I wrote that back in late September, talking about an incredible show at the Syracuse area’s newest big outdoor venue, the Oswego County Event Center. A few months late but hopefully a way to remind everyone as they look out the window into fields of snow that summer is coming and live shows will be seen — often, and right here in Upstate New York. Candlebox
When the Syn City Cowboys took the stage, the crowd was mixed on who are these kids from Kansas City, and the women drooling over the fit bodies and refreshing look the band presents. Once they started, the focus was on good ol’ rock and roll. SCC has been around for a little over three years and continue their relentless tour schedule to bring their music to the fans. Frontman Ethan Cole says his favorite lead signer is Metallica’s James Hatfield, but while Cole may rock out like Mr. Hatfield, you will find his vocals to be a little more youthful, clean and more reminiscent of strong 80’s frontmen like Sammy Hagar or David Coverdale. If these young men stay together, keep writing pure rock tunes and stay on the road perfecting and promoting their craft – they will become a household name. In rock ‘n roll households at least.
The long summer day was just beginning to become a long summer night as Open Air Stereo walked out onto the brand new enclosed stage in Pennellville, New York. Forty years ago you’d hear a band for the first time on the local radio station. Twenty years ago it was either MTV or VH-1, and you heard them and saw them at the same time. More recently, with bands like Open Air Stereo, a band’s first exposure is often on reality television, they don’t hear the music until later (to be fair, OAS did get some decent play time on “Laguna Beach” but who was really listening?). Nine times out of ten when you finally hear the music it is a huge disappointment. OAS is that 1 out of 10 that you say to yourself, “oh damn, these guys are good!” One of the reasons they are so good was due to a Craigslist ad. Yes, you can find more on Craigslist than old tires and an escort for a lonely Friday night. Open Air Stereo found guitarist, Scott Pounds on Craigslist. This would be another time that you could safely say, “oh damn, these guys are good.”
Behind the Pennellville Fire Station just 10 minutes north of Syracuse on this summer evening was no exception. A smooth rock groove and strong beat supporting tunes like “Stuck on You” got the crowd bouncing up and down, or what some call “dancing”. The set went up and down with intensity and it was obviously that the band has been fine tuning its stage presence. Backstage, they were working on their own equipment, even fixing a snare that broke after the last gig and a night full of traveling didn’t give a lot of time to fix it. Life on the road is tough and hopefully OAS has what it takes to stick it out. There is a large market of 16-25 year old girls and the guys that follow them around that needs this music. In the process the band will continue to mature and bring in a large fan base and move past the “Laguna Beach” name and into their own. Something hard work and many miles over desolate highways can deliver.
Rumors were flying that Syracuse natives, Crows Cage, were going to start their set with a little surprise. I was eagerly awaiting by the stage to see what these hard rockers had in store for the audience. Already local favorites with more fan adorned t-shirts in the crowd than any other band, including headliner, Candlebox – they didn’t need to do something gimmicky to get the crowds attention. So, what could it be?
Aaron Bellow busts out an incredible guitar solo to start the show. The guitar whined and whimpered with delight of the fans and to the delight of my ears, too. Aaron’s big surprise was using a bow to light up the solo… it was like a slide guitarist found his way into a haunted house and had to play for all the ghouls and boys. It was actually pretty awesome. While it could have easily been cheesy, it wasn’t overly hyped nor did it last too long. It was short, to the point and therefore a powerful statement that Crows Cage was ready to make shit happen and as the sun slowly went down behind them, the energy of the festival type crowd was about to hit the next level.
Fresh off the release of their CD Forgotten Sins the band busted out tunes from the new album that turned up the tempo. “Grindstone” or “Derivation” really highlights the intense pace set by Crows Cage rhythm section: Clint Greer on drums and Tommy Rose on bass. A slick guitar lead-in allowed Eddie ‘EJ’ Carrara’s vocals to have the strong impact that was intended. After seeing Crows Cage open for national acts Devour the Day and Saliva earlier in the summer, there was something special about the line-up. Seeing them a month or two later on stage in the OCEC showed more development and a tight adhesive bond within the band. The chemistry allowed the music to flow over the crowd and melt some faces and blow some minds. With any direct support band they have one important job, above all others: get the crowd ready for the headliner. Two words, “Mission Accomplished.”
Earlier in the week leading up to the show I was able to talk to Candlebox’s Kevin Martin about the bands “comeback”, the purity of rock, how things have progressed since their peak in the 1990s, new material focused on a new message, and a new sound. Candlebox can still delight the audience with classic favorites like “Far Behind” and “You”. But even those classics now have a refreshing twist live, either through an acoustic set up or even a slight ska/dub influence. The show at the Oswego County Event Center was no exception. The crowd was pumped up and the band maintained that energy mixing in the old and the new. Guitar licks from the legendary Peter Klett dropped more than one jaw as original Candlebox drummer, Scott Mercado, set the pace.
From the V.I.P. poster signing to the dominant stage presence and command of the crowd, Candlebox did not lose their touch with their fans. An openly supportive marijuana rights agenda influenced a few fans to light up and partake after the sun went down behind the stage. That scene alone, sunset while the band lights grew in intensity gave me chills. The photos could never do it justice. My recommendation is to plan at least one or two shows there in 2014 so music fans can truly appreciate the new venue.