Before the month of August comes to a close, I wanted to share with you one of my most memorable August evenings in Toronto. I coulda sworn I’d written about it at the time, but a scan through the inbox of my Hotmail address reveals nothing. I guess I’ll just hafta retell this story from memory…
August 19, 2006 was a nite I had been looking forward to for a few months: the first installment of the Glory Through Steel fest, a local power/thrash metal festival at notorious punk rock dive The Kathedral, which has since closed down. The fest became an annual event that lasted four years, with future installments featuring the likes of Exciter, Nunslaughter, Razor and DBC, but the headlining band of the inaugural edition was local “legends” Anvil. Perhaps you’ve heard of them? Mind you, this was a couple years before the documentary that relaunched their careers, and thus, not as big a deal as it may seem now. Don’t ask me how, but I managed to dig up the poster from this gig. Recognize any of the other names on it?
Some of these bands (Triton, Maniac, Crimson Shadows) I haven’t heard from in a while, although Nitemare, Warmachine and Borealis are still going, albeit with different personnel. Burn to Black was Sam Dunn’s band, who’ve long since broken up, and I’m not sure about Metalian or Betrayer, since neither band was from Toronto. And while the logo looks a little strange, that is the same Cauldron, third from bottom right, that has since gone on to bigger and better things. From what I recall, this was their first-ever gig–and I walked out right before they started playing!
Yes, there is a bit of a backstory involved. In fact, I should probably mention that there was another gig that nite at the Silver Dollar Room, which was supposed to feature NJ stoner rockers The Atomic Bitchwax. Although the headliners didn’t show, it was at that venue where I discovered, completely by accident, a female-fronted doom quartet called Blood Ceremony–though I didn’t find out what they were called until a year later, when the Bitchwax actually made it up to Toronto.
Let’s start from the beginning, shall we? Twas a busy day from the get-go, as I had to move most of my possessions out of the rooming-house apartment I was sub-letting from my college roommate. I had gotten up early to pack my stuff, which my cousin was going to store at her place for a few days while I flew back to Calgary to give him the key (the only thing we had in common is that we grew up in the same city–he went back there for the summer). After unloading my belongings at her place, I headed straight to The Kathedral for the 3 pm start. I met up with some friends outside the venue, where I was the butt of a few jokes, since pictures of me puking at a BBQ the month before had made their way onto the internet, pre-Facebook.
I remember thinking how awesome the first few bands were. We practically begged Crimson Shadows for an encore (the promoter said no), while Maniac, a throwback thrash band before that shit became cool again, wrecked our collective necks. Although they never made it “big”, they were pretty popular locally at the time; I remember a buncha my friends had their t-shirts with the band members’ skull caricatures on ‘em.
One person I ran into after Maniac’s set was my friend Alex, who put out their only album on his label, Bloodbucket Productions. He and I were both fill-in hosts at the time for Satan Takes a Holiday on CKLN. Seems to me that Barbra was outta town for two weeks, and I had filled in the week before, so it was his turn to do so that nite. Only when I handed him the keycard to the studio, he told me he couldn’t do it, cuz the station wasn’t gonna let him on the air. Something to do with him not having signed some paperwork, or not having been to a formal training session, nevermind that he’d been filling in for a few years. (This was pretty typical of CKLN.) So I had to go on the air after the gig from 3 till 7 in the morning. I was still processing this information as I watched Cauldron set up when it dawned on me that my entire music collection was sitting in my cousin’s basement. So I had to run up to Forest Hill to get my albums, drop ‘em off at my place in the East End (I was living on Pape at the time), then head back downtown to the gig. Thus, I missed Cauldron’s debut performance–and a few other bands, as well.
In fact, by that time, it was early evening, so I decided to check out the other gig instead. I was a big fan of the Bitchwax tunes “Shitkicker” and “Forty Five,” and I was pretty stoked to see ‘em. Although I had already been to a few gigs by local bands like Diablo Red, Electric Magma, Nice Cat, Mister Bones, Inside and From Beyond, it was to be the first time I’d seen a touring stoner rock band come to town. But in the end, it was not to be.
Though they weren’t mentioned on the chalkboard outside the Silver Dollar, I asked the girl at the door if the Bitchwax was playing tonite, and she said yes, so I paid the cover and went in. I had just sat down and ordered a beer, when a band went on that completely floored me. Though they didn’t have much in the way of stage presence, Blood Ceremony commanded my attention with their heavy Sabbathian riffs and their female singer who played both flute and keys. They were already playing tunes like “Return to Forever,” “Hymn to Pan” and “Children of the Future” in those days, though I didn’t know any of the song titles. Hell, I didn’t even know what the band was called. After their set, I looked around for a merch table, and saw none. The band members seemed a little shy and awkward (truth be told, so was I!) so I didn’t approach them to ask for a name. Anyways, the next band was pretty mediocre, and they were followed by a standup comedian who opened with a joke about the size of his dick (“Wow, this crowd is really small. Just like my penis…” — I still can’t forget that shit!), so I went back to the door, where I found out that there was no band named The Atomic Bitchwax on the bill. I booked it outta there, hoping to make it back to the Kathedral in time to catch Anvil.
(About a year later, The Atomic Bitchwax finally did make it up here, playing the Comfort Zone in October 2007 with Electric Magma, Blood Ceremony, and I think the same mediocre band I’d seen at the Silver Dollar. Finally, I had a name! I’ve lost count of how many times I’ve seen Blood Ceremony since then, but I would hafta take off my shoes and socks to count em, had I been keeping track.)
By this time, it was pretty late, and I was travelling on foot. I made it back to the Kathedral around 12:30 or 12:45. Nitemare was still on. I hadn’t missed Anvil! Lips and co took the stage around 1:30 and played for a good hour or so till the venue turned the lites on. The band was still a four-piece, I’m pretty sure, as this was before that fateful European tour that cost ‘em rhythm guitarist Ivan Hurd–but gained them so much more once it got turned into a movie! I remember them playing a buncha classic tunes–but not “Mothra”. At one point, Lips mentioned that some guy had bought a shirt and asked them to play “Mothra,” so he asked if that guy was still there. Turns out he wasn’t, though I can’t remember what they played instead.
Look, I actually found a picture from that gig. Turns out Myspace is still good for something! (Hey, isn’t that Sam Dunn on the left-hand side?)
Now, can you imagine seeing Anvil, Cauldron and Blood Ceremony on the same nite in Toronto? Had I not left my records at my cousin’s place on August 19, 2006, I would have! I still think Ida rather seen The Bitchwax that nite, but twas quite the evening to remember regardless.