Fugitive Underground
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Fugitive Underground

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"Of battles and bands"

In the Age of Idol, Battala Rockstars attempts to take the battle-of-the-bands contest to a new level of engagement

It’s a Wednesday night at the Reverb and the room is sparsely populated with small clusters of young-ish concertgoers, a dozen or so of whom are lined up in front of the stage as a jock-looking frontman aims his guitar with phallic intent towards a leggy blonde in a short black dress wielding a digital camera. The move smacks of poseurdom, but seems oddly appropriate for the music — radio-ready metal with big riffs and Nickelback-style vocals — and as a caricature of stadium rawk it’s almost spot-on. But this is a serious show. In fact, it’s a battle — the final showcase during round one of Battala Rockstars’ battle of the bands.

It takes me a second to remember that such onstage posing is not only acceptable it’s encouraged. And Fugitive Underground seem well aware of how they project their intensity out into the room (the camera girl appears to be in the band’s entourage). Unlike the 311-aping Moglee — who play prior and seem so unaware of themselves that they don’t even notice when their set time is up — or the brat-punks of Black Rainbows, who follow with a set that’s all spazz and no control, Fugitive Underground (F.U. for short — seriously) are the perfect contenders for Battala.

After the performance, the judges — veteran music journalist Karen Bliss, former I Mother Earth singer Edwin, super producer Gavin Brown (Billy Talent, Metric) and Goldfinger drummer Darren Pfeiffer — have nothing but praise for the band. Hearing such encouraging remarks from industry pros should go a long way to reinforcing F.U.’s confidence as they’re gearing up to prove themselves against 15 other bands (including Moglee and the Black Rainbows) as round two begins this Wednesday (July 8) and runs until July 29.

According to the contest’s creator Kris Christie, the level of professionalism that F.U. displayed is essential. “The judges judge on creativity, musicianship, performance and songwriting capabilities. That’s about 50 per cent of it, and then I have a crew of about four or five people who are doing their homework to see what kind of business sense they also have,” he says. “Because if we’re going to put a massive investment into this when we’re done, we really want to find that band that has the music and performance capabilities but also has that business sense behind them.”

As for the investment, Christie says that the winning package is a $10,000 demo — they’re working with a few studios to see which one is the best fit for the band —as well as a national tour. “Our goal is to take Battala Rockstars to each of the 12 markets [across the country] and have the band as headliners,” he says. “We want the winning band to be the reason that other bands sign up across Canada.”

The national ambition isn’t the only thing that Christie is hoping will set Battala apart from the many battles that have raged before. This contest features literal head-to-head competition on two stages. They utilized the setup during last year’s battle, which took place at Jeff Healey’s Roadhouse, but having to construct a makeshift second stage made for less than ideal conditions according to Bliss. This year, they’re saving the head-to-head action for the final showdown on August 26.

The obvious question for the Battala crew is how do they think their show will fare among audiences who are accustomed to the American and Canadian Idol phenomenon. Bliss is less than receptive to even the mention of the “I” word, but Christie welcomes discussion of the Idol ethos. “We had some footage on eTalk Daily and they kind of called us the Canadian Idol for the rock musicians. I actually have no problem being compared to that. Our goal next summer is to look at shooting a pilot and maybe create a reality show around it. That’s kind of the ultimate goal, to bring the television aspect to it but keep it event-driven. Idol’s success is to create the excitement before they even get out there. It’s a good business model to follow.”

But first, there’s the task at hand: choosing a winner. The judges are looking for, in Bliss’ words, “a great band. And great bands are hard to find.” With about 168 entrants, who were then whittled down to the 36 that competed in the first round, the real challenge seems to be keeping a positive mental attitude.

“More often than not, the bands aren’t good,” says Bliss. “So the bands that end up in the semi-finals, it’s pretty clear cut. It’s not like we have six wicked bands each week; that just never happens. In a way it’s really easy because the ones that stand out really stand out. The hardest thing is actually picking which crappy band is going to go through to the next round over the next crappy band. That’s way more difficult than picking who’s great and should go forward.”

With Canadian Idol on hiatus, the time may be right for a reality show searching for the next Nickelback. It couldn’t be any worse than The ONE.

Round two of Battala Rockstars runs July 8, 15, 22 and 29 at The Reverb (651 Queen W.).

- EYEWEEKLY.com (by Chris Bilton)


A disc and DVD are currently in production.



An alternative-rock band with a metal edge, Fugitive Underground is a band prides itself on standing apart from the pack. The group's dark, bitter songs, laden with references to drug addiction, love, & death, occupy a musical landscape somewhere between Alexis On Fire's intense head bangers and Alice In Chains grinding anthems. Fugitive Underground "F.U." for short, were formed in 2003, by Ryan Anthony Gollogly (vocals/guitar), with long time friend/brother in law William Franklyn Campbell (bass/vocals), after a long & indepth search the trio was set with Conrad Keith Thompson on (drums/vocals) together they made the newly christened Fugitive Underground.

Sick of day jobs "F.U." set out to make a name for themselves & in 2009 alone have opened for a range of disparate acts, including Death By Stereo, Helix, Strung Out, This Is A Standoff, Moneen @ historic venues like, Opera House, Rock N' Roll Heaven, The Reverb, Hard Rock Cafe & MANY MORE!

Fugitive Underground's atributes include: Placing 1st in a Paragon Battle @ Hard Rock Cafe (Toronto), being second place finalsist in K-Rocks Bandslam, airplay on K-Rock 105.7, & The Drive 98.9, placing top 8 out of 100's of bands in Battala Rockstars, the 2010 K-Rocks Bandslam Champions & were feartured in an Eye Weekly article that tagged them as being "the next big Canadian band".