November 27th, 2017, Photos & Story by Dan Tait
Saturday night at Fernando’s Pub was a loud night in Kelowna, as the Vancouver classic rock quartet Aviator Shades brought their fiery road show to town. Before they could hit the stage though, local favourites Ancient Engines lit the room up with an hour of their hard-hitting and creative melodies – featuring for the first time their new guitarist and Kelowna veteran Garrett Scatterty.
I’ve loved Aviator Shades since I first saw them on tour to support their EP release Ready To Blow, but the real story on Saturday night was Ancient Engines thorough and definitive performance.
Led by Matt Blancher, the Kelowna-based band has been growing and working tirelessly on their music. It’s a particularly cool mix of heavy rock and inventive changeups – as melodic as The Temper Trap, but as driving and heavy as Monster Truck.
Guided by Blancher’s strong tenor and creative songwriting, Torrey Woody drives a heavy and accurate bass line, and Jamie Fairbanks keeps it all in sync with flawless rhythmic precision. Garrett Scatterty as a new addition fills out the band’s already beefy sound, proffering dirty overdrive, more melody, and a third vocal.
Formerly known as Le Markhor, the band went through a name-change at the end of 2016 and have been working with Scatterty for much of 2017 to tailor their sound further. If you have ever seen Ancient Engines prior to Saturday night there was no-way-in-hell you would have thought a second guitar was necessary, however it is the perfect addition. Scatterty’s creative guitar lines on his Gretsch work perfectly in tandem with Blancher’s guitar, and the addition of a talented third vocalist makes their instantly familiar lyrics drip with appeal.
The key to Ancient Engines’ sound seems to be the working relationship between Woody and Blancher. They were working in Kelowna’s scene half a decade ago with a folk act called Winter Provincial before their individual artistic development drifted apart. Now they’re back together, and the songwriting between the two has never been stronger – the pair’s vocals simply belong together. Songs like Black on Black resonate as the two proclaim lyrics in vulnerable harmony over top of the in-your-face driving rock. Witch is a jaw-dropping heavy-hitter, unapologetically dark and muddy. The funk in Huck oozes from the band’s amplifiers, buckling your knees into Fairbanks’ greasy 1 – 3 beat.
That’s one of the best parts of Ancient Engines, the dichotomy between the vulnerability of their vocals and the dynamic impact of the instruments. I’ve seen this band over a half dozen times since they began, and this was the best show I have seen them play. The audience was right with them from beginning to end, and they had us enthralled at the incredibly tight changeups in every song.
Aviator Shades have been through Kelowna a number of times since their inception, and if you’re a classic rock fan in any way theirs is a show not to be missed. Led by Irish-born Dave Gorman, the band boasts riffy hard rock via massive Marshall stacks, tight pounding drums and often Eagles-style harmonies.
Reminiscent of Thin Lizzy with a taste of KISS, the band is an instant favourite – taking the audience on a ride with their originals all the way back to 70s and 80s hard rock. The band looks and feels like an old-fashioned hard-rock band – they’re long haired, clad in paisley and expressive with each and every strum. They drive their sound deep into your chest with crowd walks, dance moves and winning smiles.
The band was a feature act at Canadian Music Week in 2015, proudly waving the flag of new-classic-rock that The Sheepdogs helped raise with their Rolling Stone cover in 2011 and subsequent releases. George Baker and Daniel James play off each other on their Gibson Les Pauls through the aforementioned Marshall stacks, often breaking into deep and elaborate guitar battles. Spencer Tomlinson keeps the quartet locked into Gorman’s bass with his explosive and accurate drumming.
Aviator Shades are touring This Is What We Do, their new EP produced by Danny Craig (One Bad Son, Default) and Mike Fraser (AC/DC, Aerosmith), which is available on Spotify, Apple Music and on their website. If you need to catch this band, the quartet is slated to tear up CJ’s in Kamloops with Okanagan-locals The Wild!