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The 502s Bring Their Warmth to the Cold Toronto Winter

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The 502s performing live at The Axis Club Theatre in Toronto, Canada. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

Toronto, OntarioThe 502s are one of the brightest lights shining in the music landscape today, and they are travelling the world! Hailing from Maitland, Florida, this indie folk band was formed by lead singer and banjoist Ed Isola in 2016. With a mantra to bring a ray of sunshine to a very troubled world, the band has already left their mark on countless fans.

In 2016, The 502s (which is a name taken from the family home address) won a contest which saw them perform live at Okeechobee Music & Arts Festival in Okeechobee, Florida. The main attraction at the festival that year was indie folk giants Mumford & Sons, which was a huge stage for The 502s to be a part of. They hadn’t even released any recorded music at that point, which is a phenomenal feat.

In 2017, the band released their first album Because We Had To, and the following year, the band headed out on the road. The tour saw them play numerous dates in the Untied States and Europe, and the young band was off and flying. Despite the attention they were garnering, the band wanted more for their fans. As a result, they decided to bring an even bigger experience by creating CAMP FEELS GOOD, for the release of their 2021 album Could It Get Better Than This.

With CAMP FEELS GOOD, the band has created a special behind the scenes experience with the making of their new album Could It Get Better Than This which includes a free copy of the new album. For the simple click of a button, the band will take you on an experience that I personally have never seen before.

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The 502s performing live at the Axis Club in Toronto, Canada. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

On February 20, 2023, The 502s took their warmth and sunshine north of the border to Toronto, Ontario. Despite a fairly mild winter here, it’s a warmth that’s always welcomed. As usual, I arrived at the venue early and was happy to be near the front of the line. This was not indicative to the number of tickets sold however, as it was a sold out event. The night previous, I photographed and reviewed a Kim Mitchell show in Oshawa, Ontario for an affiliate I write for, Digital Beat Magazine. There was an immediate contrast with the fans at the 2 shows. As with most shows I’ve covered recently, the fans that were already lined up at the Axis Club Theatre when I arrived were young.

The Show

The leadoff band tonight was a trio out of Waterville, Ohio called Oliver Hazard. The indie folk band had never played in Canada ahead of this gig, and despite their young careers (the band has only been together since 2017), they were met with a very warm Canadian welcome. They returned the welcome with an amazing set. With an upcoming full length album release, these guys are definitely worth checking out if you are into the folk sounds of Mumford & Sons.

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The 502s performing live at The Axis Club Theatre on February 20, 2023. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

At 9:00, the headliners hit the stage flying, with the lead off track "Hey Julia". The band's full sound, with its guitars, banjos, keyboards, bass, drums, saxophones and oboes had the whole crowd jumping right off the hop. In fact, you could literally feel the whole building moving as the floor itself shook in unison with the full house jumping. It was a phenomenon that would continue through the rest of the 80 minute set.

Early in the set, we get a saxophone solo by Joe Capati, whom lead singer Ed Isola fondly refers to as the best saxophone player in the world. Joe puts on a clinic with his solo which is a sight we'd catch from him the whole evening. While the whole band was full of energy, the sax player seemed to have energy to burn. He did not stop rousing the crowd all night, running from one side of the stage to the next. It was infectious, as the crowd was giving back what they were getting. It's a match made in heaven!

The fans were into this one right from the get-go, and it was noticed by Ed Isola as he commented on the fact the crowd was singing along to the music. It was a sentiment he was grateful for, and he thanked the Toronto audience for it. During drummer Sean Froehlich's drum solo, the crowd was clapping along to the beat bringing with it a great sound, with the help of the venue's acoustics. During the solo, Froehlich puts his drum sticks down, stretches out his arms and fingers, and gives it his all during the solo's finale.

The Finale

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Ed Isola of The 502s performing live in Toronto, Canada. Photo Credit: Jay Broderick

By the time the band returned to the stage for their encore, the members were sweating. They had given every ounce of energy they had to the crowd, and its truly a gift. But it's not the only gift the band has in store. Lead singer Isola explains that as the venue's have been getting bigger for the band, they have been kicking around some ideas for even better ways to give back. They then came up with the idea to put yellow "x"es on the floor ahead of the gig, and whoever was standing on it at this point in the show won themselves a set of drum sticks and a gift basket. Hopefully that's not a trade secret. If you are catching this from a city the band has not yet played, hint hint!!

During the encore, we get 2 new tracks from the band. The first is called "Friday Night" which has a country feel to it. During this track, guitarist Jake Isola and frontman/banjoist Ed Isola switch instruments. It's not the only time we see the musical prowess of these 6 band members.

The last song of the evening is another new one, slated to be the leadoff track to the band's upcoming album. It's called "Stories to Tell" and with this one, every band member heads centre stage to sing a verse. In addition, the keyboardist Matthew Tonner sits himself behind the drum kit while the drummer comes out to sing. And we finally get a better glimpse of bass guitarist Nick Melashenko who has been doing his thing, and keeping the beat at the back.

The Verdict?

This was definitely one of the most energetic shows I have ever seen. It's very reminiscent to the George Street Festival Kitchen Parties that I am completely enamored with. The vibe is completely positive and infectious, full of happiness and joy.

As with the opening act this night, this was the first time that The 502s had played in Toronto. Based on the reaction of the crowd, and the trend of growth for the band, I'm pretty sure it won't be their last. A part of me even tells me that next time, the venue may be a tad bigger.

Show Date: February 20, 2023


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