Deep in the boreal forests of northern Canada in the idyllic, peaceful city of Whitehorse, two upstanding young gentlemen have stepped up to champion a cause close to the hearts of many.
These young activists – crusaders if you will – are taking a hand in what happens around them, tirelessly organizing and promoting, and standing up for their right…
To play heavy metal as loud as possible all night long.
Okay, maybe not quite all night. Still, through hard work and a genuine passion for their music, Joel Gilchrist and Rory O’Brien have been steadily acquiring more and more stage time, venues, press and even airtime for Whitehorse’s thriving young rock and heavy metal scene.
The shortage of venues in Whitehorse has long created discontent among musicians and fans alike. As Gilchrist explains, not many bars or stage owners are very keen on hosting metal shows, mostly due to the raucous nature of the music.
This was particularly evident after Gilchrist and O’Brien’s formed their own own band, Cervexecution, last October.
Modelled after the death metal bands of the late ’80s and ’90s, Cervexecution is one of the heavier and louder bands in town, with the traditionally offensive lyrics and in-your-face musical style that made the genre so controversial when it first developed.
“Venues are really hard to come by because we’re pretty loud,” says O’Brien.
The lack of willing venues for metal concerts, and poor organization of the shows that did happen, gradually led Gilchrist and O’Brien to get involved in organizing their own shows.
O’Brien explains that it was more a case of doing what needed to be done, rather than a conscious decision to get involved.
“It’s super DIY. We’re just kind of setting stuff up,” he says.
“People complain about not having enough metal shows, so we just go and talk to people about setting them up. We’ve done shows that other people organized that didn’t really work for us, so we just started doing it ourselves. We’d rather do the work and have it work for us.”
“If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself,” echoes Gilchrist.
This can-do attitude, along with the number of bars that didn’t want their speaker systems blown, led to shows in slightly unorthodox venues. First, there was the Sternwheeler Village parking lot show.
Complete with a six-band lineup, portable outhouses and a PA system, the show was intended as a fundraiser for a children’s playground.
It actually made it through five bands before being shut down at 5 pm as a result of numerous noise complaints.
With an unsatisfied audience of about 75 people and some very disappointed children and musicians on his hands, Gilchrist was not about to be beaten.
After some serious networking and venue-hunting, he has secured a replacement fundraiser, to be held at Shipyards Park on Saturday, August 27.
The show will run from 1-7 pm, with admission either free or by donation. There will also be a barbecue put on by the Girls and Boys Club, with proceeds going towards the Sternwheeler Village playground.
As it turns out, the work put into both the Sternwheeler fundraiser show and its replacement has paid off. More venues are starting to express interest in hosting shows with Cervexecution and other bands, case lending truth to maxim that any press is good press.
“People have been strangely receptive,” says O’Brien, “Like after the Sternwheeler Show, now the 202 wants a show, we’ve booked two at Foxy’s and a spot with Bushwhacker in the final Arts in the Park evening concert.
“The Sternwheeler Village show getting shut down really just resulted in more publicity,” says Gilchrist, “People have been really keen on shows, and the shows are becoming more and more of a success.”
While Gilchrist is busy organizing and promoting shows, O’Brien, who also plays with the doom metal band Drifting, has yet another project on the go.
Besides lending his talents as a graphic designer to local bands, creating everything from posters to album covers, O’Brien recently teamed up with his friend, Chris Blaker, to start a one-hour radio program on the local station CJUC 92.5.
Called Black Mass, the show runs Saturdays from 6-7 pm and features a selection of some of the best metal from the past or present, as well as recordings from local bands.
“Basically the station wanted someone to do a show, someone who actually listened to the music, so it’d be relevant,” says O’Brien. “We want to interview metal bands and stuff like that, and use the station to promote shows as soon as we have more listeners.”
These are busy times as Gilchrist and O’Brien juggle performing and organizing events, not to mention completing Cervexecution’s debut album, currently in the mixing and mastering stage.
However, thanks (at least in part) to the efforts of these two staunch advocates, Whitehorse metal musicians and their supporters can look forward to shows in a growing number of venues.
As Gilchrist puts it with a grin, “We’re bringing death metal back to life!”
Willow Gamberg is a former What’s Up Yukon intern who writes about music and other arts-related topics.