Mammoth WVH is written across the marquee of The Danforth Music Hall in black bold lettering, rock fans of all ages making their way inside the beautiful venue. Grabbing a t-shirt to support the bands before rushing towards the stage, everyone piled into the venue, wanting the perfect spot to witness both Mammoth WVH and Nita Strauss tear up the stage with their extraordinary guitar playing.
Mammoth WVH – Nita Strauss
The Danforth Music Hall, Toronto – 13 November 2023
Words And Photography: Taylor Cameron
Nita Strauss and her band of talented musicians promptly took the stage at 6 pm. Kicking off the set with Summer Storm, Strauss’ fingers effortlessly danced across the fretboard of her Ibanez guitar, whipping her hair around as she headbanged along to the drum beat played by her fiancé Josh Villalta. Running across the stage, Strauss entertained everyone in the audience, her playing enticing and exciting.
“Hello, Toronto,” Strauss smiled as she took the mic. “This is our third time here this year. It’s becoming our second home,” and the crowd went wild. “We’re going to go back a few years and play a track from my debut album if that’s okay,” she asked the crowd. An enthusiastic audience member yells, “We don’t mind at all,” and the band ripped into the heavy rocker Mariana’s Trench.
Halfway through the set, vocalist Kasey Karlsen joined the band onstage to deliver powerful but gruff vocals on some of Strauss’ most successful songs. The Wolf You Feed, Dead Inside, and the set closer Victorious are stand-out tracks in the set.
Everyone was throwing their fists in the air and screaming “victorious” every time it was said in the chorus. Strauss and her band were the perfect way to kick off this awesome night of rock ‘n’ roll.
Crunchy guitars filled the room as five shadowy figures stepped out onto the stage. “How are you doing, Toronto?” Wolfgang Van Halen yelled as the stage lit up in red lights. The band kicked into, Right?, the opening track of his latest album, Mammoth II.
Being the second time Mammoth WVH have graced the stage of the Danforth Music Hall in a year and a half, the audience loudly cheered, warmly welcoming back Van Halen and his extraordinary band.
Wolfgang Van Halen’s melodic vocals filled the room, the set starting off strong. An incredible musician, Van Halen commands the stage with ease. It takes mere seconds for him to capture the attention of everyone in the room. Intertwining songs from both of his albums, the set list is organized perfectly to keep things exciting and intriguing. From Epiphany to Like A Pastime, each song was delivered perfectly.
“This next song makes me really happy. It was my dad’s favourite. This is Think It Over,” Van Halen announced as he strummed the melodic opening riff before the rest of the band kicked into the hard rocker.
An incredibly tight unit, Wolfgang has curated the perfect live band to deliver his fantastic albums. Mammoth’s live show is always extremely captivating and memorable.
Slowing things down, Van Halen took the stage alone with his acoustic guitar to play Distance, a song written for his late father, Eddie Van Halen. “On our last tour, there were a few shows we had to play as a three-piece because of a family emergency,” he says. “During those shows, I played this song the way it was written, on an acoustic guitar, and I was hoping I could play it that way for you tonight.” The crowd cheered loudly.
Everyone sang along to every word, Van Halen smiling out into the crowd. Distance is always an emotional moment during the show.
Getting back to the regularly scheduled program of rock ‘n’ roll, the band ripped into You’re To Blame, a track Wolfgang described as their most Metal track to date. A sea of headbangers and horns thrown in the air are seen as heavy guitar riffs and intense drum fills echo throughout the venue. This new song is made for a live show.
Ending the set with Take A Bow, the lights go dark as the band leaves the stage. The room is not silent for a moment.
“We wouldn’t do that,” Wolfgang laughs as the band takes the stage for an encore. “It’s just show biz, isn’t it? We do it for the excitement.”
Closing out the set with Another Celebration At The End Of The World and Don’t Back Down, the crowd cheered for more, not wanting the night to end. “Thank you again, Toronto,” Wolfgang smiles. “Thank you for showing up for us and for filling this room.”
It was everyone’s pleasure.