Friday, September 19, 2008

Elliott Brood sure throw one shit-kicker of a party

the Warehouse - September 18/08
lineup: Beija Flor, NQ Arbuckle, Elliott Brood

Simply put, Elliott Brood is a party band. But it's a party celebrating the dark underbelly of history, told with brutally flogged guitars and hollers and suitcase drum kits. Every time I have seen Elliott Brood perform, they have blown me away with their sheer exuberance and high energy thrashing. And last night at the Warehouse, Elliott Brood somehow managed to outdo even themselves. Even though I only got four hours of sleep because they didn't stop playing until 1:15, I have been secretly entertaining the thought of taking them up on their invitation to drive two hours tonight to party with them at the Canmore Hotel.

Part of power of last night's show had to do with the intimacy of the venue. The Warehouse is a small club, slightly seedy, with booths along one side, a bar at the back, and a stage at the front that is perhaps only a foot and a half higher than the dance floor. It's laid-back and accessible and it has precisely the sort of atmosphere in which a highly interactive band like Elliott Brood thrives.

We were able to grab one of the booths, and it was quite sublime, really, sitting in a
high-backed leather booth with a perfect view of the stage maybe 20 feet away, a little table in front of us to hold our drinks. I guess there is something to be said for 18+ shows after all.

Local band Beija Flor established the tone with a set that was both muscular and playful. For a band with a violinist, they played surprisingly hard-driving, but never straight ahead, rock. With songs that shifted momentum from guitar rock into lovely five-part harmonies and then into more experimental sounds, Beija Flor's set was deservedly well received. Think Woodpigeon on steroids.

Considering that Beija Flor didn't start playing until 9:30 (kids these days, they can sure stay up late), I knew we were going to be in for a late night when,
as they were leaving the stage, they called out to us to enjoy the rest of the bands. And did we ever.

A short time later, four guys took the stage, one of them a plaid-shirted dude who asked that the lights be turned down and then declared to us, "NOW I can see you motherfuckers!", in a disarmingly friendly way. Another couple was sharing the booth with us at the time, and the woman and I looked at each other asked simultaneously do you know who that is? We were suitably intrigued.

Turns out that NQ Arbuckle is the band fronted by the hugely charismatic Neville Quinlan. They play a gritty but powerful brand of folk rock, dark Canadian poetry with plenty of muscle. We thought they were fucking awesome, and I predict that you will soon be hearing plenty of buzz about them. After their set, I went to the merch table where two of their cds were displayed. I bought their new cd because when I asked Neville for a recommendation he declared that that was the one with no spelling mistakes, which was good enough for me. He
autographed it with a heart and a star and everything.

And then the roof was blown off the room.

When Elliott Brood finally took the stage, it was to thunderous and by now well-lubricated applause. The news of this band's incredible performances has obviously spread madly since I last saw them perform a couple of years ago, as not only was the club completely packed, but it was packed with sweaty happy people jumping up and down and ready to dance. As there were now several 8 feet tall people between us and the stage, I ended up standing on a table for the rest of the night to watch the show. Many other people were doing the same thing, and that's cool at the Warehouse apparently.

Contrary to the length of this review, words actually fail me when I attempt to convey Elliott
Brood's performance and the atmosphere in the club that night. I recall people dancing on the stage, and Casey Laforet - the astonishing guitarist who sometimes plays keyboard with his feet - inviting more people to come up ("there's lots more room"). I remember a cable breaking and while they were replacing it, Casey making up a little song about making small talk, that's what you do when things break down and this somehow transforming into an all-out audience singalong. I recall stories - lots of stories - about the tour, interspersed amongst the most rollicking high energy death country you could ever hope to encounter and live to tell the tale.

We believed them when they told us that they were having the time of their lives that night.
And while they may tell every audience that they completely knock the socks off the audience from the night before, somehow when they compared us favourably to Edmonton, we believed them.

Elliott Brood are a highly interactive band, and that is part of their tremendous charm. They
constantly engage the audience, asking questions and actually listening to the answers, offering the microphone out for singalongs, and happily accepting drinks that people buy for them. I have seen Casey bound offstage at the folk festival and start dancing with the audience. Throughout this giant party, they throw themselves exuberantly into their music, Mark Sasso attacking the banjo and singing himself hoarse, Casey Laforet thrashing manically at his guitar and flinging his body madly about - while seated on a chair, and Stephen Pitkin pounding out a relentless rhythm and never once losing his natty hat.

This was without question one of the best concerts I have been to this year, and this was in a year in which I also saw Radiohead. But while the Radiohead concert was an amazing experience, it was also a pilgrimage of sorts. This Elliott Brood concert was simply unadulterated fun! If you have never been to an Elliott Brood concert, I would urge you do so at the next opportunity. Before they get too big and you can't get up on stage and dance with them anymore.



You are one WILD Motherfucker! I would pay big money to see you dancing up on the stage! Woot! sounds like fun!!!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I actually only danced on the table, Urban Blonde, sorry to disappoint you. But you should have been there! It was way too much fun for a Thursday night.

Allison said...

Think Woodpigeon on steroids. I'm intrigued as I'm listening to the Woodpigeon you sent and enjoying it muchly.

Elliott Brood sounds like they put on an amazing show, and I think you should pimp out this review, I'd see pay to see them live having never heard a note after reading. :)

John Mutford said...

You've made me really regret not going to see EB when they played here this summer. Thanks a lot.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I need to buy Beija Flor's cd and listen to them some more, Al.
Elliott Brood are a hoot! It's a real event, going to one of their shows, and for only $15, you can't afford NOT to go.

My work here is done then, John. Making people regretful since 1997.

Bridget Jones said...

MAN I wish I'd been there! Sounds like a most excellent time and a great place. There's one like that in Ottawa and I just love it. Glad you had a great time.

Dale said...

High energy death country? Count me in! Sounds like an excellent time and one shit-kicker of a review!

Toccata said...

I love the recommendation. No spelling errors, too funny. A band with dark Canadian poetry and muscle sounds like something I want to hear.

There is nothing like a live performance. Everyone there will always remember when the cable broke.

Your review, awesome as always.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

I love small venues, Bridget, and this one even does all ages shows occasionally, which is great. I notice Elliott Brood are playing Ottawa Nov 15 at a place called Barrymore's, in ccase you are interested in a fun night out.

I'll bet you would have been among those showing off your booteh and those premium moves of yours onstage, Dale. And I would have paid good money to see that.

NQ Arbuckle has a really unique sound, Toccata, I'll have to make sure you get to hear some of their music.
Elliott Brood has some of the best banter around, and they make it a genuine exchange with the audience. Very compelling.

Gifted Typist said...

Love the distinction between this band and RH, whcih was a pilgrimage. IT is different and worthwhile noting. I'll keep an eye on these guys

Remi said...

I'm definitely going to have to see them. I loved Ambassador and I've been meaning to pick up the new one for a while.

I like smaller venues. In Toronto, I love to see acts at Hugh's Room. It's a folk/acoustic venue that is more like a dinner theatre. It works really well for older acts like Tom Russell or Ian Tyson.

Sadly, no dancing on the tables there, though I did once see Sylvia Tyson step out of the audience with an accordian for a duet with Tom Russell.

bloody awful poetry said...

I have never heard of this Brood of Elliots but I am definitely going to have a listen. Glad you had fun!

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Certainly, Gifted, going to the Radiohead concert was the opportunity to breathe the same rarefied air as my hereos. Going to the Elliott Brood concert was an invitation to a party. I don't believe they are heading to your coast soon, but do watch for them.

I love to see musicians that I admire at other people's concerts, Remi. One of my favourite examples was when Dan Bern started comparing a song he was about to sing to Kris Demeanor's song I have seen the future; as it turns out, Kris was in the audience, and Dan called him on stage to sing his song instead.
El Mocamba Nov 4 - Elliott Brood cocert - be there!

They are rollicking, BAP! I'll let you know if they come to Malaysia.

justacoolcat said...

Wow, big shows in intimate settings are one of life's best times.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

We're still talking about that concert, JustA. It was incredible.