and listen to Downhere, however fans swarmed Gaetz Avenue's merchandise table following the concert. It is remarkable to think this duo only exists because a larger project that involved Mullen and Heykants fell through. At the urging of some friends in their church and a generous gift from an individual they were urged to record a CD. They met with the management team of Slyngshot Records and in particular their producer Leroy Harder. Nine months later they are completing their first tour, a one and one half month venture.
There were probably a few guys who left the concert with a crush on Heykants and a few gals left swooning over Mullen. These two are every publicist's dream; they create good music, are attractive, present well, and are personable.
All Gaetz Avenue music is either written or co-written by Heykants and Mullen. More information about Gaetz Avenue is available at www.gaetzave.com
The next act to appear on stage was unknown to me, but has been featured in Soul Shine previously, onlyforward led by lead vocalist and guitarist Dave Martel drives their edgy tunes with some memorable rock riffs. Martel and his mates remind one of a wind up toy with no off button, constantly in motion but unlike other groups that try to cover up their deficiencies with theatrics and cheap gimmicks, there is no danger of that happening with this band, their music is too good. By the time the band was finished its set the crowd was pressing to the front of the stage. What really strikes you about Martel, drummer Roy Vuorela, lead guitarist Jesse Suave and bassist Ian Yule is that prior to and following the concert is the time they took to talk to and mix with fans.
onlyforward is performing at Lee's Palace on Bloor Street West, April 15th, tickets are $5 at the door.
Ladies and Gentlemen let me introduce you to the rock band you have all been waiting for, Canada's very own Downhere, a band that has shaken the very foundation of rock music in the United States with songs like "Breaking Me Down" which won a Dover Award in 2004 for Modern Rock Song of the Year. Downhere took the stage for one hour and twenty minutes and seemed like they didn't want to leave anymore than the fans wanted them to go. The set featured songs from their "So Much For Substitutes" CD, such as "What's It Like" whose lyrics speak to the issue of suffering and trials, "In my life all the strife is getting in the way / Frankly I did not plan on getting hurt today / From your chair in the clouds / Benevolent are your ways / While the beggar bleeds the children play / Everyone wants to know why / Isn't it always the question? /" Obviously a popular song with their fans, Martel led the crowd in the chorus several times and you would have been hard pressed to find someone who wasn't singing.
When you are a reviewer you are fortunate to see a lot of very good acts but Downhere are simply the best band to appear on the Christian music scene in Toronto this year. It is difficult to know where to begin when discussing their strengths. What you immediately become aware of is the quality vocals led by Jason Germain and Marc Martel (yes he is the brother of the lead vocalist for onlyforward). Germain and Martel also write the majority of the music performed by the foursome. Martel's vocal range leaves one in awe.
So much of their music and their very existence are inspired by life experiences such as the death of two friends on the same weekend in completely different incidents or the beautiful soundscapes of "Feels Like Winter" which highlights Germain's talent on the keyboards. The song was inspired by a friend of Germain's who was battling depression and speaks to the heart of those who suffer from depression with words like, "I can't say the last time I smiled / It takes a lot now."
"Stone" which features a strong rock beat offers hope based in a belief in God and his ability to transform lives, "I'd rather be your stone / that light up another's sky / I'd rather be your stone / 'cause all your stones become your diamonds."
You are immediately struck by the poise demonstrated by each member of this talented and personable group. They hosted the concert, introducing the opening acts and providing some lighter entertainment between sets. Drummer Jeremy Thiessen who hails from Fort St John, British Columbia spoke about why the group is involved in the Associate Artist Program with World Vision. He shared personal experiences from meeting the children who live in poverty on the African continent and the band members used a practical illustration involving the audience to paint a graphic picture of the painful effects of HIV and how they have ravaged the population of that continent.
Downhere is a polished act that can hold their own with any mainstream or Christian rock band today. Also understand this; they want you to become hooked on their music so they can have an opportunity to share with you why their faith in God is important to them. They don't advertise the fact they are a Christian band. They advertise the fact they are a rock band and as one member said, and "we happen to play in a lot of churches."
Their multimedia presentation is simple and straightforward with trivia questions about the band displayed on a screen, including who was the previous occupant of the house that they first occupied in Nashville, and asked fans to guess the nickname for their first car. At several points during the concert lyrics to the songs being performed were projected on the screen and the crowd was encouraged to sing along.
Featuring deep guitar grooves from bassist Glenn Lavender, joined by Martel and Germain and solid backup on the drums by Thiessen this is a band that all Canadians can be proud to call their own.
Writer: Joe Montague