The Syracuse area has a new home for live rock ‘n’ roll and it couldn’t be more beautiful. A short drive north of the city brings you to Pennelville (only 5 minutes from Great Northern Mall). Behind the community’s fire station is a brand new stage that is strong enough to handle two important things that a lot of other local outdoor venues can’t handle: the weather and bands with a lot of gear. The stage also has two back entrances that make it easy for events requiring fast transitions to keep the show moving and the crowds entertained.
The venue is going by the name Oswego County Event Center and it has already hosted its first two shows this year. was lucky enough to make it to both incredible shows. The venue’s first event was headlined by 90’s alternative giant Candlebox, along with national touring acts Open Air Stereo and Syn City Cowboys as well as several local acts. The second show brought 80’s rockers Skid Row along with the guys from Syn City Cowboys coming back for an encore performance.
On Sunday, August 18th after a long drive from Saratoga County to Oswego County photo editor and staff writer Jim Gilbert was welcomed at the brand new venue. The gates opened up early and the show kicked off around noon. Local bands rocked their asses off throughout the day and Labatts was flowing at the incredible event price of five bottles for $20. How is that for event pricing? The food wasn’t expensive either and very tasty.
Far From Over was the first band of the day and they are an impressive display of young talent, strong vocals and overall good sound. These kids were on the stage earlier in the summer for 95X-Fest and will be promoted in the line-up from opener into a more prominent spot over the next year. Lead singer, Zac Birdslow, got his foot in the door by being a roadie for other local bands, and started singing himself at 16. Based out of Hannibal, Far From Over has been together for two years and are looking to release an EP in November of this year. Their influences range from Papa Roach and A Day to Remember to Taking Back Sunday.
Next up on the main stage for the Candlebox show was Kilter, another Syracuse band with a great hard rock sound. Kilter put on a solid performance as concert goers continued to stream through the gates. If you are looking for a melodic rock band that still has the balls to kick your ass, you really should check these guys out.
If a band could change in a short few months Catastrophe Me succeeded. The lead guitar shredded and vocals were a lot more solid than a couple months ago. As the set progressed the band really seemed to come together with the highlights coming from their self-titled song “Catastrophe Me” and a decent exchange of clean and unclean vocals. The final song, “Winter”, combined quality harmonies, great lyrics and left the crowd with a positive memory of Catastrophe Me.
What do you get when you know how to blend guitars, bass and drums in the right way? Storm Cell. Good sound from obviously quality musicians. Avenged Sevenfold just released a new album highlighting sounds from classic heavy metal and hard rock days; Storm Cell brings that old sound back in a refreshing way. Smooth transitions from vocals to lead guitar and back to vocals. At times the band seemed a little green, but nothing that time in the practice studio and more performances won’t correct.
The next local band name, Agrestic, brought up memories of Mary-Louise Parker and her hit series Weeds. By definition, agrestic means rural or unpolished. Agrestic, the band, took the stage with a lot of good energy and they sounded much more refined than their name suggests. As the line-up of the afternoon show moved on the professionalism of the musicians seemed to grow. That’s a testament to the hard work that the promoter and organizers do to make sure things move along and the audience stays engaged. Agrestic’s band members were crisper, cleaner sounding and it was evident that there were years of playing on the stage.
When Enemy Down took the stage, there was a bit of a swagger, a little bit of cockiness in the band. When they started playing I began to understand why. They pumped out a tight sound, reminiscent of 90’s alternative with strong vocals and powerful lyrics. The 315 rock scene is alive and well and the fans in the Syracuse area couldn’t be luckier to have such a wide variety of talent readily available. The cockiness I sensed went along with that alternative, not quite punk, feel that the band personified. They were doing their thing and if you liked it, that’s okay and if you didn’t, that’s okay too. Highlights were an incredible bass and duo vocals that played really well off each other. If you want to see musicians that have taken time to fine-tune their craft as well as their style, without seeming like they tried too hard, Enemy Down is a local must-see.
It was slightly confusing why The Hellfish was on this bill, but they were and the crowd seemed to really love them. They brought a large following of thirty-and-forty-somethings and maybe even a few fifty-somethings. This is your classic feel good bar band. The songs were about beer, last calls and partying. There was even an Irish ditty. In a different setting this band might have worked out great, but my eyes were burning a hole into my watch waiting for the time that some more kick ass, throw out, balls out rock and roll hit the stage.
Luckily it wasn’t too long before Bound for the Floor took the stage and even more people crowded, huddled together in the shade at the front of the stage as the sun began to set in the backdrop. Deep raspy vocals and an old grunge sound with a little harder twist, Bound for the Floor started out as a 90’s cover band and turned their efforts into producing some original rock. The bass carried the songs through their paces and even though the band was only a few months old, the promise of a bright future was definitely there. Good vibes emanated from the stage and the crowd soaked them up. Oswego County was digging the new venue and the nationals hadn’t even hit the stage yet.
Check the site tomorrow for Part 2 of this incredible show. More photos and more updates on Syn City Cowboys from Kansas City, Open Air Stereo from Southern California, local Crows Cages and of course, Candlebox.