All I knew about first band The Good Times was that they were playing the Toronto Freedom Festival the next day. It didn’t take very long to see why. As much as I have to give lead singer Matthew Almeida points for the Ghostbusters jersey, I could not understand a thing he was saying. At some points I wasn’t sure if he was dancing or having a seizure. With his vocals he was trying a bit too hard to impersonate anyone from Zack de la Rocha to Bob Marley. At one point he lit a match during some song about fire and threw it into the crowd subsequently burning someone in the front row. He even tried audience participation: “When I say Ganja, you say Ganja!” Please…Our attention spans are a bit wider than that. The musicians themselves were talented, but the lead singer might want to try smoking up AFTER the show.
Next up, Crooked X. 15-year-old hard rockers with an impressive touring roster. Opening for Kiss in Europe and touring all across the U.S., this was their first Canadian show in Toronto. Don’t let their age fool you, these kids can rock hard. They did a great job of getting the crowd worked up, moshing ensued naturally. Their touring experience gave them an excellent stage presence. They took the time to compliment Canadian women as the most beautiful in the world, even though they’re far from legal, hopefully that will get them to come back sometime soon!
And then for something completely different: Blackie Jackett Jr., an alt-country side project from James Black and Rick Jackett of Finger Eleven. A far cry from finger eleven, James Black strutted on stage with a Johnny Cash getup and a cocky attitude, deflecting heckles and cat calls to one of his backup singers. For what they were, they were pretty good, but unfortunately for them I didn’t feel like there were many country fans in the audience that night. At that point the crowd became a bit restless and chants of “U-S-S! U-S-S!” started. Props to Black for not taking it too personally and finishing his set!
Then something unexpected happened. A group of people came out in 80’s spandex and sweatpants to lead an eccentric work out, which is kind of hard when you’re squished between so many people. At one point the leader of the pack invited a girl from the audience to rub her genitals… I’m not making this up!
Then finally USS came out up to their usual antics, Human Kebab doing handstands and stage diving while Ash Boo-Schultz serenaded us with his lyrical mastery and got up on Kebabs shoulders, and the usual gang of cardboard cut outs, but that was only the beginning! The real fun started when they invited their backup singers from the “Laces Out” video to perform the song, it ended with them punting a blow up football into the audience. One of the more intimate parts of the show was when they invited a few couples to slow dance on stage to “Pornostartrek.”
After a rather short set the curtains closed, those who left don’t know USS very well. They came back on with what Human would call “Next level USS” with a drummer and bass player adding more kick to “Man makes the zoo” among other songs. The boys had quite a few tricks up their sleeves for this show, one of my favourites was during “Me vs. Us” when Human Kebab had a plethora of t-shirts on and took each off to reveal the lyrics. With all the running around they do on stage I couldn’t imagine how hot that would be!
USS played a great mix of new songs and old favourites. Their energy was high and they kept their performance fresh with new stunts. The size and enthusiasm of the audience was a clear indication of how much they’ve exploded as a band in the past year. It was definitely worth waiting for the snow to melt and far exceeded my expectations.