On a cold winter night in Toronto, with snow on the ground and a feeling of pre-holiday energy in the air, a sold out crowd packed Lee’s Palace to see The Dead South bring their energy to the stage.
The Regina, Saskatchewan band were on their second of back-to-back sold out nights in Toronto, but showed no signs of fatigue in their set. And as the music played, the crowd reacted, loving every minute of it.
The show started with Toronto’s own Johnson Crook – warming up the stage and the crowd, and playing songs from their 2017 debut record, The Album.
We’re no strangers to Johnson Crook and their music, we’ve seen the live show, but this was the first time we’d seen them on the Lee’s Palace stage, looking out over a sold out crowd, and playing their hearts out.
The set was their last of the year, and it was clear that they weren’t holding anything back as they rolled through tracks like Mr. Nobody, Call Me Home, Feel Some Love, and Mining For Freedom. They were tight, showed off some big smiles that confirmed to us that they were having a good time up on stage, and we’re pretty sure they earned some new fans in The Dead South’s crowd.
Twice in the set Johnson Crook gave a little mash-up/ throwback love, putting together Queen’s Fat Bottomed Girls with their own Down The River as well as Bob Seger’s Old Time Rock And Roll with their own Old School Rock & Roll. The crowd got into it, and it was a nice touch by the band, showing love to music that everyone reveres and connecting it with their own.
The set ended with Johnson Crook’s first single, Minnedosa – and a big cheer from the Lee’s Palace crowd. It was a hot open to a show on a cold night in the city… and the night kept going.
By the time The Dead South took the stage, Lee’s Palace was packed from front to back. Drinks were in the air, cheers were already ringing through the room, and the music was just getting ready to start.
The punk influenced bluegrassers were tight and dirty (just the way we like them) from the very start, pumping volume through the speakers, and supplying all of the energy that a Thursday night ast Lee’s could handle.
With tracks like Deadman’s Isle, Boots, and The Good Lord ripping through the air, the four piece band from the Prairies reminded us just how much fun they are live. It’s been just over two years since we saw and interviewed the band at The Horseshoe Tavern, and in that time they’ve only become more confident, polished, and ready to put on a show that people aren’t soon to forget.
The band played on into Thursday evening, with Miss Mary, Massacre Of El Kuroke, and Time For Crawlin, all from their 2016 album, Illusion & Doubt. And during Time For Crawlin they gave us our favourite moment of the night as Nate, Scott, Eliza Mary, and Danny took turns pulling on a bottle of Jameson in the middle of the song. It’s the kind of thing that works, it’s fun, and I’ll never begrudge anyone who wants to take a shot of good whiskey.
The grassroots fanbase of these bluegrass pickers is something to behold. Having sold out The Horseshoe on Wednesday, Lee’s Palace on Thursday, and regularly killin’ it in Europe, The Dead South are making a name for themselves in the world of live music. They are entertaining as hell, and when it comes to the technical side of things – they can pick it. You go find an old bluegrass fan and let them listen to the banjo, mandolin, and bass on these songs, and they’ll tell you it’s legit.
The show was fun from start to finish, also included two of our favourite songs from the band’s 2014 album, Good Company. And we aren’t the only ones that were excited when they started into both In Hell I’ll Be In Good Company, and Banjo Odyssey. The room loved it. They loved all of it.
And they’ll be back again to love The Dead South when they hit a Toronto stage again.
We’d bet on that!