Updated: Feb 6
Toronto, ON - For decades (give or take), a number of bands have merged different music genres into a style all its own. This is called a "Crossover". In the Rock and Roll world, bands like Suicidal Tendencies, Rage Against the Machine, and Urban Dance Squad quickly come to mind. They mix metal and punk, hip-hop and alternative rock, and funk, soul and metal. I certainly don't profess to now every single music genre, and every band out there. So I was not completely aware, or prepared for what I saw on a September evening in Toronto.
I shot a show for Digital Beat Magazine of Aussie Rockers Airbourne (check out that review here). Opening the evening for the headliners was a band from Michigan called The Native Howl. Their musical genre crossover of choice? Thrashgrass!!!!! A mix of thrash metal and blue grass. I have to be open and honest here... I have never heard of this style of music. And damn, it was bloody fun!!!
The Native Howl are the Godfathers of this music mix. These headbanging rednecks from Leonard, Michigan was founded by singer/guitarist Alex Holycross and guitarist/banjo plucker Jake Sawicki.
With 2 EPs and 2 full length releases to their credit, The Native Howl had not been to Canada in 4 years. Again, the pandemic playing havoc on our lives. It's amazing how fast the time goes by, but I'm gracious that we seem to be out of it, at least where travel restrictions and mandates are concerned. As such, this evening was a complete blast, and the opening act completely set the stage for a raucous evening.
I hadn't spoken to any of the fans specifically about The Native Howl, but the venue was packed, right from the moment the house lights went down. I've never exactly understood why concert goers typically forego the opening act. You truly never know what you are missing out on. I mean, imagine missing out on seeing White Zombie in 1992 cuz they were the opening act for Pantera? Just insane to me!! But as I looked around The Opera House at the start of this show, the fans had already piled in ahead of the openers.
Alex Holycross - Vocals/Guitars
Jake Sawicki - Banjos/Guitars/Mouth Organs
Mark Chandler - Bass Guitar
Zach Bolling - Drums
First thing I noticed as the band hit the stage, was drummer Zach Bolling's Detroit Red Wings, road whites, jersey. Hard to miss amidst the typical rock and roll black get up, especially for a hockey fan. What I think was even better, was that he didn't feel the need to wear this city's Maple Leafs garb. He clearly knows who he's a fan of. And he didn't remove the hockey sweater through the whole set, while he pounded the kit.
At a much later stage of the set, I noticed that the band's frontman was sans footwear. Full on bare feet was his mantra, and it gave such a cool look, that completely went with the style of music.
Heavy Metal Banjos
What do you think of when you see or a hear a banjo? Deliverance? YEP! Bluegrass? Of course! Country music? Yes, I'll give you that too. What I know for sure, is that the last thing you will ever think of is Heavy Metal! The Native Howl's plucker kills it here as he takes the distinct sound of a classic instrument and turns it into something you'd never imagine in a million years. We've all seen the Facebook videos of bluegrass bands doing covers of AC/DC, but Jake's style in The Native Howl's original music is a spectacle unto itself. It's guaranteed to make you say "Wait... WHAT?" and then you'll think "DAMN!!!"
Bare feet, songs about moonshine, banjos and harmonicas, all in the heavy, aggressive style of thrash metal. Completely original, completely fun, and completely crazy. Some things just work.... and these guys certainly make their style something you will definitely want to check out!
Show date: September 20, 2022