For fans of: Rival Sons, The Glorious Sons, The White Stripes
Left to right: Jake Sill, Steven Mansfield, friend Brian Guizzo, Josh Hearnden
Photo by Matt Campbell
Merriam-Webster dictionary defines rock and roll as “popular music usually played on electronically amplified instruments and characterized by a persistent heavily accented beat, repetition of simple phrases, and often country, folk, and blues elements.” Calgarians that have been kicking around The Palomino, Marquee (R.I.P.), and Dickens the last few years would define it as “Open f*ckin’ Air!” The band that has been soaring through the city’s most revelrous venues currently consists of howling vocalist Steven Mansfield, heavy hitter Josh Hearnden behind the drums, groover Taylor Jones on bass, and riff master Jake Sill on 6 string duties. The evocative group have an impressive resume under their belts, playing shows with modern giants Rival Sons, The Trews, and The Glorious Sons. They’ve also earned their keep with the veterans, sharing the stage with classic rockers Uriah Heep and Sebastian Bach. Don’t be mistaken for a second by these triumphs though, because Open Air were no strangers to learning to walk before you can fly….
Open Air blew onto the scene in 2009, and was piloted by Steven Mansfield and Josh Hearnden. Two rocker dudes scurrying around the high school halls, Hearnden caught the towering (in stature and hair) Mansfield belting out backing vocals while slapping the bass in a Def Leppard cover band. The pair joined forces with original guitarists Jesse Kohn and Steven Lilley, as well as original bassist Tyler Bourne, making Open Air ready to fly.
Listen to "Night Owl" on our April 2020 playlist on Spotify
The band just released their brand new single “Night Owl” in November of 2019, and it demands to be played loud. The opening riff struck me like a thousand razors to the back of the neck when I first heard it live in 2017, and Hearnden’s powerhouse groove evokes a stomp worthy of John Bonham’s praise. Not only is it decorated with tasty licks and a shot-through-the-heart chorus, it shows Open Air don’t fake a thing for their audience. “That song is very close to my heart,” Mansfield shares warmly. “It’s about suffering from stage anxiety and the lack of identity on stage, and losing yourself to the show as well as to anxiety at the same time. It’s about having to play it cool, and brush it off in front of the X amount of people in attendance that night.” While Open Air can come across as rather enigmatic, their journals are in the songs and on the stage. “Open Air’s mission every night on stage is to play our music and enjoy it. Have fun with it. No personas, no pretending, just us guys having fun and making the best of the space we have and the time we have,” Mansfield establishes.
As alluded to earlier, Open Air back up their Zeppelin-meets-White Stripes sound with an equally heroic resume. When you’ve shared the stage with everyone from One Bad Son to Sebastian Bach, is it even possible to pick a favorite? “Memorable shows for us would be Rival Sons #1,” the band gush. “Playing with our biggest influences in music was huge for us. They’re who we would strive to be as musicians, as we’ve seen their work ethic first hand. They live and breathe their music.” Mansfield also shares how Open Air has helped him achieve some of his nearest and dearest dreams, which included opening for The Trews.
“The Trews are a band I set a goal to open for when I became a musician,” he reminisces.
On the topic of current players in the vicious game, Open Air profess their adoration for Arctic Monkeys, The Trews, The Glorious Sons, Monster Truck, The Struts, Welshly Arms, and Nothing But Thieves. “So much good rock music right now.” Open Air fully intend to jump in on that circus, with plans to release more new music this year.
The refrain of “Night Owl” frequents a cathartic, passionate cry from Mansfield: “show me something real!” Beyond hard driving rock n’ roll in a city that has long favored other sounds, Open Air shows Calgary rock fans something real about musicianship, authenticity, brotherhood, and most importantly, only looking upwards.
Listen to Open Air, as well as the rest of this month's artists on our Spotify playlist