Concerts Concerts The Schomberg Fair's Whiskey-Fuelled Speed Gospel Rocks the Horseshoe

The Schomberg Fair's Whiskey-Fuelled Speed Gospel Rocks the Horseshoe

The Schomberg Fair The Schomberg Fair, The Diableros, Magic Hall of Mirrors, La Casa Muerte
Horseshoe Tavern in Toronto, Ontario
Saturday, 20 February, 2010

Review by: Jen Polk

Last Saturday night, the Horseshoe Tavern played host to some top-notch rock 'n' roll bands, including two of my favourite live acts, The Schomberg Fair and The Diableros.

Magic Hall of Mirrors

Up first was Windsor band Magic Hall of Mirrors. Despite the early hour and small (so far) turnout, these guys brought some energy to their performance and impressed me with their rock 'n' roll range, from grunge to classic rock and soul. The band is the new project of Sean Barry from The Golden Hands Before God, so I shouldn't have been surprised — there's a lot of talent and experience in the group, and I'm glad to see some of the Golden Hands' guys back on a Toronto stage. Highlights included "Hang On St. Lucifer" and "National Boulevard," demo versions of which you can hear on the band's MySpace. (Sean later told me the band never plays songs the same way twice, and I can tell you the live renditions I heard were much louder and punchier than the ones on their website.) Sean's got a great voice and a been-places-and-lived-to-tell-the-tale vibe about him — very rock 'n' roll — and given a later start and larger crowd, I can see this band really tearing it up.

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The Diableros

The Diableros followed. As with the other bands on the bill, the Deeb's brand of rock isn't usually what I'm in the mood for. I gravitate toward folk-pop, but there's just something about The Diableros that gets to me in ways most guitar-heavy rock bands don't. It's definitely the band's melodies, but it's more than that: Maybe it's the organ or Pete Carmichael's reaching vocals, or the serious drumming, or . . . I just don't know. Guitarist Ian Jackson battled equipment trouble throughout the set, which was unfortunate, but it's the kind of thing that makes me root for a band even more. The band kicked off the set with "Nothing Down in Hogtown," the song off their 2007 album, Aren't Ready for the Country, which first got me hooked on them. They played some more tunes from that record, a couple new songs, and most of their new EP (Old Story, Fresh Road), including "Wandering Dry," "Heavy Hands," and "Old Story, Fresh Road," which was awesome! After their set I headed over to the merch table and bought myself a copy of their latest on 12" clear vinyl. A total concert faux-pas: I had to carry it around for the rest of the night. I just needed to have it, though. The band is preparing to record an album this year, and I for one am very much looking forward to hearing it.

The Schomberg Fair

The night's headliners, The Schomberg Fair, were up next. To my mind, they had a tough act to follow, but I was not worried. When people ask me about the band, the first thing I usually report is that they put on a great live show. The next things tend to be "sweaty" and "whiskey-fuelled." This trio — Matt Bahen (lead vocalist, guitar, banjo), bassist and vocalist Nate Sidon, and drummer Pete Garthside — describe their sound as speed gospel, and the term is a good one. They perform their own fast-paced country rock- and blues-inspired songs as well as traditional spirituals. Their attitude toward live shows — that their fans paid for an experience and not just a live performance — is obvious in their no-holds-barred delivery. The Horseshoe wasn't full, but there was a decent-sized crowd out to cheer on the Fair and get their stomp on. I was happy to hear the band sound great, and they seemed completely at ease on that stage, in matching black button-up shirts and black slacks. The band performed a great set including songs from their two albums. Great stuff, and good vibes all around.

La Casa Muerte

The final band of the night, La Casa Muerte, had lots of friends in the audience, too. They put on a strong performance. Lead singer "Namico" was sporting a presumably self-made mini dress (of paper?), and though I would have been shy in such a get-out, she let loose, owning the stage and sounding pretty great at the same time. My brain was fried, though: four bands is a lot to take in. So I left, trusting that the few dozen dancing bodies on the dance floor would keep the good vibes going.