Stoked for the Holidays almost didn’t have an afterparty this year. With traditional venues booked or not interested, co-organizers Gillian Hillier and Joe Costello had to make some difficult decisions.
“We came across the Elk’s Lodge, thanks in part to Caper Radio’s Stefan MacNeil, and decided that we needed to take a look before cancelling our annual event,” says Costello. “After one look, and one conversation with Elk’s president Fred Clarke, we found a place that seemed to fit our needs. And, better than that, a place that was thirsting for a change.”
The Elks of Canada, a national charity nearing 100 years of operation, operates 250 lodges across Canada with approximately 15,000 members. The Elks and Royal Purple Fund for Children is their main national program, which raises money to assist children under the age of 19 as well as charitable programs addressing the needs of children with hearing and speech disorders. The Sydney Elk’s Lodge, Lodge #270, will be celebrating their 75th anniversary this fall and remits all monies above operating expenses to the national charity to further the programs.
On the week’s leading up to Stoked, Clarke and Costello had many conversations to prepare him for what was going to happen. The Elk’s has never been involved in “the scene”, but they were enthusiastic and open to exploring the opportunity. Furthermore, they were looking for something new for their Friday nights.
“We left the possibility open,” says Costello, “wanting to see how the afterparty went (and gauging how serious they would be after seeing what we put on the table). The show happened, the crowd came, and the enthusiasm stuck. Both the Elk’s and I were on the same page, despite their inexperience, and we quickly worked out the details to start a Friday night concert series beginning in February.”
“And people came,” says Costello. “After just a few weeks we had renewed our arrangement to book into March, as well as committing to a bigger show with Massachusett’s A Wilhelm Scream. March hit, opening with our first capacity crowd. The atmosphere and audience was off the charts, with attendance at least 50 people every week. Quickly, we were booking April and building our own little community separate from what was happening at other locations. Just two weeks into April, and another capacity crowd, we’ve made a deal to keep We Unite! Fridays at the Elk’s Lodge going to the end of summer.”
To this point, they’ve had success with punk, metal, rock, hip hop, and electronic music. “From Ricochet to Jofo, Wobblefish to Mortality Work, we’ve made an effort to present bands, DJs, and hip hop rather than the singer/songwriter scene. We’ve built an atmosphere that feels like all ages shows from the turn of the century, with enthusiasm and excitement the foundation. Our staff shares our enthusiasm, from 70 year old Betty on the door to Fred who works the bar. And we respect our bands enough to book and promote the shows as far in advance as we can.”
The defining moment, and first real test for the venue, will be on May 11 with A Wilhelm Scream, The Motorleague, and Ricochet. The triple band bill will do a lot to prove the value of the venue to agents across the country looking to start booking bands in the area again.
A Wilhelm Scream has been going by this name since 2002, while variations of the band have existed since 1996 in some formation. Playing a style of punk rock often compared to bands like Propagandhi and Hot Water Music, the band has been touring North America and beyond for years alongside bands like Strung Out, Rise Against, and Pennywise and has been covered by media outlets such as PunkNews.org and MTV. They have released a number of singles and videos, including three from 2007’s Career Suicide. The album has been rated 88% by Absolutepunk.net, while websites such as PunkNews.org and Europunk.net have given it at least a 4/5 rating.
The Motorleague are Sydney’s favourite punk rock group. From Moncton, New Brunswick, the band has been playing to capacity crowds in the area for the last few years. The 2010 ECMA Loud Recording of the Year and Fans’ Choice Video of the Year award winners have been in the studio working on their newest effort, Acknowledge Acknowledge, and touring the country solo style or alongside bands like Grady (featuring Gordie Johnston of Big Sugar). The shows are always high impact and full of heavy punk rock riffs and sing alongs.
Ricochet is Sydney’s finest punk rock export. The group, still going strong after nearly six years, continues with its core of Orrin Sparrow and brothers J.T. and Colin Mitchell alongside drummer D.J. Vaters (ex-Violent Theory), who rejoined the band last year. The group is readying to follow their 2010 release Daze Away with a new EP that will be released in the coming months, recorded with Harry Doyle at Small Studios in Sydney. The foursome is tighter and more high impact than ever, with every show a breakout performance that makes the audience feel part of the band.
The first show to vary from the regular $7 weekly admission, tickets are on sale until May 4th at MaryJanes and the Elk’s Lodge for $12.