Thunder Bay Rocking strums, drums and a blazing sax

The 24 Street Wailers Photo courtesy of: The 24 Street Wailers
The 24 Street Wailers Photo courtesy of: The 24 Street Wailers
The 24 Street Wailers Photo courtesy of: The 24 Street Wailers
The 24 Street Wailers Photo courtesy of: The 24 Street Wailers

Rocking strums and drums and a blazing sax raised the roof at the Apollo

THUNDER BAY  – An explosion of real hot rockabilly and rhythm, rock and roll and blues music event happened Tuesday night down at the Apollo.  Two bringing down the house bands; The 24 Street Wailers and The Ross Neilsen Band visiting Thunder Bay both played tap your foot to, dance to and make you feel good kind of music.  Both bands rocked for an incredible four hours making the crowd howl for more.


The 24 Street Wailers are a combination of rock ‘n’ roll and rockabilly-influenced musicians, who write and play their own songs and have remarkable creative talent.  The group hails from Toronto, ON and is touring across Canada and the United States of America.  During the summer the band mostly plays at festivals and in the winter they can be found playing at bars, clubs, rooms and events.

The group met at a post-secondary music program and formed The 24 Street Wailers (named after the street, three of the band members live on).  They are a band in their early twenties with the right group chemistry.  They make a person feel like they have been playing for years together.

Lindsay Beaver (an international song winner) is the bands lead edgy singer and ninja drummer.  She plays fast around the drums and belts out fierce tunes.  She is a hot rod force not to be reckoned with. “We are not a sit down kind of band. We are more of a get up and party kind of band.  We are how we sound. We are very interactive and we are just about having a good time.”

Lindsay always had instruments around her.  Her influences were the likes of Little Richard and Etta James.  She learned to “cut her teeth” in the Halifax thriving blues scene.  “Our genera are blues and rockabilly.  You know it’s not quite straight up blues.  We like to rock and roll.”

Michael Archer (Lindsay’s husband) raises the acoustical tone for the group when playing on his Harmony bass.  He got the opportunity to see a lot of great artists growing up because his parents were really into music.  The bass was thrown at him when his brothers took the other instruments in their family band.  He loves all kinds of music.  However, as Michael explains “Rockabilly is definitely where my heart is.”  It shows when he is strumming on his bass strings.

Emily Burgess is the lead guitarist. Can you say the likes of Eddie Cochran reincarnated?  She plays every chord with precision.  Emily was exposed to a lot of music around her childhood house and practiced playing a lot throughout her school years.  She has a great sense of humor and brings power to the rockabilly guitar scene.

Saxophonist Jon Wong’s (National Blues best horn winner) hard jamming can easily persuade a person to want to learn the sax.  He rocked and rolled his sax, turning it into an electric organ on stage and chairs and throughout the bar.  According to John, he wouldn’t be playing if it wasn’t for his elementary school music teacher.  John’s teacher took the band students to play real gigs and encouraged his music.  His dad continued supporting John’s music talents by taking him to different concerts.  “It’s important to support education centers, the arts and the youth in their musical pursuits.”

Together Lindsay and Emily have written the songs for two albums.  The group recorded their first studio album last year called “Unshakeable”.  CBC voted it one of the top ten blues cd of 2012.  They recently put out their “Live in Halifax” CD.  They mostly play their own music and from time to time they play unknown cover music.  The 24 Street Wailers won a Maple Blues award and they were an International Blues Challenge semifinalist.

The group has been to Thunder Bay before and they will continue to come back. 

“We have a special relationship with Thunder Bay.  We love the Apollo and our fans here.  The Apollo is so good to musicians.  They are really special people who take care of musicians.  Apollo rocks and they are a gem in Thunder Bay.  This is a hub for a lot of touring musicians.  Every good band we know comes through Thunder Bay.  If you tour the country, you have to come through Thunder Bay.  That’s a great thing because the Apollo is here.  There is not much going on between Sault Saint Marie and Winnipeg and the Apollo really makes that work for a lot of national touring bands.”

“Ross Neilson brought us to the Apollo.  The more we play here, the more different people come out to our show. The sound system at the Apollo is one of the best in Canada.  Sheila books some of the best bands to come to the Apollo.  We look forward to coming back to play here this year.” 

The 24 Street Wailers were thrilled to play in Thunder Bay and to play together with the Ross Neilson band.  The two bands just happened to be passing through town and playing on the same day.  The 24 Street Wailers crowd chanted for an encore.  They got the crowd fired up and they were a tough act to follow.


Ross Neilson Photo by:  Dylan McKinnon
Ross Neilsen Photo by: Dylan McKinnon

When the Ross Neilsen band got up to play, people’s hips and feet started moving on the dance floor and the band raised the roof further. Ross Neilsen and band were pouring a stiff shot of rock, blues and country for the crowd.  The crowd was punch-drunk by the intoxicating sounds being belted out by the trio.  With a singer, guitarist and drummer with no limits these guys are certified electric. 

This well-seasoned band is from Fredericton, New Brunswick and they are touring across Canada.  It formed in 2006 with the bass player joining the group last fall.  The Ross Neilsen Band is a varied blues and rock group, who stop in Thunder Bay twice a year.  They play at the Apollo because of the hostess Shelia and the great rock and roll and sound system room.  The band loves how the people of Thunder Bay “rock out” to their music.

For twenty five years Ross has been playing guitar and singing.  He has the perfect blend of a soaring voice and musicality; he leaves you wanting more. He is a fan of old style blues like Chicago Texas blues and southern rock like the Allman Brothers.  When he turned thirty he began taking his career seriously by leaving his job, home and girlfriend to tour and record albums.   

“Playing live music to an audience who appreciate it is the ultimate. It’s a high.  It’s the best experience.  Beyond playing, getting to travel the country is an awesome experience.  It’s a beautiful country. You get to meet cool people all over the place.  We have made amazing friends coast to coast; we would have never met them if we were not doing this for a living.  The payoff is playing, but the icing is the wonderful people you get to meet.”

Karl Gans Photo by:  Dylan McKinnon
Karl Gans Photo by: Dylan McKinnon

The drummer Karl Gans comes from a “70’s” pop rock background.  It is without a doubt he knows his way around the sticks.  He set the pace for the night and stayed “in the pocket”.  Karl was crisp and on fire.  He is a powerful master on the cylinders.  He played a lot of jazz and spent ten years playing all kinds of late 80’s and 90’s cover band. 

Jamie Guitar Photo by:  Dylan McKinnon
Jamie Guitar Photo by: Dylan McKinnon

Jamie Guitar is a fairly in demand upright bass player, rockabilly style on the east coast.  He is a wicked, dedicated and passionate bass player, bringing together the beat and melody of the songs.  He listened to a lot of alternative country and rockabilly music and it prompted him to start playing guitar.  

The Ross Neilsen band doesn’t write or play genera specific music.  “We just try to write a good song.  If it’s not a blues specific it’s fine by us.  We are not afraid to put all kinds of influences in a song.  If it’s a country song, it’s a country song and we play it.  We are not concerned with being called a certain genera.  We are just concerned with making, recording and playing good music.”

The band is a varied blues rock band appealing to various ages.  The crowd at the Apollo was a mixed age group.  One thing everyone had in common is they were all having an absolute superb time.  Almost everyone was either dancing, clapping, toe tapping or head bobbing.  It gave a sense of the refined style of music being played.

The band plays mostly their music.  From time to time, they will play a cover song with their own twist on it.  To date, Ross has released nine albums.  Four albums are live and the other five are studio recordings.  Their latest fiery cd is Resurrection.  According to the bands website they have won and been nominated for: “Best New Artist at The Maple Blues Awards in 2010, two Rising Star nominations from CBC, back to back Blues Album of the Year nominations from the East Coast Music Association, a win for Best Blues Recording for Redemption at the 2010 Music NB awards and in 2012 Neilsen was a semifinalist in the solo/duo category at the International Blues Challenge in Memphis, TN.”

The only way to truly appreciate and get to know more about this band is to see them live or visit their website.  “We are not on the radio and we believe touring is the only way to reach and increase our fan base.  We tour as much as we can.  We try to play anywhere that will have us.  If people love the show, we try to get them one bleeding ear at a time.”

The band describes them as: “We are a rumbustious and high energy band.”  Johnny Winter said back in the day “We play the blues with the intensity of rock and roll.”  Ross feels “It doesn’t mean it isn’t blues.  It just means it’s not your daddy’s blues.  It’s not your old school cry me a beer music.  There’s nothing wrong with that.”

A person can find the Ross Neilsen Band playing often in varied venues.  “We like to play as much as possible.  Apollo is a great rock room.  We tone it down for sing pretty shows for small venues.  We do varied shows from rock shows, to sing pretty shows, to festivals, to tiny clubs.  Every venue is meaningful for us.  It gives us a different audience and we get to flex our muscles in a place like this.  That keeps us appreciating every type of venue.  Not every show is a high rock show but that’s good.  It keeps things real.”

A person could tell the crowd was connecting and rekindling to the band’s music.  “The best part of performing is seeing people being moved by what you’re doing.  Whether they are sweaty and dancing and into it and you can see it.  That’s as gratifying as playing at a small venue and seeing someone who is emotionally moved by you.” 

“At the Apollo, a person being moved means it all, whether it’s their hips or their hearts being moved.  That’s what it’s all about.  People rocking out and not scared to rock out.”

People were definitely rocking out to the Ross Neilsen Band and loving every minute of the night.

If you missed these two dynamic bands make sure to check them out when they return later this year. 

Don’t miss out on anymore great music acts in Thunder Bay, ON!

Check out all the varied venues for extreme talent being played throughout Thunder Bay.  The city has a lot of local and out of town talent playing live music or DJ music every day.

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