JUNE 17th 2016 
CITY OF FIRE

Review by Lana Muirhead
Photos by Peter Ruttan: http://www.metaltitans.com/concertpics/city-of-fire/

For the very first time I got to hit up The Media Club for a triple bill on Friday, June 17. All bands were locally based and while I don’t typically get my panties in a bunch over locals, I feel like a real gem was uncovered this night.  Read on, folks, and welcome…

Mob Machine began in 2012 and after some internal trouble really put the pedal to the metal on getting the band traction. Lead vocalist Joãa ‘Johnny’ De Farias and guitarist Rafael ‘Rafa’ Bianzeno are of Brazilian origin and pieced the rest of themselves together with Canadians Imaran Beg (guitar), Richie Lee (bass) and Dayvid Swart (drums); all very experienced musicians. Right out of the gate not only did I think De Farias was a dead ringer for Myles Kennedy but he was also an uncanny vocal mimic. I immediately looked to my compadres and said “Alterbridge!” – so I was unsurprised to learn that both Kennedy and Alterbridge are musical influences on De Farias, who co-writes most of Mob Machine’s material.

MM got through all six of their originals including “Silence Of A Gun”, “Halo”, “Steel Dagger Cowgirl” and “Beautiful Mayhem” with solid crowd support. Given the total handle on their arrangement, the mastery of the individual instruments, and the explosive on-stage energy, Mob Machine has become my hard rock hidden gem.  If you’re into melodic hard rock with Axl/Myles/Steven Tyler-type vocal ranges, you will quickly get Mob Machine into your personal rotation.

Next was Whiskey River Gun Club – and as the name suggests, the band consisted of rootin’ tootin’ hard rock rebels as rough on their strings and skins as they are on their livers.  Lyrically, their originals such as “Never Sober Again”, “Ridin the Rails”, “Loaded” and “California”, as the titles suggest, are largely skewed toward a certain outlaw-type lifestyle.  Frontman and guitarist Rob Theissen sounds like he’s gargling gravel, giving all the tunes a very gritty/aggressive sound.  Ricky Lee pops up again on bass, double duty-ing, and Pinto Stilletto and Greg Lowe share the lead guitar spotlight.  Kevin Lovering sits behind the kit and contributes to the general mayhem on stage.

The guys ripped through their set with thrashing guitar lines and some memorable bass work – I thought some mix of Pantera and Black Stone Cherry with a hint of Texas Hippie Coalition while I was ear banged and really enjoyed the hard rock fusion. If you haven’t seen them and want to get a lil naughty on the fringes of the rock world, they should be high on your escape list (you know they will be).

Finally we got to headliner City of Fire. I had seen them before and at that time their hype preceded them. Unfortunately I had an idea of what to expect this time and got about the same. Bassist Byron Stroud (Fear Factory, Zimmers Hole, former 3 Inches of Blood), drummer Bob Wagner (Econoline Crush) and guitarist Sho Murray were absolutely on par with their instrumentals, boasting hundreds if not thousands of hours of stage and tour time between them. The unfortunate part was that Burton C Bell of Fear Factory was not on stage and the performance was done by Mik Ireland. The vocals themselves sounded good at times and Mik remembered all the lyrics. It was pretty clear he was beyond a little looped on stage; just as he was the last time I saw the group when they opened for the Headstones at the Commodore Ballroom in 2015. I was more than happy to be a few rows back to avoid the spittle and potential fire hazard from his mouth vapour should anyone pop a flame. For me having a vocalist half cut seems unprofessional and tonights performance suffered at times as he seemed destracted at points in the show.

A great mix of Metallica, Megadeth, Motley Crüe, and Judas Priest, City of Fire raise from the ashes all things great of classic hard rock and metal. They have the punchy, crunching guitar. They have the haunting, firey bass. They have the furious, driving drums with a heavy kick. And they have the lyrical and vocal range that spans from dark and despairing to high and hopeful in there last 2 studio albums. The combination is absolutely hard rock the way we all know it needs to be; it’s just too bad some folks are living the life a little too hard.

Overall, awesome night, great music, and of course: free flowing beers. Oh and the women. Cannot have a rock show without the women and they were out in broods. So even if you’re not a hard rock fan, single dudes need to know that it makes the panties drop. Fake yourselves a new hobby boys cause if you’re there, you know they will come.