Words by: Chiara DiAngelo | Photos by: Adam Harrison –
There may be banjo and harmonica in Toronto’s Elliott BROOD, but don’t go thinking they play light-hearted country-folk. The trio’s raucous foot-stomping almost-punk “death country” is trail-blazing and roof-raising. Their opening set spanned all of their releases, including their most recent, Days Into Years. Multi-instrumentalist vocalist Mark Sasso continuously switched between guitar, banjo and ukulele, often adding the harmonica and even the kazoo into the mix. While guitarist Casey Laforet spends the majority of their sets sitting, working the pedals, he still managed to rock out just as hard.
It was a family affair for Elliott Brood, with sons and nephews dancing away in the front row. The most folk-y of their tunes, “Northern Air” had the crowd swaying and was sent out to drummer Stephen Pitkin’s son who is said to be using it in his first movie. In contrast, the hard-hitting “Hey hey hey’s” on the track “Write It All Down For You” soon had the crowd shouting along, despite there not being any pans supplied for audience members to bang away on, as sometimes happens.
Other highlights of their set included “The Valley Town” which featured not one, but two ukuleles, as well as the “The Bridge.” Dedicated to the Detroit Tigers (two members hail from Windsor, ON and the song is about the bridge into The Motor City), Pitkin drummed with one drum stick and a tambourine – even flipping it in the air at one point. After covering the old standard “Old Dan Tucker” with it’s catchy refrain of “You’re too late to get your supper!,” they closed out with the uproarious “Oh, Alberta” and “Miss You Now” that had Sasso jumping away nearly the entire length of the song.
Judging from the amount of applause and screams they garnered, it’s safe to say that they won not only the crowd’s hands and voices, but also their collective hearts.
East-Coasters Wintersleep began their set in darkness before a silent film started to roll and the quintet emerged out of the shadows. Bringing with them a stadium-worthy light show, spotlights and laser beams were soon bathing the ecstatic crowd in coloured lights. They kicked off with “Hum” before getting right into “In Came the Flood.” The bouncing guitar line on this track has quickly made it a personal favourite and it was so much more to experience the energetic nature of it live. Singer Paul Murphy ditched his tambourine and maraca in favour of the guitar midway through the third song “Resuscitate” and then the rock show really got underway. Touring in support of their fifth album Hello Hum which was released in June, their set weighed heavily on new material with older songs sprinkled throughout.
In addition to the sunny “ahhhh’s” of the poppy “Nothing Is Anything (Without You)” and the heaviness of ballad “Smoke,” their set also included crowd favourites including “Weighty Ghost” and “Oblivion” before ending with some pretty epic experi-instrumentals. Their use of overpowering reverbed guitar definitely screamed “finale.” It was near impossible not to get lost in the passion that exuded from these veterans of the stage. The finger techniques of guitarist Tim D’Eon and bassist Mike Bigelow are enough to captivate your attention for hours on end.
The crowd was already calling for an encore as the band waved goodbye and left the stage. They soon returned, greeted by shouts of love and devotion, and “You’re my hero!” interspersed with song requests. The band replied with “Dead Letter and the Infinite Yes” before ending the night with what felt like the longest extended primarily-instrumental song – extending right up until 11pm.
The icing on the cake of this spectacular night came when D’eon placed a copy of the setlist in the eager hands of the man behind the “You’re my hero!” shouts before running off stage, proving once again what a class act these Juno award winners truly are.
Wintersleep and Elliott BROOD continue their tour, heading West. Sasso commented that “there isn’t much whisky left in Canada after our first four shows,” so I’d suggest you go see them before there isn’t a lick of alcohol remaining in this country!