Having your expectations met is a great feeling. Especially when those expectations were rather lofty, maybe even somewhat fantastical.
When Damn Fools agreed to perform here with only two weeks notice we all had to pinch ourselves. The band that had been originally booked for the date was not able to make it, and canceling the show was not an option. This night was intended to be a celebration concert for venue owner Shirley de Vooght officially being in remission after completing five months of chemotherapy following her leukemia diagnosis this past December. She never dreamed one of her favourite bands who are on the lineup for the Harvest Music Festival in September would come all this way for one show. But they did, and they did with an enormous amount of respect, heart and humility. It was no small feat to arrange their various schedules in such a short amount of time, but they pulled it off and gave Shirley the night she deserved.
Damn Fools is a rock band based out of Vancouver, and I don’t use the term ‘rock band’ loosely. Imagine a 60’s-70’s era garage band right before they become platinum record selling headliners. With talent burgeoning from every angle, and dreamy looks that make audiences swoon, this 6 piece band is aimed at making their mark in Canadian rock and roll; an impressive feat in the present state of the popular music scene. Not that I would ever be an extremist and remotely hint at rock and roll being dead, but at times it can be harder to find in the sense of experiencing it. After the show a few of us were talking about the loss of real connection in society in general and how this particular venue’s philosophy is to have people connect in person through experiencing live music. Watching Damn Fools lay it out on the stage like they did was like a punch in the gut to say, “Do you feel that?” I did feel it, along with the company of others, and then we were all given the space to talk about music and anything else that came to mind under a sky full of stars around a glowing fire to our hearts content. What a concept.
One of my barometers of a great rock band are guitar riffs that get under your skin, you know when your body almost tenses up because you dig it so much? In my opinion riffs can do more for how a song connects than lyrics; they can be everything from sad to sexy. Lead guitarists Andrew Twining and Alex Gordon-Firing were mesmerizing in how their individual solos and understated chord progressions balanced out over the course of the night. They have this intense focus and energy that is completely in sync although they are on opposite ends of the stage and rarely look at each other. It was impressive.
Lead singer Mike Twining has both the voice and look to take this band as far as it dares. By the second set when the band had really found its groove, Mike let loose and brought the house down by the end of the night. When a singer can really give ‘er and hit those notes while looking like he’s on the cover of Rolling Stone, it’s fairly clear they are headed in the right direction.
The baselines performed by Chris Ball were some of the most memorable to date at the venue. Sometimes bass players get lost in the shuffle. They are there to support and define the harmonic motion of the song, not to get noticed. But when a bass player is as good as Chris, they are hard to ignore. He also has really cool coloured eyes – kind of a smokey grey/green/gold in case you were wondering.
Drummer Jovan Vujatovic nailed it. He’s a rock star plain and simple. He also has this natural way of making people feel at ease which is appreciated and memorable.
Mike Turner on keys was unfortunately unable to join the band for this show, which makes the anticipation for their return here in September that much greater.
I spent the majority of time chatting with Andrew and Mike Twining after the show, the songwriters and brothers who are very much at the core of how this band came to be in 2012 and what has kept them together.
As it turns out five out of the six band members have known each other since childhood, with some of them playing together previously on a different music project before it dissolved and Mike and Andrew began to write music that was inspired by the sounds their father raised them on. Their parents even made the trip for this show from their home near Penticton. It is always special when artists bring family or friends along with them to the venue. It provides another level of connection and creates a context for who they are and where they come from.
Mike and Andrew’s mother is from Peru, which they have visited often throughout their lives, including spending a year there as a family when they were younger to immerse themselves in the culture and develop deeper relationships with their extended family. Although not raised by classically trained musicians, their parents always had music playing in the house and their father had an epic vinyl collection that set the foundation for their love and appreciation for classic live off the floor recordings. Their mother described them as being very athletic from a young age, which influenced her decision to not introduce formalized music lessons as an option until she felt they could be responsible for practicing and were ready to give up some time playing sports. They were instant naturals and music has been what ultimately bonded them as brothers.
From my brief time shared with them, I went away musing how their different personalities are beautifully reflected in their roles within the band. Mike, the expressive and dynamic older brother who wants to take the time to get it right and Andrew, the easy going younger brother who has a deep passion for music in general with a gentle, accessible quality that is nothing short of endearing.
One of my favourite things about seeing a band perform live for the first time when I am already somewhat familiar with their music is how their songs come alive on the album when I listen to it again after the show. Known as a band to see live, their album is as close to an auditory replica of their live show as you are going to get.
Choice tracks from their debut album “Off The Floor:” I’ve Been Waiting – a fun party song that will get people pouring drinks, dancing and having a great time; On Your Own – a feel good track to sing along to and get you through whatever your day has in store; Commotion – continues to build and build and makes you want to lose all inhibition about 2/3 of the way through; Miss Saigon – has a little of everything from killer lyrics to just the right amount of kick – it’s just cool; Storm – this is the song you put on while cooking dinner which eventually leads to you dancing with that special someone and you both end up forgetting all about the food…remember how I said guitar riffs can be sexy? Yep.
The band is currently focusing on writing and we had the chance to hear some of their new songs performed live. Two standouts were “Struggling” and “All My Love” – hopefully they will end up on the new album when recording time comes around.
A huge thank you to Damn Fools for making the effort to be here and for completely rocking it out for our appreciative crowd. A truly memorable night.
If you want to see this band up close and personal (which you do, believe me you do), join us for the Harvest Music Festival September 11-13, 2015 here at Serenity. Damn Fools are on the lineup and they will be camping out on the acreage. You don’t want to miss it! http://www.serenitymusic.ca/harvest-music-festival
Damn Fools performed at Serenity Performing Arts Centre on June 13, 2015.
Visit http://www.damnfoolsmusic.com for links to music, tour updates, social media feeds and more.
Photos courtesy of Steve Mechem @ Serenity Performing Arts Centre, June 13, 2015.