The Dakota Tavern in Toronto, ON
May 5, 2011
Review by: Lee Fraser
Imagine hanging out in your best friend's basement. A fantastic band is playing and having the time of their lives on stage and you’re surrounded by their enthusiastic friends and family.
That was the atmosphere of The Dakota the night The Deep Dark Woods took the stage.
Some lucky early birds at The Dakota got a sneak peek into the soothing, rich sounds of The Deep Dark Woods during sound check. But while the sound check highlighted the brilliant recreations of 60s roots rock by the five guys, it didn’t provide any clues to the vibe that would ensue during their set. The music of The Deep Dark Woods is rooted in a strong rhythm section and playful interaction between guitars and organ, but the icing on the cake is the energy shared between the audience and the band.
The Deep Dark Woods moved skillfully through a set that alternated between new and old material. They dreamily opened with "Leopold Canal", which was one of several new songs unveiled over the course of the night. However, this was the last we saw of the usual serious, low key delivery. Ryan Boldt (lead vocals, guitar) introduced the second song with a shout out to his brother in the audience, who is "going to be a preacher man real soon" and launched into the Saskatchewan-style gospel sing-along, "Glory, Hallelujah".
After another new song followed by an older tune from their self-titled full-length album, the audience broke into wild hoots and hollers upon hearing the first few notes of "Charlie's", from CBC's 2009 Great Canadian Song Quest. By this point of the night, every inch of space around the stage was consumed and most of the audience had realized that The Sheepdogs were among them. Turns out, the members of both bands went to school together in Saskatoon since they were kids.
Lucas Goetz (drums) and Burke Barlow (guitar, pedal steel) switched roles for a new tune called "Sweet Virginia", a switch which initiated an improvised jingle by Ryan about everyone having a great time. Indeed. Maybe it was the family presence (Ryan's parents were also in attendance), maybe it was the friendly heckling from the side of the stage, maybe it was the new guitar (Ryan's 1968 Chet Atkins National), but the entire band seemed to be having the time of their lives. Ryan, in particular, was immersed in the moment, abandoning himself to become a jiggly-legged bobble-head during his solos.
The boys of The Deep Dark Woods grudgingly pulled themselves off the stage for a break, but returned with high spirits to play until just past last call. Chris Mason (bass, vocals) sang lead vocals on "Alabama", more new material was introduced to the receptive crowd, and The Sheepdogs continued to heckle from the sidelines. Geoff Hilhorst (keys) managed to hold it together amongst the fist pumping and pointing fingers hovered over his keyboards. Their penultimate offering, "All the Money I Had Is Gone", garnered a sing-along acknowledged as sounding pretty good. It was the least the crowd could do to thank the band for sharing such great energy during their fantastic night at The Dakota.