Category Archives: Concert Reviews

On the Road With SUSTO: Part One

By Matt Harrison (@MattHurrison)

On the Road. Photo by Matt Harrison

March 28th, 2017

Excerpt from Stylus Magazine

Standing in the thirtieth row of a partially filled MTS centre, dressed to the nines (or at least the sixes), riding a narcotic propelled rocket hurtling my mind through some forgotten corridor of the cosmos is when I was first introduced to SUSTO. It was as though my experience was tethered to an otherworldly elastic that, at the moment of its choice, pulled me back down to earth and into my mortal self while the chorus of SUSTO’s Waves roared through the arena. The lights danced in unison as though they themselves were drowning waves. “It comes in waves” sang front man Justin Osborne, reminding a select few of every time they ever felt the ‘waves’ come on at the outset of what will surely be a good trip…

August 8th, 2017

Email received at 4:37 PM

SHOW DATE:  August 12—Winnipeg, MB—Park Theatre

Artist: SUSTO

Contact: Matt Harrison, writer

Action: Matt to interview Justin at venue.

Length:  15 min

August 12th, 2017

From a letter given to Justin after the interview  

…I can go on now about how your music impacted me like no other music has since I was an angsty 14 year-old, sitting on the top-bunk of a second hand bunk bed, shot-gunning beers with the window cracked so I could do my best to smoke a couple cigarettes. Instead, I’ll save my wrist the ache and your eyes the agony.

…What I mean to propose, in a more straight forward fashion, is that if you are ever looking to have somebody come out on the road to write about you and your band, I’m the guy for the job.

I cost nothing and I stow anywhere.


Matt Harrison

December 5th, 2018 – Chicago, Illinois

I waited inside Schuba’s Tavern, aiming a blank stare out the window at the pedestrian traffic scuttling by the moonlit streets of Chicago. A lonesome drip ran down the neck of a Wellbeing Hellraiser, the non-alcoholic beer with the most appealing name on the menu. I couldn’t keep from drumming a nervous rhythm on my notebook with the pen from last night’s hotel while the barroom chatter carried on growing and fading.

“Matt?” the light voice of the waitress came from beside me, breaking my anxious concentration.

“Yes, hi,” I stammered, grabbing my backpack from the window shelf.

“Oh, thank God,” she said, her face painted with relief. “You’re like the fourth person I’ve come up to. The only instructions they gave me were that you’re wearing plaid and you’re Canadian.”

“Oh,” I said with a nervous laugh as I shouldered my backpack, grabbing my drink and notebook.

I followed her through the crowded bar and down a quiet flight of stairs that ended at the door to the kitchen. She pointed to a large door around the corner from the staircase. I stood outside it for a moment, took a deep breath, and gave a knock before I turned the knob and walked in.

When I entered the green room, Justin Osborne was midway through a bite of a burger. His eyes caught mine, his eyebrows raised. “Hey man,” he said through a chewing mouthful. “I’d shake your hand, but I’ve got burger hands.” He reached over and gave me a fist bump, the word ACID tattooed across his knuckles.

Justin wore a week-old beard and a black long sleeved t-shirt. His sleeves were rolled up, showing the tattoos on his forearms, one of which was of his cat, Kiki. On his right hand, underneath his thumb, was a small tattoo of a guitar.

Justin introduced me to the few people sitting around the room, one of which was the opening act for the evening, Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster, whom we called Pete. I had only just taken my seat at the edge of the room when a little blonde woman came walking in from another door.

“Jordan,” Justin said, leaning away from the conversation and his burger. “This is Matt. He’s the Canadian who’ll be ridin’ along with us. Matt, this is Jordan Igoe. We mostly call her Igoe, I think.”

“It’s gonna be cool havin’ you along,” Igoe said with her whiskey-splashed velvet voice. She carried a South Carolina accent only slightly heavier than Justin’s.

I shook her hand and tried to crack a joke, but all that cracked was my voice.

The green room door popped open, and in walked a slender, tattooed man with a pierced septum, long hair and a beard of an auburn shade.

“Got some paper and bottled water for y’all,” the tall skinny man said through his southern accent.

“Van, this is Matt, he’s the Canadian comin’ along. This is our tour manager, Van,” Justin said, pointing from Van to me.

“Good to meet you,” Van said with a firm handshake.


“We call him Van the Good,” Justin said, looking back at Van. “We also call him the Keeper of the Scrolls, but you don’t have to call him that.”

Justin sat in the center of the room, talking out the setlist with Jordan when Pete stood up with a bottled water in hand and walked toward the door.

“’Bout that time, Pete?” Justin asked, looking up from the half-filled page on the table.

“Yep,” he replied through his light Arkansas drawl, “just about.”

“Alright, man. Have a good set.”

Pete had only just stepped out the door when Justin turned towards me, carrying on writing out his set list with the paper Van had brought in. “I was workin’ in a kitchen at this place called the Royal American when I saw Pete singing with his band, Water Liars. Seeing him made think there are guys out there my age performing and touring. I had done some touring before, but that really got me back into the tourin’ life.”

I leaned in to ask something when the green room door opened slowly and a tall, skinny man with a full, thick beard and long hair of a matching oaky brown, peeked into the room. Justin jumped up smiling and rushed to hug the guy. The room came alive with smiles and laughter. Justin walked over to me with his arm around the newcomer.

“Matt, this is Johnny Delaware,” he said with a full, beaming smile.

Johnny Delaware, a long-time friend of Justin’s and former member of SUSTO, stood before me wearing a zipped-up sweater printed over with a photo of two white horses running through a river. The sleeves and back made up the trees and skyline in the background of the horses. We shook hands and the laughter in the room grew and carried on. It so happened that Johnny was coming through Chicago with his band, The Artisanals, and had come by on their night off to watch Justin and Jordan perform.

Come the time Justin and Jordan took the stage, I stood in the back of the room. This tour was called the SUSTO Stories Tour, and Justin began the show by explaining to the crowd how the night was to proceed.

“Hi there, how y’all doin’?” he said as he adjusted the mic with his guitar hanging from his shoulder. “We’re gonna play a buncha songs for ya tonight. We’ll play some songs off the first album, the second album, a bunch of songs that aren’t on any album. We’ll do some songs off our new album, too. I’m also going to be doing an obnoxious amount of talking about a bunch of these songs. Sorry about that, but we advertised it that way.”

The crowd laughed and Justin stepped into the first story of the night.

“My brother and I were burnin’ leaves this one time and we thought we put the fire out, but I guess we didn’t get the whole thing and it caused a whole lotta trouble. A buncha years later I was out at this bar and I was talking to this girl who I’d kinda known but didn’t know very well. It was going great until something clicked in her mind and she says, wait a minute, you’re the kid that burned my Grandad’s boatshed down like, 10 years ago. And I was like well, actually, me and my brother did.”

The crowd laughed, making Justin laugh along, too.

“So, that’s what this song’s about, and it’s called County Line.”

The chemistry between Justin and Igoe on stage was immediately apparent. The years between them, the friendship they carried, shone through in their harmonies throughout the 15 or so songs they played that night and every night after.

Once they came down to the last song of the night, Justin took a moment to address the audience. “We’ve got nowhere to hide so we won’t bother doing an encore, but if y’all wanna hear some more songs we’ll play ‘em for ya.”

The room answered with an overwhelming cheer.

“Alright,” he chuckled, “we’ll go ahead and just jump right into it. We’re gonna start off with a new song. It’s about knowing you’re doing the wrong thing but doing it anyway.”

With that, he strummed the first chords gently before stepping into the first line: “Ride with me to buy cocaine…”

As they said goodnight to the crowd, I slipped out the door and went down to the green room. Justin stayed upstairs for a short while talking to fans while Van the Good manned the merchandise table. I was sorting through my backpack when Igoe came into the green room. 

“How do you feel coming off stage?” I asked.

“I’m glad to be done,” she said as she looked for her cigarettes. “It’s great being up there but I’m happy it’s over.”

Justin, Johnny Delaware, and Van the Good stumbled into the room, high on the excitement of the night. The group came in to grab coats and turned to head back out. Justin stopped at the door before they left.

“Hey Matt, we’re gonna go smoke a joint in the van, do you wanna come?”

With that, we all went back up the stairs and into the van. Justin opened the back doors and hopped in to roll a joint while the first joint did its rounds of the vehicle. I felt a brief streak of fear as the van filled with smoke. I quickly realized this isn’t the first joint smoked outside a music venue in Chicago, and, ultimately, these are professionals.

From the back of the van Justin told Johnny he’ll be a father by next summer.

“That’s great,” Delaware answered, glowing with excitement as he looked back over the seat at Justin who sat where the gear and merch bins would later be. “You’re gonna be a great dad.”

“Well, I know Meghan’s gonna be a great mom,” Justin replied from the back.

“Are you gonna find out what it is?” Delaware asked from the second row.

“Nah. We’ll find out when it’s born.”

“That’s great,” Delaware smiled, “there are so few surprises in life.”

Before Johnny Delaware left Schubas that night, he gave me a big hug and held it. He told me he was happy to have met me. The kicker is, it felt as though he meant it. The only time he didn’t look all that happy was while we stood outside for a cigarette. A man of the South, he wasn’t used to the humid chill of Chicago in December. His horse sweater, impressive as it may have been, did little to fend off the night’s chill.

While we smoked that cigarette, I told him how much he seems to radiate positivity. “I’m not always like that, man,” he said through chattering teeth. “When I’m driving around in the van and I just have to sit there, my blood feels still. I need to move around and engage with the world,” he said, waving his arms slowly and giving a quick kick with one leg.

The van. Photo: Matt Harrison

Once the crowd dispersed and it came time to pack the van, I asked what I could help with. The group was reluctant to put me to work but I insisted, and they eventually took my offer. It was the next day that Justin cut a deal with me to help load and unload the van for the remainder of the tour in exchange for him buying my meals.

“Sorry you have to help us, man, but we appreciate it,” Justin said as we lugged the vinyl and merchandise bins into the van.

Once the last piece of cargo was loaded, Justin, Igoe, Van the Good and I climbed into the van, and took off through the night toward our hotel in Indiana. As we pulled away, Justin brought up the maps app on his phone and looked back from the front passenger seat.

“We met right in the middle, bro” he said, showing me his phone. It would take 13 hours 40 minutes to drive to Winnipeg from Chicago, and 13 hours 30 minutes to drive from Chicago to Charleston.

We arrived at the hotel off the edge of the highway in Merriville, Indiana. Each of them had a couple drinks and rolled another joint to celebrate me stepping on board.

“Weed is a luxury,” Van the Good told me as he rolled the joint, “and it won’t be around every night.”

“Loud and clear,” I said, though his words would be proven wrong in the coming weeks.

Before we went out to smoke in the van, Justin got on talking about how excited he was to have me along. “You’re about to step into real Freedom out here. Once you get your nose into it, once you get a taste, that’s it, man. You’re gonna be hooked.”

I couldn’t tell if the author of the song “Cocaine” saw the irony of what he’d just said. Nevertheless, the Freedom carried out to the van where we smoked the celebratory joint and cranked the tunes before bed.

By 11:15 the next morning we were off and running toward Louisville. A band on the road needs to be a well-oiled machine, and newly appointed Tour Manager, Van the Good, is tasked with keeping this machine running at peak efficiency. His job encompasses many attributes, chief among them being in charge of keeping the crew’s head screwed on just straight enough to make every sound check and check-out on time.

“Alright, y’all,” Justin announced to the group before we pulled out, “we’ve got two joints ready to go for later on.”

“Oh my God,” Jordan said.

“Yeah,” he answered pridefully. “I’ve been workin’.”

A light snow fell intermittently between rainfall as we hit the highway. I took a glance out the window and watched the ice-glazed front end of a red Ford F-350 pull past us, momentarily hiding the half-frozen Kentucky hillsides that ran steep behind it. The crew decided to stop for lunch, so we pulled into a Waffle House in Columbus, Indiana, the birthplace of Cummins Diesel engines.

“I’m excited to take you to your first Waffle House,” Justin said to me as we hopped out of the van. “I hope it doesn’t kill ya, bud. We’ve developed something of an immunity to it.”

We piled into the restaurant quick, and left a little slower. The cook and the waitress each took interest in what we were coming through for. Before we left, Van left a copy of both SUSTO albums with each of them. Ultimately, interactions like these are another opportunity to move product and make fans of anyone.

“You really got the full Waffle House experience for your first time,” Jordan told me once we’d left. “Good food, good service, and a waitress who likes to talk.”

The snow still fell as we pulled out, but not nearly as much collected in the ditches and up the hillsides. It quickly turned to rain as we passed a sign declaring 82 miles to Louisville.

We pulled into a rest stop a few miles outside Louisville to orient ourselves and spark a joint. We were surrounded by trees on all sides. It felt as though we were in some wild paradise with a strip of pavement running through the heart of it to allow for comers and goers, sinners and otherwise. We puttered back out onto the highway and carried on until we arrived at Zanzabar, the venue for that night’s show.

Pete performing in Louisville. Photo by Matt Harrison

The show in Louisville was the first time I saw Justin Peter Kinkel-Schuster perform. He sang to a gently half-filled room, strumming his 1965 12 string, strung with only 6 strings to avoid the hassle of maintaining all those strings on the road. Pete’s singing and songwriting are beautiful and smooth. His finger picking style and his voice roll like fog through a forest; poetic and revealing. Justin stood next to me through the performance, singing along to every word.

Once Pete finished performing, Justin and Igoe waited for their time in the green room, taking swigs from the bottle that each of them carried. He drank tequila while she drank Jack Daniel’s. Before long, showtime had arrived and the two of them walked on stage.

Justin started the show with the same song and story he told in Chicago, the same song and story every show started with throughout the tour. Justin would tell stories for eight or so songs at each show. Some stories he told at every show, some stories only popped up a few times. Louisville was the only city he told this story:

“There was this reggae hour in Charleston and all they would play was reggae music. I went through a three-month period where all I listened to was reggae. I went to our producer and I was like the next record is gonna be all reggae. It’s the only true music. Nah not really, but all these reggae songs were always talkin’ about Jah Werx. So, this one time, I was with my wife and a friend of ours, and it was the end of the night and we were just gonna try writin’ a song.”

Justin began softly strumming the chords to Jah Werx and he sang the story to the tune of the song. “I sang Jah Werx, and my wife goes and I’m fiiine today, and my buddy goes at the same damn time, at the same damn time, at the same damn time.

“There was this one time I got to play with The Wailers in Austin, Texas. A little while later I ran into them in an airport and they remembered me because of the song Jah Werx! Jah fuckin’ Werx, man!” Justin said with a tequila-scented smile.

“Now, they might not know what it means, and I don’t either, but I know it’s real. Anyway, that’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.”

With that he jumped into “Jah Werx”.

Later, when Justin and Igoe stepped off stage, I met them behind the doors that led outside. Justin’s face was warped with worry and anxiety. He kept saying he didn’t put on a good enough show and that nobody wanted to hear these stories. He had been loose during this show, chattier with the crowd than he was in Chicago. Only a few steps off stage, panic hung in his voice as he explained his fears. Igoe talked him down, reassuring him. His breathing levelled out and after a minute he came back down.

“I can’t believe people are willing to listen to this shit,” he said to Jordan with a laugh.

“Drop it,” she answered curtly. “Do what your heart and soul want to do. Speak to people through music.”

“You’re such a good friend,” was all he could say.

We packed up and packed out after the show, sticking around no longer than need be. We came back to the hotel and sat in the parking lot to pass a joint around. Justin sat in the front passenger seat while he told me what he can remember about the two times he’d come through Winnipeg.

“When we were in Winnipeg with the Lumineers, I had to go to the mall right by the venue to buy some dental floss. I just remember feeling like it was kind of, like, dodgy. Like I wasn’t safe bein’ there.”

“Oh,” I answered with a laugh, realising he had walked through the infamous heart of Downtown Winnipeg to Portage Place, “that’s because you weren’t.”

“I like places like that,” he said between hits of the joint. “You have to keep your head up and know what’s goin’ on around you. You have to use situational awareness and you can’t just tune out and stare at your phone.”

The night ended soon after that joint, and the next day we drove through the snowy Kentucky hills, Nashville bound. As we drove, they played the new album for me, which was still unreleased for another two months. I fell into the rhythm of it as we tore into Tennessee.

One moment I was staring into the forest beside the highway and the next we were right on top of Nashville. The city spread out far and wide in every direction underneath us as we pulled in. We wriggled down a few streets before we came to the parkade at Concord Music.

Our footsteps echoed through the tall corridor inside as we found our way over to the elevator. No one had much to say as the elevator purred bringing us up. As we stepped onto our floor and walked up the hall into Concord Music, “Friends, Lovers, Ex-Lovers Whatever” by SUSTO played over the sound system.

Concord Music. Photo: Matt Harrison

“What a welcome,” Igoe said as the four of us walked toward the reception desk.

We were brought into an office where the conversation revolved around distribution strategies and the best way to get the new album off the ground once it’s released. When we left Concord, Justin and Van went to have a meet and greet with someone on the business end. This being Van’s first tour as Tour Manager, he was meeting all these people for the first time. After that meeting, there remained no further work to be done in Nashville, so we swung by the AirBnB to drop off our bags and went to 210 Jack, a ramen noodle place, for dinner.

The restaurant was alive with chatter as we took our seats. Today is the day “Homeboy”, the first single off the new album, was released. The group ordered a bottle of Saki to celebrate.

“Cheers, y’all,” Van said, raising his glass of Saki. “Happy single release day.”

“Guten tag,” Justin said, raising his glass.

As we were leaving, Justin pointed down the street toward a coffee shop where he played his first Nashville show many years ago while on tour with his now-wife, Meghan. We swung by a grocery store on the way home and bought some snacks for the night.

We sat around the kitchen table of the AirBnB while the Trailer Park Boys theme song twinkled in the background.

“I might wait a bit to have another drink because I just crushed that sleeve of Oreos,” Justin said with an exhausted expression.

“Everybody calm dewn,” said a googley-eyed bastard on the TV in the other room.

“Fuckin’ bubbles,” Van said, shaking his head.

“Lahey was always my favourite,” Igoe said, walking over toward the living room where the TV was playing from.

I am the liquor,” Justin said, looking up from his full drink and empty sleeve of Oreos.

“When John Dunsworth passed it was a national tragedy in Canada” I said, thinking back to that awful day.

As the night rolled on, more joints were rolled with it. We went out to the van to smoke one and Van proved why one of his many names is Keeper of the Scrolls. He pulled up videos on his phone of SUSTO performances from over the years. He pulled up a video of “Cigarettes, Whiskey, and Wine” from December 19th, 2015, the day of my 21st birthday.

“This one’s for you, brother,” Van said to me as he put the song on. 

Van put on a video from the night prior in Louisville: “This is another new song,” Justin said. “It’s about knowing you’re doing the wrong thing but doing it anyways. Which I don’t recommend.”

Igoe sat in the seat behind me and played softly along to the video of “Cocaine” on a little guitar, stopping when the joint came back around to her. She sung gently behind me while the recording played. Justin coughed in the front seat as the smoke turned to a cloud and the joint continued its rounds.

“Let me blow Matt’s mind real quick,” Van said, scrolling through the videos in his phone.

I wasn’t sure what to expect, but what I got was a live version of “Mountain Top” from May of 2016 played on a closed street under a tent on a night in Charleston. This video showed the psychedelic vortex of the song coming to life. This was true and pure rock and roll. Justin screamed the final verses into a megaphone while the band carried the beat beneath his breath.

Walking in to Concord Music. Photo: Matt Harrison

Avatar Country World Tour

By Samuel Stevens & Matt Harrison

Avatar with special guests, Devin Townsend, Dance With The Dead, and ’68

May 29, 2019

The Garrick

My evening began as I arrived downtown, shortly after the doors had opened and the line that would’ve formed beforehand had already been let in. Earlier in the day, I gave a quick count of all the shows I’ve been to at The Garrick over the last 11 years and I came to learn this concert was my 50th at the venue. This newfound fact made my night more enjoyable than it would’ve been otherwise.

Making my way from my transit stop to the venue, I was more than excited when I noticed the countless fans making their way from all directions toward the same doors. A group of fans in front of me, whom I followed along unintentionally, were also on the way to either see one, or perhaps all of the acts in the line up. They hurried along ahead of me, waiting to see the sets of Swedish heavy metal band Avatar, metal legend Devin Townsend, the EDM/metal hybrid duo Dance With The Dead, and the noise rock band, ’68.

As my ticket was being scanned, I focused ahead to the large, bright sign across the lobby, located all the way at the merch booth that read, “Avatar.” I made a beeline for the merch table to examine what the band brought along to peddle throughout the stops on tour. A particular t-shirt grabbed my attention, so I joined the line. Soon after I stepped in line, I looked to my right and saw people spinning a wheel for a chance to win a merch bundle. This game of Spin-The-Wheel fits directly into the carnival theme of Avatar’s Avatar Country era. Something about the way the sign read “2 Spins for $15” had me hooked. The instantaneous fear of missing out took hold of me, dragging me by the collar of my shirt with money in hand. I marched over from the merch line and joined this new group. My two spins came up empty and without one of the prized a merchandise bundles. Nevertheless, I came out with an Avatar collector coin. By now it was time to take a seat in the theatre until and wait for the lights to fall.

'68 - Niko Yamada
’68. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

Near the shows start time of 7 pm, the duo’s vocalist and guitarist, Josh Scogin, and the duo’s drummer, Niko Yamada, walked across the stage of The Garrick while the venue was lost in an array of total darkness. The band were last in The Peg just seven months ago where they played in the exact same venue opening up for The Devil Wears Prada (which can be read about here). Just as the last time the duo played this city, they performed a handful of tracks from their two albums and one EP, to the delight of the Winnipeg audience.

Dance With The Dead
Dance With The Dead. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

The metal-electronic-dance duo, Dance With The Dead, hit the stage at 7:45 on the dot. Not just one genre in particular was showcased during the night, which seemed to send jitters of distaste from people who did not vibe with the mix of the two genres. The two guitarists/DJs first entered on stage playing dueling guitar riffs on subtle electronic beats, with an 80’s horror film feel to the synth, before one member put his guitar down and stood at his DJ equipment. The duo played around forty minutes and by the end, the guitar riffs were put away and the two were delivering a full on EDM performance. It’s worth noting that the partial enthusiasm and doubt went out the door over the course of the set as there was plenty more people in the room applauding Dance With The Dead as the duo waved goodnight and walked off stage.

Devin Townsend
Devin Townsend. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

Where do I even start with The Devin Townsend Acoustic Experience? Sure the “Acoustic Experience” isn’t actually on the tour poster, but that’s exactly what it was, an experience that rarely does happen. At Devin Townsend’s start of 8:40, he walked to the microphone holding what he proclaimed to be his stuffed “tour hot dog.” After Devin was done cracking jokes about the hot dog, he proceeded to speak of his long battle with depression, which resulted in him saying, “I sometimes buy useless things to put on stage and not to be alarmed by the clutter around him,” as he was referring to his hot dog and other stuffed animals on the stage. Devin proceeded to speak briefly on his current unwillingness to be on the road supporting his most recent album, Empath, and pulled out a blue rubber chicken, that made that ridiculous honking sound when squeezed, which he called his “orgasmic chicken.”

Devin Townsend performed a seven song set, featuring the tracks, “Let It Roll” and “Deadhead” from his time in The Devin Townsend Band, an acoustic rendition of the song “Love?” -by his former band, Strapping Young Lad- “Ih-Ah!” from The Devin Townsend Project, which was dedicated to audience member’s sister who passed away. Lastly, Devin performed the tracks “Solar Winds,” “Why?,” and “Life” from his solo works. In between one of the final tracks of his for the night, Devin jokingly put on the song, “Baby Shark” as if he was going to cover it, which ushered the crowd to laugh. Importantly the last thing before leaving the stage, Devin said to the Winnipeg audience he should be back next year with his band to perform a proper show to support his album, Empath.

The time between Devin Townsend stepping off stage and the start of Avatar’s performance was impetuous, and soon enough the clock was coming down on 9:45. I made my way from my seat in the back, through the theatre, to the few rows set for standing. Miraculously, I wiggled my way to the barricade before the set started. I killed the remaining minutes until the start of the show looking around at the crowd strewn about the venue. Everyone, standing or sitting, waited patiently in anticipation for Avatar to finally perform.

In eighteen years as a band, this was the first time Avatar have ever played a headline show in the city. However, the band’s first and most recent time in Winnipeg before the Avatar Country World Tour was just two years ago, in November 2017, in an opening slot for In This Moment and Hollywood Undead.

As 9:45 hit, the house lights faded to a faint dimness before falling into outright darkness. The lights around the stage doused the stage in an orange, pink coat of light as the intro track, “Glory To The King,” began the performance. The band’s guitarist, Jonas Jarlsby, also known as The King, made his way on stage on a lift to a raised platform behind the band’s drummer, John Alfredsson.

Avatar - Jonas "Kungen" Jarlsby
Avatar. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

Shortly following Jarlsby was the remainder of the band who found their places on stage before the band opened with the number “A Statue of The King.” The second song of the night, “Legend of The King,” featured pyrotechnics on stage in the form of two spark fountains located to the sides of The King, who, at the time, was sitting upon his throne at the front of the stage. I was completely stunned at the spectacle of it!

A few stand out tracks performed during the night were “Paint Me Red,” “Tower,” “Smells Like a Freakshow,” and the two encore tracks, “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country” and “Hail the Apocalypse.”

I can’t recall after which song it occurred, but vocalist, Johannes Eckerström, a long time avid wrestling fan, asked the Winnipeg crowd the question, “Who caught the Chris Jericho vs. Kenny Omega match the other night?” This question brought the audience to an eruption of cheers. As for anyone who may be unaware, both Jericho and Omega are professional wrestlers, both are from Winnipeg who moved abroad to further their careers. Both Jericho and Omega recently signed with the new wrestling upstart, All Elite Wrestling, based out of Jacksonville, Florida. The two were featured in the companies very first main event match at All Elite Wrestling’s first pay-per-view, Double or Nothing on May 25, 2019 in Las Vegas.

During Avatar’s encore, “The King Welcomes You to Avatar Country,” the band overtook the theatre with a bubble machine flood. I’m not talking a few bubbles. Thousands of bubbles filled the place over the six minutes of the track! Before the night was over, vocalist, Johannes Eckerström was adamant to tell the fans this won’t be the last time Avatar will be here. The night ended with a promise to the packed house; “We will be back, Winnipeg!”

Faouzia: First Headline Show

By Samuel Stevens & Matt Harrison

Faouzia with special guest, Ferro x Sadye

March 21, 2019

West End Cultural Centre

It was nearing 5:30 on the evening of March 21st when my sister and I hopped aboard Winnipeg Transit and made our way to the West End Cultural Centre for Faouzia’s first headliner show. The night’s performance was the first of two back-to-back sellouts at the venue. The first night sold out in ten hours, prompting Faouzia and her team to add a second show that sold out in under two hours.

The bus made its way across the city and pulled up in front of the West End Cultural Centre just after 6:00. We made our way inside only to find we were the first ones to arrive. With approximately 75 minutes to kill while waiting for the doors to open, we looked around at the photos on the wall before the stairs and all the signatures of previous performers on the walls of the second floor. Not too long after we had done a quick wander about the place the room filled to capacity with concert goers creating a line that made its way out the front doors to somewhere else down the block of Ellice Avenue.

Promptly at 7:15 the doors opened to let the flood of fans in the rest of the building. What each prospective party goer found for themselves to do from that point was their choice. One could mull around until the lights dropped, head off to get some merchandise, go straight for a seat, or find a spot cozy enough to stand for the remainder of the night. My hand was stamped as I walked in and I took a glance about the lobby to drink the room in. A giant, shiny, silver backdrop across from me is on the wall behind a camera for concert-goers to take pictures with.

This particular photobooth found a fair bit of use throughout the course of the night. I glanced over to see the merch table littered with three different items; a black Faouzia t-shirt, a black Faouzia long sleeve, and a bright yellow shirt with “I was at the very first Faouzia show” written across the front.

I walked into the main hall of the venue to meet back up with my sister who I see standing at centre stage. Some 45 minutes filled the space between my walking up and  the venue falling into a darkness broken only by the faint glow of lights on the wall under the venue’s mezzanine. The Pop/EDM duo Ferro x Sadye step on stage to kick the night off with a bang. The group is made up of Winnipeg pianist, songwriter, and producer, Ferropop and Sadye Cage of the Manitoban Deathpop group, Efflo. For those who are unaware, Efflo used to be called SC Mira, but changed their name recently for unspecified reasons to Efflo, which is short for efflorescence.

Ferro x Sadye performed a ten song set of songs they’ve been writing for about a year, as Sadye Cage explained from the stage. This included the duo’s brand new debut single, “Blame It,” which was released on social media on March 21st and can be listened to here. Through the final two songs of the set they were joined on stage by rising Manitoban hip-hop artist, viisi for the songs “Beat Goes On” and “Let’s Get This Rhythm.” Be sure to catch viisi joined by Ferro x Sadye at Winnipeg Jazz Festival in late June.

Ferro x Sadye
Ferro x Sadye. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

It was now nearing 9:00 and an antsy energy began to make it’s way through the crowd in wait of Faouzia. Faouzia’s three band mates -bassist, drummer, and keyboardist- all strolled up on stage and took their places at the back of the stage. As the band stepped into those first notes of “This Mountain,” the one and only Faouzia joined them and stood center stage to bring her raw natural musical talent to the 350 or so people packed into the West End Cultural Centre.

Faouzia came prepared for her first headline ticketed shows ever with an abundance of new material along with six songs that have been previously released, many of which are already big fan favourites. Faouzia has a number of tunes that have been released with both a full band version and a stripped piano version. During this performance on the West End Cultural Centre stage, she ended her main set by debuting her brand new single “Born Without A Heart” which was set to be released two weeks after the show. The piano version of “Born Without A Heart” can be viewed on Youtube here.

Faouzia has come a long way from her previous performances at Canada Day 2017 with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra at The Forks, the Jeux du Canada Games, Festival du Voyageur, February 2018, her Winnipeg Jazz Festival performance at The Cube, June 2018, and her performance at Interstellar Rodeo festival in Edmonton in July 2018. Now, for her European fans, you have the chance to see her in Switzerland at the Montreux Jazz Festival, July 5, 2019 sharing the stage with George Ezra.

Faouzia and myself.

Following Faouzia’s first headline performance at the West End Cultural Centre, the 350 fans in attendance were able to hop in line to partake in a free meet and greet session with Faouzia herself! My sister and myself, along with everyone who chose to meet Faouzia at the climax of the night, got a professional picture taken by a photobooth. Fans got a 4×6 print of the picture in black and white with an autopenned message and autograph printed upon the photo, as seen in the picture to the right.

Faouzia’s future looks extremely bright with one international show already announced for July, with possibly more show announcements to come. While the Manitoba artist is still enrolled in school, it’s safe to say she will only be playing one off shows or jumping on the road for short tours in the foreseeable future. Her fans, myself included, are looking forward to a possible album in the cards. With the release of single after single as of late and the preparation of new material for these two consecutive shows, it feels more and more possible as the days go by.

Faouzia. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.
Faouzia Setlist West End Cultural Centre, Winnipeg, MB, Canada 2019

Cryptoriana World Tour

By Samuel Stevens and Matt Harrison

Cryptoriana World Tour: Cradle of Filth with guests, Wednesday 13 and Raven Black

March 18, 2019

Burton Cummings Theatre

My night began when I walked into the lobby of the Burton Cummings Theatre to see the metal bands Raven Black, Wednesday 13, and Cradle of Filth, each for the very first time. The familiar sight of ushers scanning tickets and the swarm of fans blocking the entrance way to grab their fresh merchandise sent me whirling into a euphoria of excitement I haven’t felt at a show in quite some time.

I walked into the theatre and read my ticket; “General Admission – FLOOR.” I took myself into the main hall and took a quick peek about my surroundings and found a seat in section C in the row nearest the back. The sixty minutes between the opening of the doors and the first band hitting the stage breezed by unnoticed as I watched the room fill to capacity, each person primed for a night of fantastic metal music.

As the lights dimmed promptly at 8 pm, a few cheers began to fill the Burton Cummings Theatre as the four members of Raven Black walked onto the stage in front of a large swath of people that descended to stand in front of the stage. The band is made up of singer Raven, The Doctor on guitar, Muppet on the drums, and Stitches on bass. Raven Black brought their theatrical stage show all the way from Los Angeles to Winnipeg, Canada to allow people to see the spectacle of their performance. Throughout the bands set, Raven brought various objects on stage including an umbrella, a mace, chains, and a teddy bear during their songs, “Spider,” “13,” and “Sticks N Stones.”.

Raven Black - The Raven
Raven Black. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

At around 9 pm the lights faded to black once again, this time for the heavy metal artist Wednesday 13. Vocalist Wednesday 13 walked on stage, accompanied by his band mates, while donning a mask and a cloak that was saturated in deep blue and purple lights from above the stage.

Wednesday 13 performed a nine song set, which saw them play many songs off his last three albums in the likes of “Come Out and Plague,” “Get Your Grave On,” and “What the Night Brings.” Following the performance of their brand new song, “Zodiac,” 13 said on stage that he’ll have a new record out later this year on Nuclear Blast. So be sure to keep an eye out on all of Wednesday 13’s Socials for more information on it’s release.

Wednesday 13
Wednesday 13 & Band. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

Soon enough it was 9:55 pm and I was sitting in one of the loges within the venue, level to the first balcony and also above stage left in the theatre. I watch the crowd around the venue on the floor and first balcony, all waiting both eagerly and patiently, as was I. All of us were eager for the extreme metal band Cradle of Filth to finally take the Winnipeg stage.

Though the band has never wanted to be stuck within genre barriers, they can mostly be described as an extreme metal band. Extreme metal is an umbrella term for several different genres of metal, some of which Cradle of Filth dabbles around in.

Going 28 years as a band, this was the very first time Cradle of Filth have ever played in the city despite touring Canada countless times in the past. As 10 pm hit, the venue’s house lights dimmed and unseen lights from above doused the stage in a thick cloak of red as the intro track “Ave Satani” began the performance. The band’s members made their ways onto the stage one by one taking their places. Last was vocalist, Dani Filth who stationed himself between drummer, Marthus, and keyboardist/vocalist, Lindsay Schoolcraft at the back of the stage until the start of their opening number, “Gilded Cunt.” A few stand outs performed during the night were, “Bathory Aria,” performed in it’s eleven minute entirety, “Dusk and Her Embrace,” “Nymphetamine (Fix),” “Honey and Sulphur,” and the show closing number, “Her Ghost in the Fog.”

Although the band’s set was a short thirteen songs, the length of the songs made up for it as most averaged fairly over five minutes. I glanced at my phone as soon as the show is done, which says ’11:39 pm.’ While I was making my way out of the venue I thought to myself how satisfied I was with that being my first ever Cradle of Filth show. I can’t speak for anyone else inside the venue, but I can only assume the universality of the sentiment. At the top of my head there’s plenty of songs I would have loved see the band perform, there’s always hope for such in the band’s future tours. Now that the band have seen what this city has to offer, all their fans can hope the band makes it back on future treks across North America.

Cradle of Filth - Dani Filth
Cradle of Filth. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

Warpaint Tour

By Samuel Stevens & Matt Harrison

Warpaint Tour featuring Buckcherry and special guests, Joyous Wolf and Wreckin’ So

March 13, 2018

Burton Cummings Theatre

To commence the evening’s line up solely made up of Rock ‘N’ Roll was Manitoba’s own, Wreckin’ So. Comprising of members, Brent, Ronnie, Clint, and Claude, the four of these guys have made a name for themselves rather quick with their irresistible blend of hard rock and blues. In recent years the band has opened for a ton of talent including Blue Oyster Cult last August and now Buckcherry, for the second time. Be sure to watch out for more from these four fellows as they’re sure to take the world by storm.

Wreckin' So
Wreckin’ So. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

Following Wreckin’ So was the Los Angeles based rock band, Joyous Wolf. The band brought an incredibly high energy that was felt throughout the band’s nine song set on the Burton Cummings Theatre stage. Vocalist Nick Reese was performing front and back flips, contorting on stage, and even running up and down the Burton Cummings Theatre’s aisles during the band’s last song of their performance while guitarist Blake Allard’s infectious guitar solos never let up on the audible energy.

Joyous Wolf brought high octane Rock ‘N’ Roll with them in songs like, “Undesired” or “Holy Driver,” to name a few. As well as ballads such as their song, “The Mechanic.” Near the end of Joyous Wolf’s set, vocalist Nick Reese sang the hook, “American woman, get away from me / American woman, mama let me be” to the Winnipeg audience with a massive loud cheer to follow. These lyrics are from The Guess Who’s 1970 smash hit, “American Woman” which was fronted by Manitoba’s Burton Cummings. This lead to Joyous Wolf dedicating their track, “Mother Rebel,” to Burton Cummings himself. Joyous Wolf took their new Winnipeg fans for a wild ride during their debut performance, which even saw the band receive a standing ovation at the climax of their final number of the evening, “Quiet Heart.”

Joyous Wolf - Nick Reese

Joyous Wolf. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.

After Joyous Wolf’s fantastic high energy set, it was time for who everyone came to see, Buckcherry. Buckcherry have been to Winnipeg numerous times during their 20+ year career at various venues and musical festivals throughout the city, so the band has built quite the loyal fan base within Winnipeg and its neighbouring cities and towns. Buckcherry is currently on their Warpaint Tour throughout North America right now in support of the album of the same name that was released earlier this month on March 8th.

Buckcherry brought their classic no tricks style with them to the Burton Cummings Theatre to perform a fourteen song set for their Winnipeg fans. Starting off with their cover of the Nine Inch Nails song, “Head Like a Hole,” which is featured on their brand new album, Warpaint, it set the tone for the rest of Buckcherry’s performance. The band did bring along some ballads to slow it down during their time on stage, with the tracks, “Radio Song” and “Sorry.” Vocalist, Josh Todd told a few stories throughout the night including one told after performing their song, “Lit Up,” in which Todd told the crowd that his first ever line of cocaine was done off of a Ouija Board, even saying, “It was some straight up devil shit.” Buckcherry played many of the fans favorites in the likes of “It’s a Party,” “Everything,” “Somebody Fucked With Me,” and of course the band’s 2006 smash hit, “Crazy Bitch” to end the night off with a bang.

Buckcherry - Josh Todd
Buckcherry. Photos by Samuel Stevens Photography.