Saturday night of Canadian Music Week is huge. And while there are a couple of shows on Sunday, it’s really the last night of big, late shows. And… it’s Saturday night with a 4:00 AM last call!
We found ourselves at The Horseshoe Tavern for the United Talent Agency’s Showcase featuring The Julian Taylor Band. With an outstanding roster, UTA was able to put together a dynamic show. The supporting lineup included The Dead Projectionists, The Treble, One Bad Son, Midnight Shine, Julian Taylor Band, Birds of Bellwoods, Towers, and Radio Caroline.
One quick note, Midnight Shine was a late addition after Adam Baldwin was unable to play the showcase.
We arrived very early and were first in line, the only way to guarantee a good spot near the stage and our favourite bench seat. Now we don’t recommend trying to stand on that bench, not unless you want to get chucked out by security, but they do turn a blind eye to people sitting on the top of said bench. A nifty little trick for those of us who are of the shorter persuasion. Shout out to Lorna and Ian who we met in line and who were our table companions for most of the evening. They’re huge Julian Taylor fans and try to get to all of his live shows.
Our first band, The Dead Projectionists are a five-piece band who call Toronto home. They’ve got an ethereal rock thing going on and they were the perfect choice to get things started. I’ll be keeping my eye on their local live schedule. They’ve got a self-recorded and self-released album, called Detractor and we think you should give it a listen.
Second on the bill of eight, were The Treble. An alt-rock band from Winnipeg who delivered amazing harmonies, beautiful melodies and great hooks. They released their debut album in February and Modernaires should be on your playlist. Their live performance was mesmerizing. I have to admit, there was a moment where I wondered about lead singer, Mark Brusegard, “How cool do you have to be to wear a leather jacket when it’s so hot?”.
At 10:00 One Bad Son arrived. And they arrived with a bang. Energetic and at full volume, Shane and the rest of the band dominated the room. It was loud and it was fun and everybody was all in. There was jumping, spinning, flying hair and fingers. There was epic rock wailing and screaming. The Saskatoon boys were on fire!
Now if we’re being honest here, I wouldn’t have wanted to be the band to play after One Bad Son. How do you follow that? Next up was our last minute replacement band Midnight Shine. And yet when the guys got on stage and started playing, it was very different, and it was perfect. Still rock but with a lighter approach, blending roots, classic rock and modern rock. The four-piece from James Bay were engaging and Zach Tomatuk shredded on his gorgeous Ibanez JEM guitar. With it’s the tree of life inlay and gold bindings and trim, it was hard to look away.
Adrian Sutherland on lead vocals is a warm and charming presence on stage and along with George Gillies on drums and Stan Louttit on bass, they come together as one. Their voices blend together beautifully and the lyrics take us to open fields and northern Ontario. They were nominated for Best Rock CD at the 2015 Indigenous Music Awards and they’ve got a brand new single out too! Check out Sister Love below.
At the midnight hour The Julian Taylor Band took the stage. The stage was bursting with musicians, instruments, equipment and it was spectacular. Horns, two keyboards, drums, bass and guitars creating a full rich backdrop for Julian’s vocals.
We got to hear Fever, Set Me Free, Bobbi Champagne and so many more. Before singing the uplifting Just a Little Bit, Julian asked us if we’ve ever felt like giving up and admitted that yep, even he has. It didn’t feel like banter, it felt like a sincere conversation. This song’s a reminder that we should never give up and it was one of my favourite moments of the set.
For those of you who’ve never seen Julian live, you’re in for the most awesome surprise. Nothing can prepare you for the force that is The Julian Taylor Band. A non-stop, balls-out, sing from your heart connection. Rock, soul, R&B, jazz who needs labels? Let’s go with energetic, fun, infectious, make you wanna get up and dance music.
When the band left the stage, the crowd chanted hopefully for an encore until the tech put them out of their misery and turned up the bumper music.
At this point, there was a shift in the crowd. People who had come specifically to see Julian started to make their way towards the exit but at the same time, new people seemed to surge forward. By the time Birds of Bellwoods picked up their instruments the room was teeming with fans.
The Horseshoe now held a fairly young group and they were all singing along. It’s been a while since I’ve been to a live performance and there have been changes. Everything seemed just a little bit more. A little bit more theatrical, a little louder, a little more intense.
I got to hear some of my favourites from The Fifth including a powerful sing along version of Roll Your Stone and a much more intense version of Grey Ghosts. There were lots of new songs including their brand new single, A Year Ago. Lead singer Stevie let us know that the new album is on it’s way and I for one, am looking forward to it.
If you haven’t seen Birds of Bellwoods live, you should.
The crowd had thinned out a bit by the time Towers started to play. The bar was now more comfortably full and the band kept the energy level high.
I hadn’t seen Towers since December 2015 and clearly the guys are just getting better and better.
At about 2:15 I headed home. I’m still sorry that I missed the end of their set and that I didn’t get a chance to check out Radio Caroline but I needed some well deserved sleep. I’ve filed this band away as a band I need to see soon. It was an amazing week and honestly, I can’t wait to do it all over again next year.