Bands impress, and are impressed, at KOI Fest 2015

The 2015 edition of KOI Fest has come and gone, bringing music mayhem to the streets of downtown Kitchener once again. The little-festival-that-could continues to prove that there is an audience for punk rock and metal bands outside of Toronto and Hamilton.

Bands occupied over six stages during the three-day event from September 25 to 27. Friday night saw Toronto’s July Talk headline the alternative/indie line-up, continuing their string of strong festival performances this year. Sunday featured a new acoustic only line-up.

But the highlight of the festival was Saturday. Bands of the punk, metal, and post-hardcore genres played from Noon until 11 p.m., the crowds growing with every hour.

August Burns Red was the festival’s main headliner, and they sure played like it. Taking the stage on Saturday at 10:15 p.m., they worked to inspire the largest crowd of the night. Circle pits were in abundance as they played heavy classics like “Composure” and “Provision” to close out the show. The band is touring in support of their sixth album, Found In Far Away Places, and they played a couple tracks off that album live for the first time.

Vocalist Jake Luhr’s expressed how important this night was to the band, as it was the first time they played Kitchener, and the first time they played “Martyr” live. The crowd’s response to these songs suggests that their next tour should go just fine.

Echoing the sentiment of Luhr’s in appreciating both Kitchener and KOI Fest was Los Angeles post-hardcore band, Letlive. Frontman Jason Butler was very grateful to the audience for responding so positively to their set, saying that the Canadian crowd seemed to understand their live show better than their own country. And it was certainly something you need to see to understand, as Butler and company are visually chaotic, and captivating, from start to finish. One of the more socially-conscious bands on the bill, Letlive sang songs that touched on topics like public health care, uniting together and police brutality, the latter causing Butler to become emotional as he explained that it was inspired by a night he spent in jail.

The festival was intimate and the crowd could feel how impressed all of the bands were with what was happening. Whether it was the awesome lineup, the uniqueness of Kitchener as a venue, or the active crowd, every band that took the stage Saturday was visibly honoured to have been performing.

It was not just the big names that impressed. A trio of bands played a smaller, indoor stage in the afternoon to tightly packed crowds. Dead Broke, Survay Says! and Teenage Bottlerocket each staked claim to the stage in their own way, putting smiles on the faces of the crowd, happy that they chose the to check out the venue.

Dead Broke is a fresh name, but their brand of angry, reckless rock and roll was a sight to behold. Whether it was the singer running through the crowd shirtless, or the drummer’s unorthodox rolls to start song after song, Dead Broke ensured that they would not be an unknown after the show. Survay Says!, an up-and-coming ska band from New Jersey, played a fun, up-beat show, full of The Mighty Ducks references and catchy, pop melodies. Teenage Bottlerocket managed to cram more people into the tiny warehouse space than anyone would think possible, saying to the audience, as if surprised, how much fun they were having.

The Menzingers and The Ataris played throwback sets to the eager fans, and Hawthorne Heights dialled it back as well, playing their sophomore album, If Only You Were Lonely.

Based off of the fan, and bands, reaction to KOI Fest 2015, you can be sure that the festival will not be disappearing from Kitchener streets anytime soon.

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