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The Grad Club 162 Barrie Street, Kingston
During my time in Kingston, The Grad Club has become a bit of a staple. It is one of two great music venues in town, and has been able to book some great acts while I’ve been here. Even before I got to Kingston, I was being consistently disappointed when Hamilton bookers scheduled some of my favourite bands, being fully aware that I would not be in the City. My music lover’s heart still breaks just a little bit each time when I get a Facebook invite and there is absolutely no way to put my research on hold, come home for a weekend, and see a great show. Along with The Mansion, however, The Grad Club (almost always) makes sure that those same groups make a tour stop in Kingston. Alas, it is like clockwork: a couple of days after I get event invites from This Ain’t Hollywood or The Casbah, I get corresponding Kingston ones. I breathe a sigh of relief, my heart gets put back together, and my social calendar fills up mighty quickly.
Kristin had let me know that Young Rival was playing in Kingston and suggested that, since they are a Hamilton band, we start the “Detours” segment of the I Heart Hamilton Tour blog. This is where we leave Hamilton and, hitting the road as any good and proper tour should, support fellow Hamiltonians who are breaking through outside of the City. Getting into the show was a bit more interesting than any regular IHHT assignment, though.
The night before, I joined the historians for The Grad Club’s weekly trivia night. Well, not just the historians. Our team, Rock the Tesla, is actually made up of some engineers and pretty cool biochemists, too. We kind of rock, and have actually become one of the major teams to beat. So, as I was walking to our couches on the second floor, the first round of general trivia for that night was about to start. Announcing that Dinosaur Bones and Young Rival tickets for the next night were up for grabs, the group of us got down to work, played an expert round, and won. Thus, I had Friday night plans.
To be honest, I was really looking forward to Dinosaur Bones. I had been introduced to them when I went to a show at The Garrison in Toronto a few years back. The concert is actually legendary, as far as I’m concerned. A few friends from Toronto said that there was this ’50s show going on and invited me to check it out. Unaware that The Garrison is a pretty hip concert venue on Dundas St West, though, I was thinking that a record player and a large amount of older folk of the senior citizen variety would be digging the tunes of their day alongside us youngins. I was completely up for it, and knew my friends and I would still have a rad time. Needless to say, though, I was incredibly wrong. Members from a ton of incredibly hip up-and-coming bands were actually the ones responsible for putting on this 1950s dance party. Modernboys Moderngirls, The Balconies, and the Dinosaur Bones, along with a bunch of other incredibly talented people, were dressed to the nines in poodle skirts and leather jackets. I have not seen so much slicked back hair since, well, ever. With Jailhouse Rock set up on a loop to play on a screen behind the stage, and a ton of kids singing and dancing their hearts out, it remains one of the most musically-talented and fun nights that I’ve ever been to. You can actually check out one of the tunes here.
What I have heard about Young Rival, though, came straight from Kristin and all of her gushing about their performance at the Supercrawl. Interestingly, after the IHHT went to Supercrawl, I went to the record store in Kingston to get some new music. I was looking for Memphis or Zeus. There was no Memphis to be had, but I saw Zeus’ name and grabbed the CD behind their header. Surprise, surprise – it actually ended up being Young Rival! I knew that Kristin was impressed with the band, but I had yet to give them much of a chance. So, I put it back in the proper place, because Zeus had ended up being where Young Rival ought to have been, and left with the album that I had come for. After this concert, however, I B-lined it for the merch table to pick up Young Rival. At this concert, I have to say, I was simply as impressed as I could possibly have been.
Oh, what a preface! Fast forward to Friday – Molly and I walk over to The Grad Club and wait for the concert to begin. Spotting a couple of our friends reading for their Latin Club on the second floor (really, we are the coolest grad students ever), we were able to convince Beth to join us downstairs for the show.
The Grad Club is a few floors high and a beautifully old house. It’s on the corner of campus, and has a ton of the unique touches that we Tour Girls really dig in a music venue. Picture the Casbah Lounge as the stage, This Ain’t Hollywood’s length, and an architectural effort akin to The Baltimore House’s Victorian style. Throw in a slew of tables and black couches spread out on all three floors, and a ton of graduate students looking for a break from the everyday doldrums of study, and you have the Grad Club.
Cue Dinosaur Bones. They take the stage and got the night started off right. “Ice Hotels” was definitely a highlight, and the boys in the band were giving it their all. Bassist Branko Scekic’s performance was a complete and utter distraction for us girls, though. Being so into their own tunes, he was bouncing back and forth with the music as most bassists are bound to do. Something important to note, however: the Grad Club’s stage is not very high. As a result, the audience is quite close to the band who is playing. Thus, there was this girl in front of him. She was really enjoying herself and not paying quite enough attention to her surroundings. On the opposite side of the stage, this is why Molly, Beth, and I could not stop staring – the proximity between his headstock and her face got closer every time that Branko swayed his bass. I have no idea how, but nobody got hurt.
Then it was Young Rival’s turn. Aron D’Alesio, Noah Fralick, and John Smith put on one of the most unexpected and talented sets that I have ever seen. Frontman Aron had some footwork that rivals Jacquie Neville of The Balconies. With his right leg quivering as he played, I could not help but make the jump to a performance akin to a tamer, rockabilly, and pre-punk Joe Strummer of the 101ers variety. These boys are simply passionate, and you can really tell with their live show. Noah’s endearing laugh at the end of their set and John’s bass skills rounding out the band, the show was nothing short of inspired. They play with heart, they play with soul, and they play it all incredibly well.
This is where Beth comes in. I had not yet been back to Hamilton to get my Button Pushers button that the rest of the girls had in order to separate me as an IHHT blogger from the crowd. I did, however, have my summer Tour tee. Wearing it, I was hoping that the bright yellow would make me stand out enough for the band to come to me. Silly, I know, but that was my thought process. After the set, they and the Dinosaur Bones were hanging out by the bar. I did not want to interrupt, so, I walked back upstairs to meet up with Beth, Connor, and Molly. Beth, being as amazing as she is and seeing that I had not gotten a chance to talk with the boys from the band, insisted that she help me have a quick interview with them. We ran down a couple of flights of stairs (because we have gotten to treat the Grad Club like any other house) and Beth paused. She was unsure of where the boys were. Aron passes by, I point him out, and Beth sprints down the hall, grabs him by the shoulder, and says, in all of her adorability, “You guys were great. My friend, Carly, she’s really smart.” Now, formally introduced, Noah joined the conversation and we had a great (but way too short, as far as I’m concerned) conversation about Hamilton, our blog, and their tour. Surprised with their sound, I had to tell them how interesting and original their show was. Aron’s response, “it’s just rock’n’roll,” was as appropriate a label as any. Hesitant with the description that night, insisting that they were something better than that, I have since come around. Young Rival is what you expect from good rock’n’roll. And that is what separates them from their peers.
Listening to the album (a Sonic Unyon record), I enjoy every track. My favourite is a toss up between “T-Shirt and Shorts” and “Authentic.” With the opening riff on “Got What You Need” sounding like the Kids in the Hall intro, I immediately understood why Kristin (not only a Gleek, but also a Kids in the Hall fanatic) was attracted to their sound. The lyrics and voice reverberations of “Just Can’t Stay Here” come close to a Julian Casablancas sound at some points, and “Don’t Make A Sound” is a throwback tune reminiscent of The Zombies. I cannot help but think of Young Rival as a more clear shimmering stars, with an added dose of rockabilly grit and proper rock. Their stage show translates into a tight and rousing album that any rock’n’roll music lover should add to their arsenal. And, with a new album slated for late summer, there’ll be new songs, a new tour – and new opportunities for them to impress a slew of new fans.