The story of how Almost Cool came together as a cohesive performing unit is an interesting one that takes place over a number of years.
In and around the winter of 2007, three guys got together and started hosting a small open mic at the McGibbon Hotel in Georgetown, Ontario. One of these guys was Bill Sykes. They played as a threesome for a little under a year, and had some success is bringing others to the bar to jam out on Thursday nights.
One night, Bill realized that they all sounded pretty good together, but they were missing a bassist. Bill called Phil McBride, a resident of Acton and another Georgetown High alumni, who had picked up the bass about 6 months earlier, and encouraged him to come out to play. Phil was nervous about playing on stage being pretty new to the bass, but decided to give it a shot. He didn’t leave the stage all night, and became a regular participant on Thursday nights, and was almost always the only bassist to show up.
They played this way for another few months, but then our regular drummer got pretty busy with life and couldn’t come out regularly any more. Phil happened to have an old Network 5-piece drum kit collecting dust at his house and he brought it in for anyone who wanted to play to beat up on. Then one night Phil surprised everyone when he showed up to the bar with a newly purchased and complete professional sound system.
All of a sudden, the three of us realized that we could actually pass as a band…. minus a drummer, but we never had a problem finding someone to play when we needed it.
Things went on for another number of months, until circumstances led us to decide to find a new venue for our Thursday night jam nights. In the early spring of 2010, the three of us were enthusiastically welcomed to the St. George Pub just up the road. We had a rocky first couple of weeks figuring out the new lay of the land, but people came out to support us and we got into a great groove and were back to pretending to be rock stars every week. It was our first night at the George that we came up with the name Almost Cool.
Once at the George, Mike Downes, a resident of Glen Williams began to come out regularly. We knew Mike through school and other relationships with his family. Mike brought a new dynamic to the group, doubled the size of our song list instantly and added a second lead singer to our group.
We played a couple of small gigs, one with a drummer we’d borrowed through a reference, and one with just the four of us playing acoustic. But we were a rock band without a drummer and it felt…. weird and incomplete.
One night in late 2010, a bunch of people came into the pub on a Thursday night while the four of us were jamming our hearts out. We finished our song, and Bill went on to remind everyone in the pub that it was a open mic and that anyone was welcome to join us on stage to jam out, or to take the stage and do their own thing. Suddenly, this new group of people began to pressure a young woman with them to go play the drums that were collecting dust behind us. Reluctantly, this young woman came up and asked if she could play. We were ecstatic to have a drummer to play with, and the fact that she was a FEMALE drummer was pretty awesome (you don’t see many of those).
Having told us that she was an “okay drummer” and that she really didn’t know any of the music we played (generational gap) she asked us to take it easy on her. We picked What I Like About You by The Romantics and gave her the basic beat. Bill played the intro….. and young Bethany Jackson, yet another local, rocked the living hell out of our poor and unprepared drum kit. She played the song at 1.5x speed and hard and loud… and we fell in love with her instantly. We proceeded to play the hardest and fastest stuff we had on our list, with Phil giving her visual cues, which she picked up on instantly.
So that was it; we had our drummer. We were a band.
Throughout most of this story, another guy showed up almost all the time and jammed with us. His name is Bill McBride; Phil’s father, usually called Dad to keep from confusing the other Bill. Dad plays violin/fiddle and has this really interesting ability to find the weirdest vocal harmonies with no effort whatsoever, further rounding out our sound. Dad officially became a member of the band when he played with us at the pub for St. Patrick’s Day 2012; the year we had crowd surfers at the George.
The latest addition to the group is the lead-guitarist, Marshall Brown. Marshall started coming to the open mic around mid-2013 after coming across an ad we had posted online for our weekly jam night. Becoming a regular guest, he quickly picked up our sound and learned our repertoire. So when the opening came up for a new lead guitarist, Marshall seemed like the perfect fit.
Our Thursday night sessions are almost therapeutic to us. Our primary motivation for performing come from deep rooted passions for everything having to do with music. We love performing for a crowd, and for us, there is no greater high than seeing people dance and sing and rock out to the sound that we make.