It seems like a lifetime ago — albeit even longer if you are an Ontario resident — that you were able to meet up with your friends at a rock show, have your ears pummelled by the sweet sensation of amplifiers, belt out lyrics with other screaming fans, and mill around a merch tent to snag a T of your favourite band.
And though things are still different, and every day is a frustrating reminder of the live music we have been deprived of, a drive-in musical spectacle set for July 10 at 7:30 p.m. in Newmarket is a perfect stepping stone for the return of live music, an example of rock 'n’ roll resilience, and of its cornerstone commitment to bring people together.
Taking place in the parking lot of the Sociable Pub at 17380 Yonge St., concert goers will be able to order food and refreshments to their vehicles while they enjoy diverse sets from four local bands. The lineup features Jonathan Elmaleh, frontman of Toronto post-hardcore band Napoleon, Toronto quartet NERiMA, who play a soft and ambient style of indie, 30 Going On 13, an energetic skate punk band from Barrie with a lighthearted and tongue-in-cheek attitude, and Newmarket’s New Anthem.
I recently connected with vocalist/guitarist Daren Ciemins and vocalist/bassist Chris Hess of New Anthem, a four-piece pop-punk band who exude a sound in the vein of notable 2000’s acts Simple Plan and Good Charlotte, and harness both a downtrodden and jaded mentality, with an upbeat and optimistic view of life.
Coming off the release of their January 2020 debut LP, New Anthem saw their come-up in the local scene put on hold as the pandemic indefinitely suspended live music and touring. But though the last while may have caused hopelessness and cynicism (and justifiably so) for New Anthem — and certainly others — it has been a case of absence makes the heart grow fonder.
“It [the pandemic] has definitely helped us realize how bad we want it. Not being able to play shows because of lockdown, it’s been hard on us and a lot of bands. It’s made us want to play a show more than anything,” Ciemins said when asked how the band has been able to continue working and find inspiration during the shutdowns. “The idea of coming back and getting to play a really big show again has definitely helped.”
Not content to sit back and allow this to become a pipe dream on the constantly moving horizon, New Anthem has embraced the blue-collar mentality of rock 'n’ roll and taken steps to make their dream a reality as soon as possible, and not something that is handed to them later.
By helping to organize this event in a time when doing so means much more than just gaining interest among bands and fans but also navigating the rough waters of safety measures, constantly changing regulations, and the possibility of slander for doing so at all, New Anthem has shown their ‘go getter’ attitude, and their faith in the scene and the power that live music has.
When asked about their commitment to the scene and the anticipated response from fans, Hess said, “I’m hoping people are optimistic about going out and enjoying events again and are thrilled about being in each other’s company. I’m also hoping this will end a lot of rivalries a lot of musicians have and maybe people will be happier to just be together and share the stage.”
Ciemins added, “I think people are going to be excited to see shows coming back. The drive-in show is just a preview of what’s to come. But come the fall and the time that restrictions loosen, we’re definitely going to be touring as much as we can.”
July 10 is set to be a much needed taste of near normality in Ontario, and it has been made possible by New Anthem’s commitment to get back to doing what they love, the response of Jonathan Elmaleh, 30 Going On 13, NERiMA, and the event organizers and staff of the Sociable Pub, who will work hard to ensure the event is safe and goes to plan.
Envisioning the night, Hess laughed, “Fans can expect car fumes. A lot of car fumes. People honking their horns, lawn chairs, and hopefully a nice and safe event. I’m hoping the sound might be even better because we will be playing outside.”
Tickets are $20/vehicle at the gate, entry begins at 6:30 p.m., music starts at 7:30, and rain or shine.