By Ryan Smith
Just a word of warning for those of you who haven’t been following me since my wonderful run with Wave Maker Magazine: there’s one hell of a bromance going on in myself for progressive rock band Sound of Contact’s debut album Dimensionaut. Although formed through sessions for vocalist/drummer Simon Collins’ third solo album, Sound of Contact came to be a band of its own shortly after. The first official line-up included Collins, Kelly Nordstrom (guitar, bass), Matt Dorsey (bass, guitar), and Dave Kerzner (keyboards).
Dimensionaut was released spring 2013. The album, a science fiction-laced progressive masterpiece, is among this writer’s favourite albums of all time. I still can’t get enough of the bloody thing! When the first tour dates were announced, I quickly grabbed tickets to their first Toronto show. Unfortunately, complications arose and the band were unable to play the originally announced show, but they finally were able to grace us in May 2014.
Let’s get the negative stuff out of the way first. I couldn’t help but think, upon arrival at the Rockpile East, that this venue was perhaps not the kind of place where this band should be playing. Not that the venue wasn’t clean and well set-up, but at Eglington and Danforth it’s pretty much in the middle of nowhere and attached to a strip club. I’m just saying, it might have been easier for casual prog listeners (if such a creature exists) to stumble upon the show at, say, the Opera House downtown.
I’m afraid the opening acts, Short Avenue and Three Quarter Stone, were a definite mismatch. While solid and quite good at the kind of music they played, they were cock rock bands who should have been opening for Buckcherry and had nothing in common with Sound of Contact’s brand of elegant prog. For the first few hours we indeed wondered if the band we had come to see was in fact playing, or if we’d been misled.
But alas, Sound of Contact emerged triumphantly and presented one of the finest concerts I have yet witnessed! While founding members Kelly Nordstrom and Dave Kerzner are no longer with the band, their replacements Randy McStine (guitars) of Lo-Fi Resistance, and Bill Jenkins (keyboards) of Enchant, were absolutely incredible and filled the void magnificently. Simon, like his father, mostly sang but did occaisionally jump onto a second drum kit. Ronen Gordon is the touring drummer and is a very worthy replacement.
While it would have been great to see this band at the Opera House with an epic backdrop, the dark austerity of the Rockpile’s setup seemed to work well for the isolationist theme of most of the music. With Simon Collins decked out in the armour he wore for the recently released video for their song “Pale Blue Dot,” the band played Dimensionaut in its entirety (with the intro shortened significantly, cutting out the vocals on that tune completely).
The energetic performance not only made Dimensionaut come to life, beckoning the audience on into a cosmic adventure, but it also created a sort of playground where Collins and Dorsey held down the original picture and McStine, Jenkins, and Gordon were able to show of their own individual talents within the context of said picture. I know it would have been nice to hear the record note-for-note, but it was almost better to hear other musicians’ takes on the material. McStine’s solos, for instance, were bloody spectacular. I was a tad disappointed to hear the female part on “Beyond Illumination” done with a guitar slide instead of with vocals, mostly because I love the lyrics, but what are you going to do. It was still a creative way to get past not having the female vocalist.
When it was over we were all begging for more, and the band delivered. I was absolutely blown away that the encore set began with “The Big Bang,” which was a tune from Simon Collins’ third record U-Catastrophe. The tune was originally a drum duet, with Simon playing with his legendary father Phil Collins, and it was awesome to see Collins do the number with their touring drummer. It provided us Genesis fans with a throwback to Phil’s duets with that band’s touring drummer Chester Thompson. On an even greater note, the set ended with a cover of Genesis’ “Keep It Dark,” a song which Simon recorded and made his own back in 2006.
My sister and I were able to meet up with most of the band after the set and were very pleased with how down-to-earth these gentlemen are. I’ve met up with a lot of progressive musicians, few as kind and good-natured as these dudes. Needless to say, my sister and I left the place like giddy school girls! If I ever miss a Sound of Contact show in Toronto, I’d better be dead or significantly incapacited!
Intro (Sound of Contact excerpt)
Cosmic Distance Ladder
Pale Blue Dot
I Am (Dimensionaut)
Not Coming Down
Only Breathing Out
Realm of In-Organic Beings
Closer To You
The Big Bang
Keep It Dark
RYAN SMITH spends a great deal of his time under troll bridges shaking his fist and hollering obscenities at the mainstream, but occasionally finds himself on the side of a pop act that the underground has disowned. A schizoid fan for the 21st century? Although he has a diverse musical taste that runs the gamut from black metal to country to most forms of jazz, Ryan’s first love will always be progressive music.