By Natalie Zed
I knew this show was going to be messy. This prediction was entirely correct.
When I walked into Sneaky Dee’s dark and early, the first band had just begun to play. The first thing I noticed about Tiger Star was not the band, but three drunk hooligans right up front who made enough noise for 15 people, moshing with each other, screaming, grabbing all the free merch Tiger Star offered and generally causing a ruckus. A good-natured ruckus, but enough to keep me well clear of the stage. The band themselves were attired like classic 80s thrashers, and shredding and headbanging passably well. Their set went on a bit too long and was rather light for my taste – too much smoke machine and not enough substance. Vocalist and front woman Mila Star is definitely the, er, star of the show, with an impressive, classically-trained vocal range and a look somewhere between Jem and the Holograms and Courtney Love. She seemed a little nervous on stage at Dee’s, however, her smile a little shaky. I wonder if the ruffians up front threw her and it was just an off night, or if she’s not yet fully in character.
Flying Fortress impressed the hell out of me. This “doomspeed” two piece is composed of “2/3 of the metal band Goat Horn (and) 1/3 of the rock band Zuku.” Brandon Wars plays his bass like a guitar, strumming impossibly fast on the low end, and his alt-rock vocals are at once crisp and complex, a wonderful foil to all the grit reverb. Steel Rider is one hell of a drummer, at once precise and thunderous. They both played in long-sleeved, button down, black shirts and beards (and, in Wars’ case, hair worthy of a less-grey King Buzzo), their pace furious and their musicianship excellent. They’re a weird, tight, surprisingly entertaining band, and I look forward to seeing them again. As smoky and refreshing as a peaty scotch.
After that lovely bit of strangeness, Diemonds drew things back to familiar territory. Their sound was more hard rock than metal, and definitely brought things down a notch as far as I was concerned. However, the crowd was loud, energetic, and appreciative, and the room was rocking to capacity all through their set. Vocalist Priya Panda has a bit of gruffness in her voice that I liked, and their tunes do have the energy required to keep the party going.
Cauldron were the undisputed stars of the night, and they certainly earned their place. By the time they began their set, shortly after midnight, Dee’s was as packed as I have ever seen it. More than one of my fellow-concert goes expressed concern that the floor might collapse due to the size and ferocity of the stomping, screaming, appreciative crowd. Cauldron’s set was energetic and incredibly tight – which makes sense, considering that they have spent so much time in the studio lately. They played some favourites, but their set drew most heavily from their new album, Burning Fortune, and it went over with a bang. Despite the frigid February weather, Sneaky Dee’s was absolutely sweltering as Cauldron dished out red-hot, classic riffs performed with an incredibly amount of energy. If the rest of the cities on their tour get the same amount of love they showed to Toronto, anyone who catches them is in for a treat.