Cancer Bats, Drive By, A Sense of Belonging
Philadelphia, Penn. • March 18, 2007
Despite a cold chill that lingered in the air, a handful of fans waited in line. Though it was two hours before the show, some fans decided to show up early, and they were rewarded. Warner Records hosted a pre-party that screamed meet and greet. About 25 people, myself included, were ushered up to the Trocadero balcony, a place unexplored for most of the under-21 crowd. Fans clutched the posters they were given, chattering with others. At some point the four members of Canadian punk rock group Billy Talent walked in quietly. As soon as they entered, fans flocked to their side, eagerly willing to talk up the individual band members and ask for their signatures. One boy even ventured to the Jon, the group’s bassist, asking him to call his friend as proof that he was actually in the presence of Billy Talent–and Jon did it. That act, along with the whole idea of meeting fans before the show, is one of the reasons Billy Talent has some dedicated fans. After taking some pictures with fans (and posing for a somewhat “candid” photo for me), the guys said good-bye and went to go get ready.
Fans were ushered downstairs and were allowed to either wait right inside the lobby or head to will call. At approximately 7 p.m., the doors opened; the line outside stretched down the block. All you could see was a line of kids clothed in black attire, eagerly anticipating the night’s line-up.
Local Philly band A Sense of Belonging was added to the line-up recently. When I asked one of the members later on how they got to join the line-up, he explained that they had played a few shows up at the balcony and the owner had called them (so for all the musicians–playing the smaller venues can help!). The six members of the band seemed cramped on stage, hindering much movement without knocking over any equipment. Yet the crowd was willing to help out with movement. As A Sense of Belonging played their six-song set, crowd members started a small mosh pit in the middle of the flood, with about two or three participants decked in Billy Talent gear. The lead singer reminded me of Jacob from Hedley with somewhat jerky, spastic movements as he wandered about the stage. It was refreshing to see the band up on stage and not look so serious; both fans and the band were having a good time.
The next band was Drive By, who hails from New Jersey. The quartet was dressed in black; their music was catchy, but it didn’t seem to hold the same kind of appeal with the audience as A Sense of Belonging had. At some point, a few fans started to sing along. The set wasn’t horrible … it just fell a little short of spectacular. But that wasn’t ruining anyone’s time.
Canadian group Cancer Bats took the stage. The best way to describe their set is chaotic, but in a amazing way. The band and the crowd were both incredibly enthusiastic. A huge mosh pit opened up, much to the lead singer’s urging. This band is one I stress you check out; I have a feeling they’ll be back in Philly for another staggering performance.
Then came the main event of the night. As I stood in the photo pit, with a security guard on either side of me, I could feel the tension and anticipation. The lights blacked out, and screams were somewhat deafening. I felt like I was back in the boy-band era. Let’s get one thing straight: Billy Talent isn’t a boy band. In fact, they’re at the complete opposite end of the spectrum. Despite the girls’ cries, as each member made their way on stage, the band did what they came to do–play some fucking great music and have a hell of a time doing so.
After a few songs, vocalist Ben started to chat with the crowd … about hockey. “Yes, we’re from Canada and we can’t help it if our team is better than the Philadelphia Flyers.”
Whoa, wrong move. Lesson one: don’t upset the Philly sports fan.
At that point, there was a lot of booing, which was hushed by the amazing set that has earned Billy Talent not one but five Juno nominations (Jon had explained to me earlier that they’re like the Canadian Grammys). By the fourth song, Ben decided he was playing the rest of the set shirtless, which caused a lot of the female audience to automatically start taking photos with their cameras and cell phones.
As the band played on for an hour, I noticed that though the show hadn’t sold out completely to my knowledge, there was a decent size crowd for a cold Sunday night. As the kids on the floor moshed and danced, jumped and sang, the people up in the balcony were on their feet doing the same … well, okay, there wasn’t moshing, and things were a bit more mellow than the chaos that was ensuing on the floor. At one point, Ben decided to reassure the American audience that the Canadian band loved Americans … the next thing he said was bit inaudible, but it contained the word “about” which stirred up some audience noise!
As each song progressed, drawing more cries than the last, the security guards were busy pulling out crowd surfer after crowd surfer. At this point, I began to wonder how the hell it was that I had not embraced this following, if you will. The name Billy Talent and their music have been thrown at me many times by many friends, but somehow I managed to stay in the dark. Yet, I found myself wanting to jump and sing along. The guys are not only four of the most down-to-earth musicians, but they’re bursting at the seams with talent. I will go on record and say this was the most entertaining show I have been to of 2007 thus far… I can’t recall the last time I found myself liking the whole line-up as it was.
I can’t explain the phenomenon, yet after enveloping myself in it and experiencing it, all I can say is I want in. Where do I sign up?