Story by Adrian Brijbassi
Vacay.ca Managing Editor
TORONTO, ONTARIO — Casey Gibson’s first time to Toronto came in March during a record heat wave, made all the more intense by Filligar’s performances during Canadian Music Week. Gibson and his bandmates from Chicago returned two weeks ago to find the city basking again in sunshine and the electricity of a music festival.
“Toronto, to me, is looking like a gem right now,” Gibson said prior to Filligar’s NXNE festival performance at the Gladstone Hotel Ballroom in the Queen West area. “I really haven’t been to many cities like it at all. It’s like Chicago but with a lot bigger downtown and with a lot of different neighbourhoods, it looks like.”
One of the hardest-working and most talented young modern rock bands in the US, Filligar also received rave reviews as the supporting act for the Counting Crows, who handpicked them to join their current North America tour. From Toronto, Filligar headed back south for another month of touring with the Crows, and then in August they’ll continue playing gigs at small venues across the US. It’s not yet a glamorous life for these four, but when you’ve got the easy-going, adventurous attitude of Gibson and the Mathias brothers, who form the other three-quarters of the band, it’s a kick to be 20-something and rolling from one city to the next.
“We’re totally tourists when we travel around. We’re going to go to the Hockey Hall of Fame tomorrow,” Gibson said. “We love travelling. That’s why we do this whole thing. It’s really the most fun part of this job, for sure. We’ve been to a zillion places that I would’ve never been to if it wasn’t for playing music in this band.”
The group played gigs in Europe last year and have been back and forth through the States. They’re in awe of some of the things they’ve seen, like Niagara Falls, and some of the quirkiness that only visitors notice about a place. What music fans will instantly notice about Filligar is the level of intensity of their live performance. Gibson treats the piano as if it were a pond, splashing his hands on it and jumping into its ivory with his feet. Johnny Mathias, who is quickly turning into an accomplished frontman, matches Gibson’s energy with a fiery stage presence.
Although they’re American, Filligar has a Canadianness to them. The Mathias brothers (lead singer/guitarist Johnny, drummer Pete, and bassist Teddy) met Gibson while playing hockey as kids, and one of the band’s favourite songs to play in concert is Neil Young’s “Helpless,” with its evocative first line — “There is a town in north Ontario” — that every rock music fan in this country has sang out at some point.
Filligar’s own music, though, is well worth a listen. Bluesy, energetic and textured, the songs are reminiscent of both classic rock and the 1990’s grunge era. Their album, “The Nerve,” was nominated for Best Rock Album at the 2012 Independent Music Awards and their song, “Guilty Good Intentions” (you can hear a snippet in the video above), is hard-driving rock ‘n roll that’s perfectly suited for a road trip.
“You learn a lot about different cultures and different places when you travel,” said Johnny Mathias. “It absolutely influences you as a person, even more so than as a musician.”
MORE ON FILLIGAR
Website: Visit the band’s website at Filligar.com for full tour dates and to hear more of their music.