By NICOLE JOBES
Collectively 30 feet, three inches tall and weighing in at a very rock ’n’ roll 912 pounds, the members of the Arkells left the tri-cities awestruck with their high-energy stage presence and infectiously rousing songs on Feb. 9, at Elements Nightclub in Kitchener.
It is clear from their electrifying live performance that the Hamilton-based band is averse to disappointing their audience.
A band that likes to have fun, the Arkells love to perform and has always made it a priority to engage the crowd at live shows, according to lead singer and guitarist Max Kerman.
“We are music fans ourselves,” he said. “We appreciate it when bands we like reach out to the audience at their shows.”
It was a very loud and very sweaty night as the Arkells practically shook the walls of the nightclub and warmed up the cold winter air with songs from both their previous album and their new album, Michigan Left.
“It means so much that you guys are all singing along,” Kerman said to the audience with a gracious smile and a hand on his heart. There was no question he appreciated the tenacious enthusiasm of their fans.
With the October release of their sophomore album, Michigan Left, the band has blown up — figuratively speaking — in the best possible way. The story of the Arkells is a rock and roll fairy tale of sorts; a small town group makes it big doing exactly what they love doing, making music exactly the way they want to.
While their previous album, Jackson Square, was inspired more by ’70s music, the band moved up a decade in their influences and drew from the ’80s while writing new material. Kerman noted that the music they were listening to at the time they were writing strongly influenced their attitudes toward the type of music and tunes they were producing; the ’80s lent freshness to their sound that the whole band could appreciate. Some of these influences included Fleetwood Mac, The National, Bryan Adams and Michael McDonald.
The music the Arkells collectively listen to is based in the rock category; it was the focus those songs had on melodies, and the idea of songs that are “nice to hear” that truly inspired them when writing. Kerman said it was their goal to make music people wanted to listen to with their headphones on, very personal yet very entertaining and pleasant to listen to, while incorporating catchier melodies
“We are a meat and potatoes rock and roll band,” said Kerman. “We wanted to capture the spontaneity and sweat that goes into the live show, with those pretty elements too.”
Before each show the Steel City band does a “hands in,” as Kerman puts it, and they do a little rah rah cheer to get their musical game faces on. Every show that cheer may be different, said Kerman. On the night of their Kitchener show, the Arkells had special guests, The Darcys, perform as their opening act; the Toronto-based band’s drummer, Wes Marksell, joined in the pre-show fun with a pump-up speech from the movie Cool Runnings: Feel the rhythm! Feel the rhyme! Get on up, its bobsled time! Cool runnings!
The energy of the audience was electric and as soon as guitarist Mike DeAngelis struck his first chord, the Arkells infected everyone in the building with their fun sound. The crowd only got more excited as the night matured and cheers turned into screams as fans shouted lyrics to each of their songs. It truly seemed not a person in the house was having a bad experience, except maybe the young lady who dropped her iPhone in the mosh pit.
“Shows close to home have a different energy,” said Kerman. “Those fans have been with us for so long, buying albums first.”
At the end of the night, these hometown rock purebreds are not only making a name for themselves across the country, but internationally as well with the American release of Michigan Left on April 10.
The Arkells have been nominated for two Juno Awards this year including Rock Album of the Year and Group of the Year; whilst their music has been recently featured on the TV show 90210.
While the band may be making it big and getting the recognition they deserve, they still remain very much Hamiltonians at heart and love nothing more than to put on a good show for their fans.
“Cheers Kitchener, Waterloo, and Cambridge,” Kerman hailed as he raised his shot glass. As he tossed back the booze and wiped the instant expression of disgust off his face, the keyboard came in and vocals followed with John Lennon, a favourite from their first album. The audience joined in and the night was over far too soon.