Hamilton Ontario based rockers Arkells, brought their Knocking on the Door tour to the lower 48, much to the delight of their American fan base. The tour kicked off on October 4 in Phoenix, including visits to sixteen cities, and wrapped up in the nation’s capital, Washington D.C., on November 18. The following is a review of the Philadelphia and Washington D.C. shows.
Arkells have been on the scene since 2006 and are comprised of Max Kerman on lead vocals and guitar, Mike DeAngelis on guitar and vocals, Nick Dika on bass, Tim Oxford on drums, and Anthony Carone on keyboards. Arkells are a Last Gang Records recording artist whose latest full-length album Morning Report, dropped in August of 2016. The deluxe version of this album includes the hit single “Knocking on the Door” which spent fourteen weeks in the number one position on the Canadian Alt charts. Not too shabby! The band also has an impressive list of award accomplishments including the following.
Juno Award for breakthrough group of the year – 2010
Juno Award for group of the year – 2012
Juno Award for rock album of the year (High Noon) – 2015
Juno Award for group of the year – 2015
Juno nomination for rock album of the year ( Michigan Left ) – 2012
Juno nomination for songwriter of the year ( Whistle Blower ) – 2013
Juno nomination for rock album of the year ( Morning Report ) – 2017
Juno nomination for group of the year – 2017
Having seen this band five times in 2017, at both large and small venues, in their native Canada, and here in the States, it’s always the same; maximum effort. Arkells music is really interesting in that it can have a Motown type sound, and at the same time deliver a charged political message.
Having my musical roots firmly buried in the punk scene, I still love these guys and this is why. As I get older, I ask way more from my music than I used to. I want music that hits hard, delivers a real message, and has a purpose. Arkells music does all of this while still having mass appeal, something punk rock really doesn’t do. Arkells are a hardworking, on the road all the time band, who could be considered an emerging artist here in the States, and I see nothing but good things in their future!
Underground Arts – Philadelphia, PA – November 15, 2017
It takes a lot to drag me from the Jersey Shore to Philly on a work night in November, but the opportunity to see Arkells one hour from home doesn’t happen often, so off to Philly I went. The gig is sponsored by 104.5 WXPN and is taking place at the Underground Arts. The lights dim, the crowd activates, and Arkells take the stage to “Amazing Grace”; it’s show time in Philly! Max and his band mates got the crowd jumping right away with “Making Due” and wasted no time making a point to the crowd that even though it’s a Wednesday night, we’re having a fucking Saturday night party! The set continued at a fast pace turning the venue into a dance party of moving bodies and fan sing-alongs to every song. The set included a mixture of songs, most coming from their latest effort Morning Report and included “Come to Light”, “11:11”, and “My Heart’s Always Yours”.
At the midpoint of the show, things really got wild. While playing “Pulling Punches”, the band transitioned hard into “Great Balls of Fire,” featuring Anthony Carone smashing and climbing on the keyboard, while acing the vocals. The place erupted! One song later, Max Kerman is in the crowd, reunited on short notice with a few musicians from the Liberty Brass Band, playing a totally smooth rendition of “Drakes Dad”, which quickly turned into a sing-along with the crowd.
A few more songs and the evening begins to wind down. The band end their set with “My Heart’s Always Yours” and depart the stage. It doesn’t take much to get these guys back out for more and they don’t disappoint, delivering a rendition of Tom Petty’s “Running Down a Dream” that shakes the rafters at the Underground Arts. Sadly, all things must come to an end, including the night with Arkells, whose final song of the night “Knocking at the Door”, a hard driving, soulful and politically charged song drove the crowd into a complete frenzy. What a night!
U Street Music Hall – Washington D.C – November 18, 2017
With anticipation, I left Jersey on a breezy overcast day bound for Washington D.C. to catch the second Arkells show in four days. I felt something would be different at this show, and my feeling would prove to be correct. I received word that the show had a hard curfew of 10 PM, which meant a short set for the support act Irontom, and an early start for Arkells. On arrival, I found a long queue of eager waiting fans. This was my first show at U Street Music Hall and I was impressed with the dark and well-worn Rock n Roll club. Its atmosphere told me I was somewhere good.
Earlier in the day, I was in contact with Arkells’ band management team, and got the impression I would have a chance to meet the band prior to the show. About halfway through the opener’s set, I met up with the Arkells rep, who brought me into the green room to meet the band. On entry I was immediately greeted by Max Kerman who was beginning his pre-gig warm ups. He is a genuinely super-nice guy who was engaging in conversation, had a great sense of humor and even offered me a few cocktails from their bar. Nice! One by one, his band mates made their way into the room, shook my hand, made introductions, and started conversations. We discussed a few different things from being away from home while on the road to the sights they took in while visiting DC. It was a totally relaxed environment.
I had the extreme privilege of photographing from the stage for the first few songs of this set, then left the band’s work space and made for the crowd. The set list for the show was the same as Philly with the exception of the encore, which would prove to be a wild ride. The band went through song after song and the crowd was totally involved. These fans came out to play and Arkells responded. The set list included “Michigan Left”, “Come Back Home”, and the crowd favorite “Private School”. The show continued with Anthony Carone’s banging rendition of “Great Balls of Fire” with Carone adding vocals as well as slamming the keyboard. Next was “Drakes Dad” and where things got really interesting.
The next song up was “Leather Jacket”. A girl in the crowd held up a sign that read “sign my leather jacket” to which Max Kerman wasted no time by getting the girl on stage, signed her leather jacket, and finished the song with her. Just incredible. Arkells led the DC crowd on a real journey and the crowd responded by singing every word to every song so loud that at times you couldn’t hear the band. At one point, a fan was invited to strap on a guitar and jam with the band. Throughout the show, Max said he didn’t give a shit about any curfew, and that the show would finish when they were finished. Only time would tell.
Arkells finished the set and left the stage only to return a few minutes later for the encore. What happened next was a full on musical assault that included Irontom joining Arkells on stage for a blistering version of the Beastie Boys “Sabotage” which shook the U Street Music Hall to its foundations. I can’t begin to describe the state of the crowd at this point other than pure insanity!
The final song of the night is “Knocking At the Door”. Halfway through the song, management at U Street pull’s the plug on the band and it looks like it might be over. Max Kerman, now yelling because his mike is off, screams to the crowd that they’re finishing the show one way or another! Incredibly, Max Kerman leads the fans through the rest of the song unplugged, loud, and proud and without apology. When finished, the crowd were emotional having shared something incredibly special with the fine gentlemen of Arkells; a connection that was just as important to the band as was to their fans. A fantastic end to the show.
Visit Arkells at www.arkellsmusic.com for all Arkells specific info including upcoming gig’s
Indie rockers Irontom provided support for Arkells on this tour. The band is comprised of lead singer Harry Hayes, Zach Irons on lead guitar, Daniel Saslow on keyboards, Dane Sandborg on bass, and Dylan Williams on drums. Irontom is a Another Century Records recording artist who are touring in support of their latest album Partners which dropped this past June. Irontom was a great opener that had a funky rock sound and great stage presence courtesy of Zach Irons’ guitar work and Harry Hayes’ vocals that the crowd really seemed to enjoy.
Check out www.Irontom.com for all things Irontom
I would like to thank Arkells for visiting the lower 48, Irontom for the great music, U Street Music Hall, and The Underground Arts for hosting. Last, but certainly not least, my thanks to the fine people at Last Gang Management and specifically Ashley Poitevin, for allowing the coverage.
Review and photos by Patrick Gilrane