Tuesday, August 21st, 2007
The Dog Days Of Summer
Within the last month, I’ve been to a number of festivals around Southern Ontario which could lay claim to the title of “most laid back music fest in the province” – first Hillside, then Wolfe Island and finally this past Sunday, one to out-mellow them all, Dog Day Afternoon.
Less a festival than a backyard party on a farm just outside of Guelph, Dog Day has been going on for some eight years (give or take?) and slowly growing each time but based on this year’s, at a very slow pace. The show is perennially headlined by The Sadies and a lineup of local talent to cater to a wider breadth of taste and genre than you might expect.
Opening things this year was Shannon Lyon, a Kitchener-Waterloo native whose name I remembered from my university days when he was fronting an outfit called the Shannon Lyon Pop Explosion. I don’t really remember what they sounded like but the name is probably some indication… anyways, it seems in the interim he’s given up on the exploding pop and taken up the mantle of raspy troubadour. Superficially reminiscent of Steve Earle, Lyon’s slow set was a good fit for the warm, lay in the grass afternoon.
The next act was meant to be Rolf Klausener of The Acorn playing solo but unfortunately he was caught in traffic east of Toronto (a snarl which would come back to cause problems later on) so Gurf Morlix stepped up instead. I’d never heard of Morlix before but I had heard him and so, probably, have you. The Austinite, who spends Summers on Georgian Bay, produced and played on Lucinda Williams’ best records. He also proved himself an impressive singer-songwriter in his own right, his weathered voice and persona radiating experience and authenticity. Watching him perform a set of originals and covers, you knew you were in the presence of greatness.
When I first saw the DDA lineup and saw We’re Marching On in it, my reaction was, “Really? WAMO? Really?” They were not an act I’d expect to play a farm setting such as this one or to the audience that I’d expect to attend… but here they were, the first loud act of the day and, well, I think my initial instincts were right. Their twitchy spaz-pop didn’t seem to connect at all with the lawn chair set and the applause was definitely more polite than enthusiastic. It didn’t help that the band probably felt just as awkward and came across both a bit hostile and defensive. Just not their crowd.
Far more crowd-pleasing were The Midways, who specialized in ’50s-era Farfisa-driven, good times rock’n’roll. Certainly not challenging or even especially memorable, but well-executed and perfectly suited to the barbeque circuit vibe. And they got the little kids dancing. You can’t fault anyone that gets the little kids dancing.
I’d been meaning to see The Bruce Peninsula a few times this Summer but hadn’t gotten the chance till now. Comprised of a slew of Toronto musicians who split their time amongst numerous other gigs (how novel!), Bruce Peninsula stood out for how they utilized most of them – rather than hand everyone a guitar and jam it out, the five ladies in the band were acted as a choir though not of angels – more like ghosts. When combined with the raw field holler of bandleader Neil Haverty, they evoked a blend of deep gospel and blues and Southern Gothic that was unexpected and mesmerizing. They’re working at committing their songs to wire recorder and play next at the Tranzac on September 5.
Photos: Bruce Peninsula @ Dog Day Afternoon – August 19, 2007
MySpace: Bruce Peninsula
Guelph’s Tacoma Hellfarm Tragedy got the penultimate slot of the night though that turned into an extended engagement as by 7:30, The Sadies still hadn’t shown up. They were delayed by the same traffic that derailed The Acorn’s performance and so the Tacomas had to fill up time which they did handily with their hard-edged country rock. Armed with a shit-hot guitarist who certainly liked to play as much as possibly while staying on the right side of tasteful, they tore it up as long as they could, eventually running out of tunes and leaving everyone left to wonder what was going to happen next.
What did happen is that a fair bit of the audience called it a day and headed home. Too bad for them, as it turned out, as The Sadies rolled in around a quarter past 8, set up their gear, changed into the Nudie suits and by 8:30 were ready to go. Hallelujah. I was a bit shocked to realize that I hadn’t seen The Sadies live since last February when they recorded their live album. Granted, that was a night that could keep me going for a good while but that’s still a long time to go Sadie-free. Happily, they were still as amazing a live act as ever, even as flustered as they surely were after arriving some four hours later than planned.
Watching The Sadies work is something to behold – simultaneously whirlwind chaotic and surgically precise, they tore through their set with old faves like “Sixteen Mile Creek” (which I’m especially fond of because a) its namesake ran next to where I grew up and b) it rocks hard) as well as new material from New Seasons, due out September 18 and some choice covers including Neil Young’s “Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere”. The experience was only heightened by the fact that they were playing to a crowd of surely less than 100 people in a wide-open field. It wasn’t a concert, it was a barn dance. It was a hoe down. It was excellent.
The Gauntlet talked to The Sadies about growing up in such a musical household.
Many thanks to Brendan for the invite to the party and to Erin for the ride to the party. And to the party. It wouldn’t have been a party without the party. As I mentioned in the opening, it’s been pretty cool doing all these small and cozy day-long shows over the past month. No in-your-face advertising, drunken boors or absurdly-priced food to deal with. So what’s next on the calendar… Virgin Fest. Riiiight. Actually, I kid – I’m really looking forward to V Fest. For reals.
And on a completely different note, behold – the trailer for Harold & Kumar Go To Amsterdam, aka the BEST MOVIE OF 2008.