Monday, November 3, 2014

The Strumbellas @ Imperial -- 10/30/14

I've said a few times before on this blog, there's a certain ubiquitous folk sound that I have just "gotten over". Maybe it was the over saturation, maybe I've just moved past it, but I find myself thinking it less and less interesting.
That being said, there are still some bands that prove there's still some good folk out there, and The Strumbellas is one of them. Which the Toronto band did last week as they took to The Imperial, as part of their Ride On North America Tour.


First up was Edmonton's The Provincial Archive. The four-piece had a poppy, folsky sound reminiscent of early Decemberists, as they played songs from their recent album It's All Shaken Wonder. 
Starting with the lead off track from the album, "Daisy Garden", lead singer Craig Schram introduced every song with a brief story, occasionally switching off between guitar and banjo, and even taking one song solo as the rest of the band took a break for "Land Machines".
The crowd stadily grew, and made their way towards the stage, as the set went on thanks to catchy songs like "Common Cards", and "Weight and Sea" from their previous album,  Maybe We Could Be Holy, which got some clapping along,
Their set ran for about 45 minutes -- maybe a little long for an opener -- but it was a solid set nonetheless, and I'm looking forward to the next time they're back.


The six members of The Strumbellas packed the stage launching immediately into "Home Sweet Home" from their Juno winning album We Still Move On Dance Floors, getting the crowd doing just that.

The entire band had a great energy and presence on stage -- especially David Ritter on keys and lead singer Simon Ward -- and a very loose vibe; they joked around with the crowd, and never wasted an opportunity to needle each other. They made even a packed Imperial feel like an intimate hangout in someone's living room.

Musically, their "folk popgrass" sound had songs ranging from a slower, country jams to a fiery rocking  and everything inbetween -- with plenty of stompin' and clappin' and singing along to their deceptively upbeat songs, a lot of which about death. Highlights included the anthemic "End of an Era", the explosive energy of "Sheriff", and a new song that they "weren't finished fighting about".
There was also a great moment where Simon said he was going to try a song off-mic, unplugging his guitar and stepping to the front of the stage for a beautiful song "The Fire", as the rest of the band joined him off-mic and the crowd shushed each other into silence.

They wrapped up the main set with "Sailing", but of course were back for more -- one member joking that the whole encore concept was "More awkward than sleeping with your wife's sister" -- and they wrapped up with a couple more, including the raucous "Did I Die" that even included a harmonized rap from Simon & David.

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