Concerts Concerts Born Ruffians Whip Fans Into Frenzy

Born Ruffians Whip Fans Into Frenzy

Born Ruffians
Born Ruffians
The Magic, Allie Hughes
The Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, Ontario
May 28th, 2010

Review by: Jen Polk

Born Ruffians released their new album, Say It, to a full, excited house at Toronto's Horseshoe Tavern on Friday. Openers The Magic and Allie Hughes entertained and impressed, too.

Born Ruffians

When I walked into the venue, drummer Steve Hamelin stopped me and handed me a copy of Say It. And not because I'm special. Everyone got one! It was a nice, unexpected treat, on top of the treat of seeing a band play a venue half as large as they probably could have. A few hours later, the band, also including singer/guitarist Luke Lalonde, bassist Mitch DeRosier, and multi-instrumentalist Andy Lloyd, performed some of the new disc and many older favourites.

I started the night right up front, taking my usual spot and where I prefer to be at the Horseshoe. This wasn't a problem during sets by the opening acts; I should have remembered the frenzied nature of Born Ruffians' fans, though, and gotten out of the way come midnight. Alas, I didn't realize the pushing and shoving would start pretty much instantaneously. Oh well. By the end of song no. 2, I was making my way toward the back. And then, after having beer spilled on me at a spot half-way back, I decided to spend the rest of the night at the very back, behind some Born Ruffians' family members. I couldn't see much, but all-in-all it was a much better spot from which to enjoy myself.

The set began with "Oh Man," the first track off Say It. Next came "Barnacle Goose," one of the band's hits off their previous album, 2008's Red, Yellow & Blue. The mix of new and familiar set the tone for the rest of the set. Lalonde's sister Jessica — the subject of "Sole Brother" — came onstage to provide backing vocals on "Higher & Higher." Too bad I couldn't really hear her contributions. Highlights for me included my favourites off the new album, "Sole Brother" and "What To Say," as well as some great older tunes: "Hummingbird," "Little Garcon," and "Foxes Mate For Life". An hour later, it ended, until fans called the band back for another couple of songs ("Badonkadonkey" and "I Need A Life"). Throughout, audience members danced and sang along and cheered. And for good reason: this is a really fun band! Lloyd fit in extremely well, Hamelin handled most between-song banter duties, DeRosier provided much energy, and Lalonde caused many a young female fan to scream with delight. 

Born Ruffians performed a spirited, long set, and one that should work well for them as they head out on tour across North America this month. But it wasn't a great concert experience for me. I would have preferred a calmer, more respectful crowd at the front. Oh well.

The Magic

Guelph's (and Toronto's) The Magic performed in the middle spot. And what a performance it was! This is a band I've seen a handful of times, and they just keep getting better and groovier all the time. No doubt unknown to many in attendance that night, the band kept audience members near the front dancing for much of their set.

The band came on in snazy black (and some white) outfits, befitting their old-school soul sound and youthful exuberance. The set started with "Door To Door," and then got that much better with "No Sound." Pow! Next up, the band's theme song, so front-man Geordie Gordon told us, followed by the Sylvie Smith-sung hit "Call Me Up." Great stuff. I just love her voice. "5th Business" featured a fantastic guitar solo. I'd love to hear the band break-out more like this in future. The slower-then-faster "Never Lock the Door" was received enthusiastically by the crowd. Finally, "Mr. Hollywood" ended a blistering set. The band announced they were sold out of their EP, and too bad: they may well have sold a bunch that night. If Born Ruffians wasn't such a great band, the headliners might have been overshone on this night.

See The Magic next during NxNE. They play at Sneaky Dee's on Saturday, June 19th. Be there! Dance! 

Allie Hughes

The first opener was the theatrical Allie Hughes and her band, made up of some great musicians including the busy violinist Randy Lee and no-less busy guitarist Jordan Howard (who we would later see in The Magic). The band was dressed up, though apart from a bride (Hughes) and groom (keyboardist Johnny Spence) there was no apparent theme. In this, and in Hughes' clear comfort on stage, her musical theatre background shone through. (In 2008 she was a contestant in the CBC television series, How Do You Solve A Problem Like Maria.)

The audience warmed up to Hughes and her band's unique pop tunes fairly quickly, appreciating her impressive vocal chops and somewhat outlandish on-stage behaviour. Just after the half-way point, Hughes performed a number ("Headmaster") on keyboard with only her bass player (Bram Gielen) accompanying her. But her "groom" was on stage, too: she had called him back and told him to hold her microphone for her! It was pretty funny. The surprising "Damaged Nails" received big cheers. But the highlight of the set for me was the final number, "Not the Stars," for which Meligrove Band bassist Darcy Rego came up for a spirited vocal duet with Hughes. The song — the band's "pop hit" we were told — ended a too-short set.

Allie Hughes is performing next in Toronto soon. Catch her at the Magpie on June 6th, and the Rivoli on June 10th. The band is also performing at the Garrison on June 20th, as part of NxNE.