Alexisonfire draws army of followers

Wade Preston politely asks the crowd to calm down.
Wade Preston politely asks the crowd to calm down.

Concert Review: Alexisonfire @ The Iron Horse Saloon

When Alexisonfire’s lead singer, George Logan, was forced to put down his mic to safely protect a handful of wayward crowd surfers during the band’s energetic closing number, “Counterparts & Number Them,” this show was officially out of control and insane.

I guess the punk ethos dictates that life be lived always on the edge—treading ever so slightly on the thin line that separates the uninhibited release of energy and expression and outright danger.

I realize that among the punk and hardcore crowd, anarchy is paramount and all authority is deemed evil, but really, this show needed some professional security—rather than the show’s promoter and a few of his friends.

Within the first minute of the first song by the first band, the horizontal folding tables intended as makeshift barricades buckled and had to be removed. So, less than a minute into the four-hour show, there was nothing separating the stage from the relentless crowd. This meant that “security” was now pushed up onto the stage. Still, it’s certainly a testament to Alexisonfire’s rising popularity, their continued foray into the mainstream and Kingston Punk Productions in general that this event drew such a huge number of people to see a hardcore punk show in Kingston.

With nearly a thousand in attendance, this was one of the biggest concerts that Kingston will put on for the entire year. Now, I don’t know for sure whether KPP and The Iron Horse simply neglected to arrange for security, if there wasn’t any room in the budget, if they underestimated the size of the crowd, or if they had simply planned to do it the way they did—regardless, having three or four non-band members constantly on stage, playing security during the show was a major distraction—not to mention rather dangerous. With this being an all-ages show, the punk kids came out in droves resulting in a line-up that stretched all the way to Tower Street. While looking at the dominant age demographic of the seemingly endless line did make me feel incredibly old and kind of like I was an extra on the set of Thirteen, it was also uplifting in a way. I took comfort knowing that not all the kids are buying into the commercialization and watering down of “punk” perpetrated by bands like Good Charlotte and Simple Plan. It’s good to know that there is still a faction listening to real rebel music—to real punk. It warmed my heart to think that maybe the kids are all right.

First up on the bill was Kingston’s own, I Hate Sally. The local growlers sped through their short set of speed punk meets death metal, while working through several technical difficulties—a recurring theme throughout the night—not the least of which being, playing the second half of their show without any monitors. This was the band’s second show with their brand new female singer, who was about half the size of her other band mates. However, despite her small stature, she still managed to rip all the faithful punk kids into an incessant frenzy at the very moment she screamed into the mic.

Technical problems caused long delays between I Hate Sally and the start of Closet Monster’s set. As the band was finally ready to begin, the representative from the Iron Horse—presumably trying to save his venue and PA system from further damage—feebly tried to calm the crowd by announcing that “Things are getting a little out of hand.” He went on to say, “I don’t think there’ll be any more moshing or—,” before being cut off by Closet Monster.

As the Iron Horse guy began his unwelcome, preachy and just plain stupid “no more moshing” speech, the band looked at each other and energetically broke into their opening song—effectively cutting the dude off in mid-sentence. It was a great punk-rock moment.

Like every band on the bill, Toronto’s Closet Monster suffered through technical difficulties before and during their set. They were certainly more melodic than any of the other bands on the bill and leaned closer to the emocore side of things—if you wish to play the sub-genre game. In addition to putting on a great show, they were also the most sensible in terms of controlling the rowdy crowd.

“Be as rambunctious as you want,” said Closet Monster bassist, London Spicoluk, “but take care of each other.” Next up was Hopesfall from North Carolina, who continued to keep the crowd’s energy high. Their sound alternated between hardcore, metal, and straight-up punk, with a mostly screaming-occasionally singing vocalist, who frequently threw himself into the sea of protective arms outstretched at the stage’s end. After even more technical difficulties delayed the transition from Hopesfall to the show’s headliners, Alexisonfire finally took the stage.

With sirens blaring, drummer Jesse Ingelevics, guitarist Wade Preston, bassist Chris Steele, guitarist and vocalist Dallas Green and screamer George Logan, satisfied their craving audience at last.

Opening with the first single, “Accidents” from their latest album, “Watch Out!”, the band held nothing back as Green and Logan complimented each other in their singing-screaming duet, while the crowd emphatically participated in the song’s anthemic bridge.

As the crowd grew and grew and continued to dance harder and harder, the band did its best to ensure that everyone played nicely and had a good time. In the name of safety, Logan attempted to reason with the crowd: “Right now, it’s the most fun, but also the most dangerous—so make sure you’re not crushing the people at the front.”

The band’s set was an even split between songs from their self-titled debut album and “Watch Out!” They played crowd favourites like “Waterwings” and “Polaroids of Polarbears” as well as newer songs like “No Transitory” and “That Girl Possessed.”

The band themselves seemed genuinely impressed with the size and enthusiasm of the Iron Horse crowd.

“I can’t believe there’s this many people here,” Logan said.

By the time Alexisonfire hit the stage, the liscensed area around the bar was also packed to the brim, proving the band draws on more than just the teenaged crowd.

“Oh Kingston, you’re breakin’ my heart,” Logan said, just before the band followed appropriately with “Pulmonary Archery,” the first single from Alexisonfire and the song that launched their career.

The insanity hit a fever pitch when the band closed the show with “Counterparts and Number Them.” As the song reached its climax, a look of genuine fear overtook Logan’s face as he stared helplessly at fans pressed forcibly against the front of the stage.

Eventually things calmed down a little and the band agreed to return to play “Little Girls Pointing and Laughing” in a single-song encore before allowing the pulsating throng of hungry moshers to deflate and disperse.

You may choose to simply disregard Alexisonfire as a bunch of no-good, screaming punks, and treat their music as little more than loud noise for angry teens, but the fact of the matter is, ”Watch Out!” is one of the best albums of the year—bar none. Not just one of the best hardcore albums or one of the best Canadian albums.

Alexisonfire has reached more people and made hardcore music more accessible not by compromising any of their own ideals or conforming to anyone else’s standards; they have achieved a level of mainstream success because they have written great songs. Period.

All in attendance at the jam-packed house at the Iron Horse this past Saturday can attest to that.

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