Raising Hell In Rainbow Country

Rockin’ The Rock
Manitoulin Island
August 17th, 2019
By Keith Sharp

The tee shirt said it all. “Arrive. Raise A Little Hell. Leave.” This was the profound effect Vancouver’s Trooper had on the 3,000 plus audience who packed into The Flatrock Event Centre in Little Current, Manitoulin Island, Saturday, August 17th to attend what was the second annual Rockin’ The Rock – Music Festival.

The two-day event which also featured Glass Tiger, Platinum Blonde, The Box, Lee Aaron and Holly Woods & Toronto as well as three Battle Of The Band contestants (Highway 69, Lion House & Northern Rage) proved again what a travesty it is that Trooper has yet to be elected into Canada’s Music Hall Of Fame as they had the crowd in the palm of their collective hands from the opening chords of “We’re Here For A Good Time” through a set which featured a majority of their standard hits with a sprinkling of lesser-known tracks like “American Dream”, “Cold Water” and “Thin White Line”.

Platinum Blonde Photo by Ted Van Boort
Platinum Blonde’s Mark Holmes  Photo by Ted Van Boort

Trooper musicians Ra McGuire lead vocals, Brian Smith lead guitar, Paul Gogo keyboards, Scott Brown bass and Clayton Hill drums needed just to play the opening chords to tracks like “3 Dressed Up As A Nine”, “Two For The Show”, “Boy With A Beat”, “General Hand Grenade” and of course “Raise A Little Hell” to get their audience totally involved. Brown took lead vocal honours on “Round Round”, Hill and Gogo got to exhibit their instrumental chops with some tasty solos and the band concluded a well-received set with a tribute to the late Kelly Jay with a cover of Crowbar’s “Oh What A Feeling (What A Rush) and a reprise of “We’re Here For A Good Time”.

Trooper’s set concluded two night’s of performances where the featured bands seemed as intent to entertain the crowd with surprise covers as feature their established hits. Platinum Blonde established the trend Friday by opening their set with an energetic cover of “The Beastie Boys” “Fight For Your Right To Party” as well as covering The Beatles’ “Come Together” which segued into 5ive’s version of Queen’s “We Will Rock You” while proving that their hit list of tracks like “I’m Not In Love”, “Contact” “It Doesn’t Really Matter” and “Standing In The Dark” still stand the test of time.

Debuting new drummer Justin (Juice) Kadis, lead vocalist/bass Mark Holmes and lead guitarist Sergio Galli showed they have retained their collective sex appeal with the female patrons while delivering a set that has matured with time.

Alan Frew - Glass Tiger Photo by Ted Van Broot
Alan Frew – Glass Tiger Photo by Ted Van Boort

‘Glass Tiger – Better Than Bingo’ became the band’s new slogan as singer Alan Frew won the crowd over with his story about how the Glass Tiger surprised 95-year old Edmonton fan, Jean Savage at her Pleasant Valley Lodge Retirement Centre, and how she responded when told they had a surprise for her, by muttering “I hope it’s better than bingo” before Frew intro-ed “Someday” as the song he sang for her.

Kicking off with “Don’t Forget Me When I’m Gone”, Frew, guitarist Al Connolly, keyboardist Sam Reid, drummer Chris McNeill, bassist Tom Lewis and vocalist Carmela Long mixed classic hits like “My Town” “Still Searching”. “Diamond Sun”, “Thin Red Line” and “Animal Heart” with a number of solid covers including Jesus Jones’ “Right Here, Right Now”, David Bowie’s “Heroes” and a salute to Frew’s buddy Johnny Reid with “Fire It Up”, a song they co-wrote together.

For anyone who thinks Glass Tiger is retro should check out their performance of two tracks off their new `33’ album; “This Is London” and “This Is Your Life” which are possibly two of the strongest songs this band have ever recorded.

Lee Aaron Photo By Ted Van Boort
Sean Kelly & Lee Aaron Photo By Ted Van Boort

Following an encore set by Battle Of The Band winners; Sudbury’s Highway 69, Lee Aaron took the stage and showed just how sophisticated the former Metal Queen has become. Yes; she still sings “Metal Queen” and “ Whatcha Do To My Body” but delivered in such a polished manner that these songs blend in with more current material like “Some Girls Do”, “American High” and  “Hard Road” . Supported by bassist Dave Reimer, her hubby John Cody on drums and the ubiquitous Sean Kelly on guitar, Aaron also displayed her bluesy vocal chops with a superb cover of Koko Taylor’s “I Am A Woman”.

The Box By Ted Van Boort
The Box Photo By Ted Van Boort

Montreal’s The Box followed with lead singer Jean-Marc Pisapia and his band featuring guitarist Francois Bruneau, bassist Dan Volj, keyboardist Guilleme Jodin, drummer Martin LaPierre and vocalist Isabelle Lemay hit the right notes with their set highlighted by “Ordinary People”, “Closer Together” and their infectious cover of Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance”.

Holly Woods Photo By Ted Van Boort
Holly Woods Photo By Ted Van Boort

Yet Holly Woods And Toronto sprung the night’s biggest surprise with a set that wowed the crowd with a combination of hit standards like “You’re Daddy Don’t Know”, “Lookin For Trouble”, “Get It On Credit” and “Even The Score” which was preceded by a tasty “Bohemian Rhapsody” intro featuring vocalist Michelle Trueman. What was really impressive was that this lineup was only recently cobbled together by veteran drummer Barry Connors and Woods who recruited guitarist Michael Hall and Trueman with bassist Tom Lewis loaned from Glass Tiger.

Woods certainly hasn’t lost her vocal chops and combined with Trueman and a powerful support lineup were full value for an encore which featured covers of Van Halen’s “Runnin With The Devil” and Deep Purple’s “Highway Star”.

Kudos to event organizers Kelly and Craig Timmerman who have done a superb job of attracting crowds of over 3,000 fans to each day’s event which, aside from providing first-class entertainment, has also delivered an incredible financial boost to this small community of just 1,300 residents.

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