In April, Toronto rock band Return For Refund wrapped up their 12-date Lift You Up tour in promotion of their recently released EP of the same name. Today the band continues their tour diary with Part 3.
"For the last leg of the tour, we were to be rejoined by the tonal arch-villian specializing in sonic implements, soon to be Doctor, Alexander Sasha Schwartz. As great as it was to have him back, it did feel odd not packing up the van without Rick, as we had been doing for the past two weeks before. Luckily, good ole Ricky lives only a downhill glide away and we get to see him all the time. However, his contribution to the first two legs, as a performer, as a photographer, as a driver, and as a laugh, cannot be understated.
Our next stop, the Doors Pub in Hamilton, a DIY stage we graced several years before. It’s a cool little venue that used to be Hamilton’s Mayoral Residence sometime back around the turn of the twentieth century. The basement, with bare stone foundation and massive century plus old wooden support beams , is a spot I personally always love having a bite to eat in. Upstairs, in the thirteen foot ceiling, stage-less drawing room, us bands make our stage. We made that stage and we rocked that stage. The show ran late, and there were few there to witness the rocking, but we did our jobs none the less.
The next night we pointed our compasses towards Guelph for what we knew would be a badass show with Voltang and Dumpster Mummy while they made their way across the country with comedian Wally Warwick. At the time, I knew very little about Voltang. I hadn’t listened to their music or caught a couple songs live. But what I did witness was the way people’s faces lit up when I told them I was going to be playing with them. That’s all I need to see. Any band that leaves that sort of glowing impression on those left in their wake is worth a shot.
I did not to take smashing in the front side panel of my trusty ole Grand Caravan as we departed the jam space as a bad omen. Our lovely Amandager was with us, and Rick, always a trusty and local friend, would be driving out to Guelph for the show. It was going to be a good night. And besides, the front headlight was functional and the passenger door, although noisier than before, was still able to close properly. Compared to the eight hour commutes we had become accustomed to, the one hour, forty five minute trek to Dstrct, right in the heart of Guelph, felt immeasurable.
Dstrct has a great stage. Our sound check was tight and promising. We took the stage after folk-punks “Mac ‘n Sleaze” pulled off an interesting string mash-up. We used our tour lights to flood the stage blue, allowing the in-house tech to play with his lights how he pleased. The result was one of the tightest shows of the tour. We took the stage strong, kept up the intensity the whole way through, and finished furiously.
It was great to see our old friends Nicole, who snaps shots with Canadian Beats, and her trusty man Julien, whose band “From The Ruins” we had the pleasure of rocking out with in Barrie. Rick Hall, the promoter, really does have a cool local rep for putting together tight shows and it was obvious in the crowd who were loud, present, and appreciative. Both our trusty Ricky and Nicole snapped some great shows for the night.
Dumpster Mummy took the stage after us and laid down an epically thick, artfully crafted, layer of sludge on all of our heads. The thickness of their tone and precision of their execution was a pleasure. Then, spanning the gap while Voltang setup behind, comedian Wally Warwick took the stage. Besides his captivating interest in old school WWF wrestling, he really grabbed my interest when he called Return For Refund, and I’m paraphrasing, “A bizarre matchup of line backers of led by what appears to be an Israeli folk singer, but it works.” I couldn’t argue with him. I definitely had a strong Llewyn Davis going on that night. After the show, he gave me the notes he took during our performance with the words, “Israeli folk singer” written in the middle. I have the note on my bookshelf of memories.
The next night, Apr 15 in Orillia at the Brownstown, was the last show of the tour. Still feeling accomplished from the show we had the night before, we rode into town feeling that only a complete disaster could bring down our moods. To accompany us for the show, we reached out to Grant Mackenzine, a phenomenal guitarist who had blown us away a few years before at the Bovine, and his prog partner, Kenny, who make up Jupiter Hollow, to open the night. Bringing both musical mastery and a great visual display with them, they kept venue captivated.
When RFR took the stage, we did our jobs, like we always do. Three weeks of setting up night after night, winning over different crowds, sleeping in different places, had given us a confidence that we didn’t have before. We knew that nothing could go wrong that hadn’t already gone wrong before. I could feel my voice in a new way that I hadn’t felt it like before. When I looked back at my brothers beside me, I saw something new in their eyes that I didn’t see before. A trust had grown, a confidence in each other, that could only have been developed on the road. When we left the Brownstone that night, I knew something that I didn’t know four weeks before at the release of “Lift You Up” at the Bovine. I knew something subtle, something unsaid that had to be whispered to you by the wind as it passed your ears, and shown to you by the sun as it sets over the highway. I knew we were just getting started.
The following Wednesday, we returned home and played the Hard Rock Cafe for Canadian Music Week. The show, like all our shows, rocked. That’s what we do. That’s why we’re here."