Aug 1, 2018
Disclaimer: This is not a concert review and this post contains swearing
One of the things on my 25 before 25 bucket list was to go see a concert. The last concert I went to when I made my bucket list was the Japanese band Lix at an anime convention back in 2012 (but that slipped my mind when I wrote it and I said the last concert I went to was a My Chemical Romance concert). Technically I already fulfilled this earlier in the year when I saw a video game cover band at the same anime convention but for some reason I don’t really count that as a real concert.
However, this month I saw a bunch of concerts thanks to the Calgary Stampede’s Coca-Cola Stage. Every year my city hosts a stage where musicians perform at for 10 days. Usually I skip out on it because I don’t like any of the musicians that attend. However, this year they came out with the news that the bands Alexisonfire and Billy Talent were coming and I knew that I just had to go.
I watched a lot of Much Music on TV as a kid, which is essentially Canada’s equivalent of MTV. What I really liked about Much Music was that they featured a lot of Canadian artists and a lot of bands. I’ve always been a rocker at heart and I was so glad that they were diverse and played bands alongside the more mainstream pop musicians. Now that I think about it, the mid/late 2000’s seemed like a better time for bands but that’s beside the point.
Every week there would be a countdown of that week’s hits. Back in 2006, I distinctly remember watching Alexisonfire climbing the charts all the way up to number one with their song This Could be Anywhere in the World. I tried to listen to their previous works but back then I had very little tolerance to screaming in songs and their newer songs were more melodic. Most of the songs that I liked by Alexisonfire was from their Crisis album.
It wasn’t until 2015 that I delved into their discography again. They somehow got on my recommended on YouTube and I was hit by nostalgia. My taste in music had definitely changed since 2006 and I found a new appreciation for both the screaming vocals and the clean vocals.
I’ve been keeping track of all the music I’ve been listening to since the end of 2010 and you can really see that sudden 2015 spike. I was riding the Alexisonfire phase until about 2017. I think I would attribute the 2018 spike to the news that Alexisonfire was coming to my city, where I was just hyping myself up for my favourite songs and listening to more of their discography just in case they played any unfamiliar songs.
My friends and I ran up to the area where Alexisonfire was playing about an hour and a half before the concert started. I saw that they put up barriers pretty early. Initially I didn’t know what the barriers were for but later I learned it was for keeping the mosh pit contained. So my friends and I were right up against the barrier before the crowd turned into the mosh pit section. We were fairly close to the stage but not quite enough for my short self to see past the sea of tall people.
That didn’t matter too much to me. What I really came to hear was the music. I also really wanted to see George Petit (the screaming vocalist) in the flesh at least once.
They ended up playing a lot of my favourite songs (except for maybe two or three). They started off with Young Cardinals which kicked things off really well. It was great whenever they handed off the singing to the crowd. It gave me goosebumps listening to everyone around me and barely myself singing along. It just got me hyped. Next, they did Boiled Frogs. This is one of my favourite singles from 2006.
One of George’s strong points is hyping up the crowd. When they played We Are the Sound I screamed my heart out whenever George prompted the crowd to, “repeat after me!” Another example is Dog’s Blood, which isn’t one of my favourite songs ever. I was reading people’s comments about the concert after and one poster said at one point in the song, they learned over to their girlfriend and said to her, “After this, George will say ‘Now fuck this place up!‘” He says that in every performance of Dog’s Blood but I don’t care, it’s fucking hype anyway!
There were a couple of songs that they played that I wasn’t too familiar with (Crisis, Accept Crime, Drunks, Lovers, Sinners and Saints) but those were still really great songs to just headbang and groove to.
Of course, they played This Could Be Anywhere in the World as their “last” song. It was absolutely amazing. That’s hands down their most well-known song. The girl to my left was really quiet the entire concert but once this song started, she was just all into it. That’s one of my favourite things about concerts: when everyone is just freaking out over really good songs by a really good band that they all love.
The encore was what got me the most though. Most notably, they played Pulmonary Archery and Accidents. When I heard the opening riff of Accidents, I yelled “yes!” and threw my hand in the air. I don’t know the lyrics to Accidents really well but I screamed my heart out to what I thought Dallas Green was singing. Right now I’m listening to the song and just reliving it. I screamed “Let’s redefine” so hard my throat started to hurt. That was the absolute highlight of the concert for me.
Even weeks later, I’m still a little bit in a daze of seeing Alexisonfire live. I got to see George Petit’s head pop a couple of times and saw him tear off his shirt. I saw Chris Steele briefly go across the stage deliriously. I witnessed a dude in a wheelchair crowd surfing. Wade McNeil yelled at some crowd surfer blocking the view of the stage and cemented the fact that he is probably the coolest and kindest dude in the band. It was just a whole lot of fun. I am still so extremely happy that I got to see them live.
Billy Talent is a bit of a different story. At first I was a little bit hesitant to see Billy Talent because I’m not a big Billy Talent fan. I also got into Billy Talent in 2006 so they still had a bit of a nostalgia factor to me. 2006 was when *Devil in a Midnight Mass came out and I really liked that song. They came out with a lot of singles off their 2006 album Billy Talent II that I really liked. I also liked the singles off their previous self-titled Billy Talent album. However after that, Billy Talent fell off my radar and I just listened to those singles over and over again.
2006 was right around that middle school age and that was when I was probably at my edgiest. Billy Talent had a lot of relatable songs that are comparable to Linkin Park’s songs in their hay day. That was a big reason why I was drawn to Billy Talent. I could emotionally connect to a lot of their songs.
You can see that in 2016 I only listened to two songs by Billy Talent. In 2016, Billy Talent came out with the song Afraid of Heights and I decided to give it a listen. Evidently I didn’t like it that much back then because I only listened to it once and to one other song from the album.
When I learned that Billy Talent was coming to Calgary, I decided to try to listen to more of their songs. I eventually grew to like Afraid of Heights and I rediscovered a lot of Billy Talent songs I used to love when I was younger.
Compared to Alexisonfire
For the first four years, I listened to just slightly more Billy Talent compared to Alexisonfire. I think this is because there were more songs I liked by Billy Talent. When it came to Alexisonfire, I only liked a couple of songs, maybe four at the most, but I played them a lot. Of course, 2015 changed how I listened to Alexisonfire.
2014 or 2015 was around when I started to use Spotify so I was listening less and less to my personal music library. I essentially rebuilt my music library from scratch through the Spotify catalogue. Billy Talent did not make the cut but Alexisonfire did.
Obviously, in 2018 pre and post-concert I’ve been listening to a lot of Billy Talent. Who knows, maybe I’ll be listening to Billy Talent more than Alexisonfire in the future.
I wasn’t expecting much from the concert because I never saw myself as a big fan of Billy Talent. But I was amazed at how many songs I recognized at the concert. They played some of my favourite classics like Devil in a Midnight Mass, The Ex, Try Honesty, and River Below. They also played some recent songs that I didn’t really know but liked enough to headbang to.
This is How it Goes is one of those songs that wasn’t familiar with but when they played it, I just lost myself to the music. Later I found out this song was written after the drummer, Aaron Solowoniuk, was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. The song had a good amount of “fuck it, I don’t give a fuck anymore” that resonated with me.
The encore was the real banger though. I can get why bands save the really good songs for the encore but damn. I am so happy they played Red Flag. I wasn’t expecting it but they did it! I screamed out the chorus every single time. Fallen Leaves is another one of my favourites. I never saw it as a show closer but oh man, now I understand why they ended it with that song. It has a similar sentiment to Alexisonfire’s This Could be Anywhere in the World, of being disgruntled about the place you currently live in and seeing nothing but corruption everywhere.
Ben, the vocalist for Billy Talent, made a really great effort to connect to the crowd. Like Alexisonfire, they commented about coming back to Calgary after so many years which was really nice to hear. Also similar to Alexisonfire, Ben stressed about being inclusive to everyone and had a spiel about loving everyone no matter their background.
Something that was pretty cool was that one of the sound technicians had a birthday that day and Ben passed a cake through the crowd from the front of the stage back to where the sound booth was. My friends and I watched the cake float through the crowd. One time the cake almost fell. I’m glad the band trusted us with that cake.
Overall, it was an awesome concert. I screamed a lot more at that concert than the Alexisonfire concert, partly because Billy Talent songs are a lot more singable for someone who can’t do screamo vocals. I feel a little unfair for comparing this concert to the Alexisonfire concert (one of my friends said he heard someone else talking about how “Alexisonfire had way more people than this”) especially when the two bands have the same touring drummer, Jordan Hastings. But these two bands were both prominent in my early life right around the same time. They really defined the Canadian rock landscape in the early/mid-2000’s. It’s amazing that they can still draw huge crowds and are (in Billy Talent’s case) making new music.
In the end, I enjoyed Billy Talent and Alexisonfire for different reasons. My junior high self would have loved seeing Billy Talent live. My current self is just so glad I got to see Alexisonfire. I am still grateful that I got to see both of them. I will hopefully never stop listening to these two bands. I think I will always be able to listen to my favourite songs and rock out to them.