Taylor Rocca, Omega Contributor Ω
The Arkells weren’t pulling any punches Nov. 15 at The Blue Grotto.
Hailing from Hamilton, Ont., the band is touring in support of their second album, Michigan Left.
Released Oct. 18, 2011, Michigan Left has spawned the singles “Whistleblower” and “Kiss Cam.”
With a sound similar to fellow Canadian Sam Roberts, the Arkells are one of Canada’s young and upcoming rock acts.
The band had a successful debut on the Canadian music scene, having won a 2010 Juno Award for New Group of the Year.
The Arkells engaged the audience of the sold-out show with their performance early.
They opened their 16-song set with the title track from their new album.
As soon as the piano intro to “Ballad of Hugo Chavez” rang through the venue, the Arkells had the audience right where they wanted them.
The band oozed passion throughout the performance.
You couldn’t help but tap your feet and bop your head.
A quick glance towards the stage at any moment through the evening and you saw each of the band members with a grin on their face.
It was easy to tell that the Hamilton alt-rockers love what they do.
The emotion was infectious. Not only did the Arkells love what they were doing, so did the crowd.
Lead singer Max Kerman was quite the conversationalist, addressing the audience between nearly every song.
Kerman even poked a bit of fun at himself and his Ontarian bandmates, taking a break to challenge which of them could name the most towns from interior B.C.
Despite naming Golden and Revelstoke, not exactly interior towns, the audience gave a resounding roar when “Kamloops” was finally announced by one of Kerman’s mates.
Apart from playing nine songs from Michigan Left, the Arkells played six songs from their debut album Jackson Square. After a fast-paced opening to the show, they slowed things down just past the halfway mark with “Kiss Cam.”
To finish off the set, they fired up “Oh, The Boss is Comin’!” their most successful single to date.
Before they could get offstage, the raucous crowd was stomping and chanting “Arkells! Arkells! Arkells!”
The band called out opening act San Sebastian to help them launch the encore with “On Paper.”
Perhaps the greatest treat of the night came when the Arkells broke out their own fun rendition of Hall & Oates’s “You Make My Dreams.”
They finished the encore with “John Lennon,” and Kerman beckoned San Sebastian back to the stage to bring it full-circle.
The audience was jumping, dancing and singing along right until the last line.
Indie rock band San Sebastian also calls Hamilton home.
They warmed up the crowd with a half-hour set.
They performed admirably as an opening act.
By firing up the audience, they did exactly what you expect and want from an opening band.
Lead vocalist Mike Veerman was enthusiastic and talkative, preparing the audience for the energy and enthusiasm that Arkell’s frontman Max Kerman would display.
Apart from playing a number of songs from their debut album, Relations, the high point of their set came with a fantastic rendition of Elvis Costello’s “Pump It Up.”
San Sebastian’s Relations, hit record stores on Oct. 4, 2011.