Jonas & The Massive Attraction frontman Jonas Tomalty loves playing at outdoor music festivals — even when most of the audience isn’t there to hear him.
The way Tomalty sees it, he has “different levels” of fans — from rabid ones who have all of his albums, to casual ones who might have only heard one song on the radio.
He also has non-fans who are only at a festival to see another performer.
Tomalty had experience trying to win audiences over when his Montreal group opened for Van Halen on a North American tour.
“Van Halen fans are classically tough on opening acts,” he recalled. “And most of them had never heard of us.”
But he believes the trick to performing for a tough crowd is to play just hard enough — “somewhere between trying too hard and not giving a s–t.”
Care too little and the audience will get hostile. Care too much and you come off as desperate — “and that’s never cool,” Tomalty added, with a laugh.
The singer is looking forward to playing on Saturday night, Aug. 13, at the Central Music Festival, just north of Red Deer, because of the chance to “convert’” new fans.
There’s also the open-air experience. “We’re a cold country and you spend most of the year playing in small clubs, avoiding the cold,” he added, so summer provides a chance to meet fans in a more laid back, outdoor setting. “And we have a lot of fun backstage with other bands.”
Jonas & The Massive Attraction is becoming known to even casual rock radio listeners for the singles Big Slice and Seize the Day.
Big Slice, with its message of grabbing more from life, peaked at No. 7 on the Canadian rock charts earlier this year. Seize the Day is creeping towards the Top 20, said Tomalty, whose band has gone from being a five-piece to a quartet.
“We lost our keyboardist,” he said — a turn of events that’s led Tomalty to pick up the rhythm guitar to play it really loud.
He admitted, “I’m not a man of detail. My bandmates tease me about playing with mitts.”
But Tomalty is a man who knows his place in the scheme of things — and it’s as part of a band.
In a previous incarnation, he was simply known as Jonas and had a big following in Montreal. He once played to 7,000 fans in the Bell Centre, home of the Montreal Canadiens.
His debut, near platinum-selling self-titled album featured the hit Edge of Seventeen and was nominated for a Juno Award in 2005, when Tomalty was also nominated for New Artist of the Year.
But the singer confessed that he felt uncomfortable about his bandmates, including his best friend and “musical brother,” guitarist Corey Diabo, going unacknowledged.
“I always felt very strongly that I’ve never been a solo project” — so the band became The Massive Attraction.
Tomalty admitted it’s a different approach than that taken by a lot of frontmen, who eventually leave a group to become solo artists.
“I guess I’m the opposite.”