Photographs by Tyson Elder

It’s been three years, three months, one week, and two days since Hamilton’s Arkells have been in Victoria for a concert, but who’s  counting?

Let’s just say that Victoria has been anticipating this show for a very, very long time. Especially since the release of their Juno-nominated third album “High Noon” back in August 2014.

The atmosphere inside Sugar Nightclub was electric. A crowd filled with energy and Phillips Blue Buck were ready for a good old fashioned rock show when Dear Rouge took the stage at 7:30PM.

Unfortunately, the early start time seemed to be a hinderance for Vancouver’s very talented Dear Rouge. Their set seemed short and rushed. The band only managed to squeeze in a half dozen songs, unlike the set almost double that length in December when they opened for Phantogram in the same venue. They also have some interesting light setups, but we assume the time constraints factored those out as well.

Lead singer Danielle McTaggart made the most of the band’s time on stage with her dynamic stage presence while belting out their hit singles “I Heard I Had” and “Best Look Lately.” The band moved fluidly from each song to the next, pausing only to mention how excited they were to be on tour with Arkells, and that it was Danielle’s birthday. One of the highlights of the evening was hearing “Black To Gold,” the lead single off their debut record of the same name. The album is due out in March.


It seemed that, only moments from Dear Rouge’s departure from the stage, the beer-fuelled crowd grew restless waiting for Arkells to take the stage. The main dance floor of Sugar Nightclub packed in with people ready to dance and sing along to every song the band played. The moment Max, Mike, Nick, Tim, and Anthony hit the stage, the crowd let out a deafening roar.

Max Kerman — barely lit with a single red light — already had a commanding control of the room before a single note was struck. His presence and swagger was reminiscent of rock singers of the past like Bruce Springsteen or The Hold Steady’s Craig Finn.

Every photographer in the photo pit sang along with the crowd during the “Come To Light,” “Michigan Left,” and “Hey Kids.” It’s a great reminder that most concert photographers are music fans as well. Throughout the evening, it wasn’t uncommon to hear the entire crowd singing along with the band. From the photo pit to the booths at the back of Sugar Nightclub, the room was filled with fans.

There is a lot of movement and interaction during an Arkells live performance, and a bigger stage would certainly emphasize it. The band has always been energetic, and they’ve grown bigger than the fishbowl that is Sugar Nightclub. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see them headlining a show at Alix Goolden Hall or the McPherson Theatre sometime in the near future.

The band played a good mix of their three albums, but it was the encore where they really shone. With an acoustic version of “Book Club” and a cover of “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” with Dear Rouge. Over the last few years, Arkells have been known for their Motown covers, and it was great to finally see one of them live, here in Victoria.

A pivotal moment of the entire concert was the band’s last song of the night, “Leather Jacket.” If you didn’t feel the love in the room between the band and the crowd, you weren’t at the right concert. Adam Lee from Victoria Music Scene captured the song on video, and we will let it speak for itself. 

Saturday’s Arkells show was a real barnburner. It’s our hope at YYJ Rocktographers that we won’t have to wait another three years, three months, one week, and two days for the band to come back. Hopefully something a little sooner. Like Rifflandia.

We hear the band left those days open in their schedule…and are just waiting for a phone call.