Concerts Concerts CMF 2011: Friday Night Frenzy

CMF 2011: Friday Night Frenzy

The Liptonians at The Garrison
CMF 2011: Friday Night Frenzy
The Sheepdogs, The Liptonians, Paper Lions, Cuff The Duke
Toronto, ON
March 11, 2011

Review by: Lee Fraser
Photos by: Pete Nema

Moving from venue to venue to catch a few bands from out-of-town can be a little hectic, but in this case it was well worth it.

The Sheepdogs lived up to the hype and pulled off an excellent 70's inspired set, The Liptonians successfully translated their new album into a dynamic live show, the Paper Lions gave Pete a full-fledged rock show, and Cuff the Duke returned to a favourite venue to try out some new tunes.

The Sheepdogs @ Horseshoe Tavern

You wouldn't know it was a relatively early time slot on Friday of Canadian Music Fest; the checkered floor of the Horseshoe was comfortably populated with fans who yelled out props to the band and their province. The Sheepdogs of Saskatoon played their second show of CMF and commented early on that this time around was really good and that the audience was sweet.

The Sheepdogs have gained some attention recently by being the only Canadian band in the competition to appear on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine (at time of writing, still in progress). Certainly some of the crowd was there out of curiosity, but many were there because they'd been impressed with previous Toronto shows. In any case, The Sheepdogs provided "blast from the past" good times.

The band consists of four guys who were born in the wrong decade. Although he speaks with a deep throaty voice, Ewan Currie (lead vocals, guitar) sings with skillful vocal vibrato. Comparisons to Burton Cummings are commonplace for Currie, but the comparisons don't stop at lead vocals. This band is a dream for anyone born too late to have lived the glory days of The Allman Brothers and The Guess Who.

Although The Sheepdogs have this 70's southern rock sound, their music stands strongly on its own with every song having a unique hook. "I Don’t Know" has a hard-driving beat and strong vocal harmonies. "Southern Dreaming" starts with some fine finger-picking by Currie and Leot Hanson (guitar), soon joined by Ryan Gullen (bass) and Sam Corbett (drums) to fill out the southern swagger of the song. The band transitions smoothly from song to song and keeps the momentum of the crowd going. Both Currie and Hanson have great clarity and technique in their guitar solos.

Listening to their riff-driven guitar playing and four-part vocal harmonies, you can just imagine how sublime their shows at South by Southwest are going to be. Luckily, we'll get the chance to see them play at least one outdoor festival in Toronto this summer (Edgefest). In the short term, The Sheepdogs will be back for JunoFest and playing a great venue for their music, The Dakota Tavern.

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The Liptonians @ The Garrison

After listening to the recently released album Let’s All March Back Into The Sea, a live gig by The Liptonians was highly anticipated. The album features songs that are complexly orchestrated, featuring a variety of styles and sounds. To see this type of music recreated live could be a real treat or a disaster.

Not surprisingly, The Liptonians pulled it off with style. Bucky Driedger (vocals, guitar) took centre stage with Matt Schellenberg and his keys and reed organ on one side and Mitch Braun with more keys and the auto-harp on the other. The rhythm section of Levi Penner (bass) and Michael Jordan (drums) filled out the cozy stage at The Garrison. Although there was evidence of some early Liptonians fans in the crowd (shouts of "Bucky forever!"), the majority were experiencing the band for the first time.

The Liptonians recreated the album, almost track for track, for their 2011 CMW experience. "Terrell's Dream" was piped in while the guys assembled on stage, and led straight into their most well-known song, "You Know I Did". By the first few notes of "Hey! Hey! Help Is On Its Way", people were migrating towards the stage to check out the source of this novel and fascinating music.

The confidence of the band grew from song to song. By the time Bucky approached the vocal distortion mic for "Calling You Out", there was a lot more swagger and eye contact. For Matt's showpiece, "Lesage", the momentum built throughout the song, with Matt lifting off his seat and belting out the lyrics with infectious enthusiasm. It was spectacular.

Both Bucky and Matt give the appearance of being very serious artists, but they still managed to get a few laughs from the crowd with their between-song banter. Before playing "Ghosts In My Garden", Bucky mentioned a song with a similar theme played earlier that night by Del Barber, ending with "Sorry, Del, but we'll see who wins!"

The only song not played from the album was "Roller Coaster", a Winnipeg Free Press My City / My Song contest finalist, which perhaps the band deemed to have too little relevance in this scenario. The Liptonians bravely ended their set with "March Back Into The Sea", a song that showcases many of the band's talents with creating moods and soundscapes. The nine-song set was brilliantly presented and left new fans eager to see them again.

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Paper Lions @ Sneaky Dee's

While I headed back to the Horseshoe for Cuff The Duke, Pete dropped in at Sneaky Dee's to check out Paper Lions, a band he has been following for a couple of years now.

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Cuff The Duke @ Horseshoe Tavern

Watching Cuff the Duke play the final set of the night at the Horseshoe was seeing a band exercising complete mastery of their instruments, the material, and the stage. Lead by the confident Wayne Petti (vocals, guitar), the band appeared to be utterly at ease in their own skins.

Fan-favourites in the set included "Follow Me", "Listen To Your Heart" and "Remember The Good Times".  Other material can be considered Cuff the Duke standards: "If I Live Or If I Die", "It's All A Blur", and "Take My Money And Run".  During the set, Petti frequently employed his signature move of saluting the crowd with his guitar raised high.

Petti thanked the opening bands with naturalness and sincerity, and praised the Allman Brothers-like guitar playing of The Sheepdogs. He even dealt with odd comments shouted out from the floor with aplomb.

The band brought new material to the ‘Shoe, and a new drummer, AJ Johnson (drums), played his first gig at the venue, replacing Corey Wood, who played his last with the band on the same stage last November. The three new songs were "Standing In The Edge", "Count On Me" and "Drag Me Down."

The band’s finale, "Another Day In Purgatory", treated the crowd to three extended guitar solos. Dale Murray (vocals, guitars) began with a stunning solo replete with whammy bar tremolo effects, played on a well-loved orange Gretsch. Petti stood by and nodded in quiet appreciation. The band leader's own solo was an understated-yet-beautiful solo on a single pick-up Fender Esquire. Francois Turenne (guitar), who largely stayed in the background all night on a white Supro, trumped all with a solo of great elegance and beauty.