Skellig runners-up at Hard Rock Rising

After two trips to Toronto in eight days, Skellig is back in Ladysmith as runners-up in the Hard Rock Rising competition.

Members of Ladysmith band Skellig travel between stations on the subway in Toronto on their way to the Hard Rock Cafe. Skellig was runner-up in the Hard Rock Rising final battle of the bands March 8.

Members of Ladysmith band Skellig travel between stations on the subway in Toronto on their way to the Hard Rock Cafe. Skellig was runner-up in the Hard Rock Rising final battle of the bands March 8.

After two trips to Toronto and two live battle of the band performances in the space of eight days, Skellig is back in Ladysmith as runners-up in the Hard Rock Rising competition.

The Celtic rock band won its Hard Rock Rising battle of the bands March 1 at the Hard Rock Café in Toronto and advanced to the final battle of the bands, which took place March 8 in Toronto.

Skellig made it to the live battle of the bands after finishing third out of 300 to 400 bands across Canada in online voting in the Hard Rock Rising competition.

“We had an absolute blast,” said band member Lisa Burness. “It was so fun.”

Burness says the band met a lot of people who were curious about their instruments and about what they were doing during their two trips to Toronto, and they took many videos.

Burness has many great memories, starting right from the first plane ride.

Guitarist Dylan Wickham had never been on a plane before, and, during their first flight to Toronto, when the flight attendants found out, they pretended there was a problem with some of his paperwork and that he had to get off the plane, recalled Burness.

Skellig, who rented gear while they were in Toronto, performed in the first round of live battle of the bands March 1 and won.

“That was very exciting,” said Burness, noting quite a few people from Ladysmith and family members came to see them perform at the Hard Rock Café. “We were so shocked when we won.”

By the end of the first round of live battles, there were just three bands left — Skellig, Be Astronaut from Montreal and Hotel Royal from Oshawa/Whitby — and they performed in the final March 8.

Skellig flew back to Vancouver Island and played a CD release open mic March 3 in Chemainus and then set off for Toronto again March 7.

On that flight, Burness’s son Caleb told a flight attendant what they were doing, and then they made an announcement on the plane and Skellig ended up selling eight CDs, recalled Burness.

“Everyone we met wanted to buy CDs,” she said, somewhat incredulously. “Everyone wondered what we were up to.”

Burness says they were all a bit more nervous for this second performance, but again, there were familiar faces in the crowd, including a friend of hers from Ladysmith who surprised them at the show.

Be Astronaut ended up winning the competition.

“Both the other bands were really good too, and from what the judges said, it was a very close competition,” said Burness.

One of the highlights for Burness was busking and performing their song Stuff in Dundas Square — right in front of an “occu-pod” from the Occupy movement.

“It was a really good experience, just really fun,” she says of the entire journey. “It was a very good promo thing. What has been amazing is how people from the town and from Vancouver Island came behind us.”

And while two trips to Toronto in one week was very costly, Burness says it was all worth it.

“I wouldn’t not have done it for anything,” she said. “It was a great opportunity. We did much better than we ever thought we’d do when we first entered.

“It was awesome, people getting behind us and wishing us luck. It’s good to be in a community that’s so supportive of everything you do. It makes something like this a very humbling experience because people are willing you on.”

Skellig recently recorded its new CD Kingdom Come, and now that the band is back home, Skellig is focusing on getting its new music to fans.

The new 13-track album is now available in outlets around Ladysmith, and it will be available as a digital download in the coming weeks.

Skellig will celebrate the release of Kingdom Come once more during the first electric open mic at the Crofton Hotel on March 24.