“Stynger! Stynger! Stynger!”
The crowd of about 300 Algonquin Commons Theatre rock fans chant as the band members walk on stage. The drummer picks up his drumsticks, the guitarists swing their guitars over their heads and the lead singer comes on last.
Dressed all in black and wearing sunglasses, he encourages the crowd to chant the band’s name louder – “Stynger”, and the crowd indulges as the first notes of their set fill the auditorium. They proceed to put on an energetic, true rock-and-roll show that while all their own, definitely has a Guns n’ Roses vibe to it.
Dennis Amisson, one of the guitarists, channels his inner Slash, with his leather pants, stylized guitar and long curly hair that he swooshes about while moving around the stage and interacting with his fellow band members.
The scene played out at the ACT when Stynger took the stage April 17 as the third band of the Rebel Rock Search Final but they would not be the least as they beat out Elegant Devils and Crossing Jane to win a thick pile of $20 bills that added up to $5,000. When asked ahead of the show what their plans were for the money if they won, the band members had all chimed in; “Recording an album.”
It was a tough choice between the three bands as they all brought a different edge and feel to the stage but Stynger’s stage presence and their legions of hardcore fans that follow them wherever they play helped fill their ballot box and put them in first place.
Stynger is the youngest of the bands, having only formed a little less than a year ago, with only five original songs in their repertoire and nothing as of yet professionally recorded but they have an electrifying stage presence that draws you in and makes you notice them. They are fun and they love putting on a show for their fans, who in turn reward the band with their support and love.
“Everybody is on literal cloud nine right now!” said Erik Ramsey, lead singer for Stynger, when asked a day or two after the show how the band was feeling about their win.
Rebel Rock Search began back in March with up to three bands playing each Saturday night for nine weeks at Moose McGuire’s, a restaurant located in Ottawa’s south end and the ones who put up the $5,000 prize-money. The fans voted for their favourites by dropping wristbands in designated boxes and then top three overall moved forward to the finals on April 17 at the ACT.
“There was some real surprises I even had on the nights I was down,” said Kornicky, the morning show host for Rebel 101.7. “It’s tough. I think we could’ve had, out of the 24 bands, I think we could’ve probably had a good six or seven bands, that really could’ve been up there, ready for whatever the next step is in Canadian music.”
Crossing Jane, who placed second, has been around since 2014 and have played with some big names in the music industry such as Jeff Martin of the Tea Party, and Adam Gontier, the former lead singer for Three Days Grace. Last summer they opened for One Bad Son at the Mountain Man Music Festival in Calabogie. The band has released two albums, The Void in 2015 and Something in the Water in 2016, and have a third release planned for later this summer. Joel Lefebvre, on bass and vocals, as well as Andrew Parmelee who plays the drums, graduated from the Music Industry Arts program at Algonquin in 2014, and have their own recording studio. The band’s music is a mix of energies ranging from rock to acoustic to indie to grunge and their mostly original playlists are dynamic and soulful.
Elegant Devils have also been around since 2014 and they have two recorded EPs, Guilty and Live at Zaphod’s. Their plans for the $5,000, if they had won, was to record their first album as all the music is written, it’s just the money they need to fund the recording and mastering. Sitting in on their jam session the week before the event, they were excited and ready for their big stage experience at ACT with the Rebel Rock Search.
Josh “Classic” Barkley, bass and vocals for Elegant Devils, was talking about their music being played on Rebel and how one night when he was driving home and listening to the radio he heard a song that sounded very familiar when he suddenly realized it was their song. He texted his band mates a big “Woohoo” because the “local radio station I listen to played my music.”
And that’s what Rebel 101.7 and the Rebel Rock Search was all about at it’s core: giving local musicians a platform to play their music and be heard.
“I grew up in Toronto and Montreal, and local bands were always pushed. The nature of where radio has gone, it’s moved away from that, it’s only been hits and the biggest stuff,” said Kornicky. “I think we just complement (the music scene) and we’re actually giving a voice to a scene that I think has been here the whole time it’s just been under-represented. To me that is the biggest part of it, it’s opened our eyes to how vibrant it has been and is, we’re just sending people through the doors.”