LIVE @ THE KOOL HAUS
By: Fridae Mattas
Winter sucks, especially here in Ontario where you can get all types of precipitation in one day. The worst is when you get sick like I did. Caught this weird virus that I thought was just a regular cold until it warped into a crazy one. Never in my life have I experienced something like this, along with all the typical symptoms my skin hurt and my hands would go numb to the point where I couldn’t even press buttons on my android. After nearly two weeks I’m finally back at full health, the photos from the first show of the new year Thursday January 8th, turned out alright. I hoped for better but with the ghetto lighting for the first two bands I did okay. Strobes look cool but are not fun to shoot in, nor is red lighting. At least the headliners had wicked lighting, they were the best shots of the night hands down!
This show was a bittersweet experience for me personally, it was the first of 2015 but the last show I will ever cover and see at the Kool Haus. For over thirty years with a few incarnations The Guvernment Entertainment Complex has been a mecca for entertainment in Toronto. It is globally known as one of the largest and longest running clubs in Canada. The complex houses a number of venues like The Kool Haus, Skybar, Chroma (means colour in Greek) aka “The Orange Room” where Deadmaus and quite a few other DJ’s got their start. Many international artists have graced the stage at the well known live venue, The Kool Haus formerly “The Warehouse” and “RPM”. Sadly on the 31st of January after 18 years of music, dancing and mayhem, the massive complex will be closing its doors for good. The Guvernment was the first club I went to as an underage youth exploring the club scene, always had a fantastic time! I believe my father even bounced their doors at some point during the glory days in the nineties.
My siblings and I saw and met many artists like “Nsync”, “Pink”, “Evanescence” and so many more at the Kool Haus. As I got older before the journalist days, I did background work in many films shot at the venue, attended exclusive events, sales, parties, raves, had many backstage wanderings and got lost a few times in the maze of rooms, the Guv is always a fun place to explore. Once upon a time at the Kool Haus I left my backpack with “friends”, who didn’t want to leave the general admission line to actually meet the band. We skipped school to see the band, might as well make the best of it right? When I returned from hanging with the band to grab my backpack, I noticed that some teenie robbed the drawings from inside my bag! Days and nights, hours and hours of sketching and painting gone. Fuming, yet at the same time flattered that my artwork was awesome enough to swipe. To this day I still wonder, why on earth would anyone want to steal Sailor Moon and random school drawings in the first place? Good thing I wasn’t stupid enough to leave my purse because I never saw my artwork again! After all of that drama, at least I chilled with the band before and after the show.
The Guvernment has been for many Torontonians a crutch, it would always be there in our minds. But, as the unnecessary condo communities grow, our music culture in Toronto is being demolished, one venue at a time. Out of all of my adventure spots, I will definitely miss this place the most! Even more so than when the Big Bop complex closed it’s doors. Okay, enough depressing jibbers of what is eminent, let’s get to the music. First up on stage was “The Butcher Babies“, these gorgeous ladies and lads were the whole reason I chose this show as the first of 2015! Major thanks to their team for hooking a girl up! Having heard so many good things about The Butcher Babies, I had to see them live for myself. The minute I wandered into the pit the lights dimmed and the band hit the stage, I made it just in time! Tried as fast as I could to find the best non flash settings in my camera for the lighting, we only had three songs. Right out the gate they embraced the stage with vibrance and charisma, Heidi and Carla did an amazing job entertaining the crowd! The ladies went right up in there, singing from the barricades almost in the crowd. At times the crowd looked like they were going to swallow front woman Heidi Shepherd but security had her back. The mostly male audience was getting wild, I’m glad that I didn’t see any inappropriate groping of these fearless females…Then again, I wasn’t in the pit for the whole set.
During the last show of 2014, I felt like a fun-sized Fridae trying to film behind this WNBA sized femme who was in front of me for the entire set. This time, it was I who felt like Andre the Giant’s daughter when Vox – Carla Harvey ran past me to get back on the stage, she is so tiny! They kicked off their eight track set with intro “The George Takei song” followed by “I Smell A Massacre” and continued to rock out with their blend of New school metal. The sound was the best of the night and the crowd was having a fantastic time, especially when they rocked their big tunes “Mr. Slowdeath” and “Magnolia Blvd”. If you get the chance to see California’s Butcher Babies, go for it! I could actually understand what they we’re singing! Diction is the most common issue for metal bands live but these femmes had it on lock! Bassist Jason Klein and Guitarist Henry Flury used the stage and kept the music on point! The beats were always tight thanks to stick handler Chris Warner. Throughly impressed with The Butcher Babies, looking forward to covering them again in the future.
Hatebreed has always been one of those elusive bands I always missed at festivals and finally had the chance to shoot and absorb a set. Their lighting was the worst of the night and it shows in my shots, everyone was drowning in red lighting! At least the band sounded good, that was the last thing I needed, a shitty metal band in my ears for the next forty-five minutes or so! Thankfully that was not the problem with Hatebreed, surprisingly I enjoyed their fourteen track set very much. The crowd was singing along to the mix of old and new tracks played in the fourteen track set.
They rocked tunes like “This Is Now”, “Live For This”, “Doomsayer” and a few more of the classics…Not a big fan of the band, but am familiar with a few tunes thanks to an almost boyfriend. Hatebreed is one of those bands that has changed up members a few times. The current line up is: Jamey Jasta – Vox, Chris Beattie – Bass, Wayne Lozinak – Guitar, Matt Byrne – Drums and Frank Novinec – Guitar. The lighting was too boo and it was getting harder to shoot the band. The bodies were starting to fly more often and all the photographers who missed the Butcher Babies were trying to make up for it. Would I see Hatebreed again? Yes, would love to! They could use some more energy and crowd interaction but they held their own, that’s for sure!
The last band of the night was Black Label Society who I thought would never hit the stage. How long does it take to put up a curtain? Apparently, half an hour and six stage hands! Oh and let’s not forget they wouldn’t let us into the pit until after the curtain dropped and was put away…That took what felt like an hour and a half, we only had three songs. Due to the delay in rotation at this event, I could only reach one of the other two scheduled for that night. My phone was dying, so I plugged it into the smartest thing I bought this year thus far, a portable phone charger for $14.99 from The Source! Just as I pulled the battery from my phone, the band began to play and the curtain dropped, we finally were able to enter the media pit.
The set intro was “Whole Lotta Sabbath” followed by “The Beginning…At Last” which could not have been more ironic. As for vocals, the mic stand with a bunch of skulls was cool, but I couldn’t hear shit in the pit. I focused on the only instrument I could hear, the Lead Guitar. The sound of a seasoned guitarists fluid skills unfolding, is always a treat for my ears. Honestly, it did not matter that I couldn’t hear any vox at this point, my ears were too busy enjoying Zakk Wylde’s intoxicating electric axemastery. I’ve seen Black Label Society briefly once before, but only caught the last few songs of the set. The band has had a few member changes but two originals remain, founder Zakk Wylde – Piano/Vox/Lead Axe/Rhythm Guitar and Bassist/Backup Vox – John DeServio. The other members in the band are newbies Dario Lorina – Rhythm Guitar/Backup Vox and Jeff Fabb who was destroying that dragon skull drum kit.
It was awesome to see Wylde use different guitars for every song, especially the one that was stolen last year and found a few days after. The whole band was fun to watch because they were all feeling the music. My favorite of the night was, Bassist DeServio who was flying all over the stage, entertaining the crowd as some were flying into the pit. Security kept tapping us on our shoulder, which is the standard heads up for the incoming surfers. Didn’t have a chance to run away from the line of fire a few times and was smushed against the stage, as security pulled out crowd surfers. The lighting was perfect for this set, my camera loved shooting in these lights but as usual was being a diva with the reds. After the three media tunes I left the venue to hop in a cab and reach my next destination. Just as I wandered out the venue my friend called to tell me he was twenty minutes away. So I rewinded back inside to see a few tunes until my friend arrived.
Wandered back in the venue at the end of “Suicide Messiah” and new tune “My Dying Time” was played next. The crowd was even more into the show as it progressed, singing along to pretty much every tune played. A mix of hits with many from the latest record “Catacombs of the Black Vatican”. It was good to actually hear the vocals from the back of the venue, always the go to spot for the best sound.
In the end I actually got to watch and see most of the set but had to leave in the middle of “Angel Of Mercy” which sounded so good! Did not want to go just yet but I had other places to be, definitely need to watch a full set from Black Label Society in the near future. You should check them out, especially if you like hearing amazing guitar being played, Wylde’s guitar solo was epic. The newbs Lorina and Fabb killed it, they add more character and chemistry to the band. Thank you to everyone who helped make this first show of 2015 an unforgettable one! That includes the couple who were fighting before the BLS set and eventually escorted out of the Kool Haus by security. Adios Kool Haus, we had some amazing times! Will always be one of my favorite places to shoot incredible talent! Now this fabulously dangerous 18 year escapade is coming to an end. The memories will always be, but there will never be another venue like the Guvernment Entertainment Complex. You will be missed!