Date of show: July 24, 2012
Written by: Chiara DiAngelo
You may remember him from the now-defunct Toronto band We Are The Take, but Craig Stickland has been hard at work on his solo endeavour since their split in 2010. Backed by a 5-piece band, he brought his catchy blend of folk-pop (and sometimes even straight up country!) to The Drake Underground.
His set included many new songs, including old-time fifties feeling “Lease Your Love,” and “Maggie Lynne,” about the stalker of a bandmate’s girlfriend, which featured Stickland on both keys and the harmonica. The new material seemed to go in a couple of different directions compared to the folky pop feel of his older repertoire, that is built on songs from his EP The Art of Conviction (a couple of which are reworked WATT songs).
As a unique added bonus, Stickland brought out local string quartet deVah for “Walk Away,” which somehow made this song even prettier – I didn’t think that was possible! Afterwards the quartet stayed on to play two songs of their own, including the angry-sounding “Plane,” which was in fact written while on a plane. They warned the crowd that they had a “dirtier” sound – with an electric violin, two 5-string electric hybrids and an electric cello, deVah were indeed gritty and intense – not your Grandma’s style of classical music, that’s for sure.
Stickland and his band came back out and seemed to kick it up a notch for the second part of their set, which included “Wasting Time” and a wartime song that was actually written for his brother in Libya and named after the line “Stirs the Culprit – Life!” from an Emily Dickinson poem. Dark and intense, the power possessed within his voice on this one completely floored me. He ended his set with his current single, “Fire,” that is another older song from the WATT days and definitely had some long-time fans singing along. It closed out what was a beautiful night of music all around.
You can download “Fire” through iTunes and Stickland’s previous EP The Art of Conviction is available on a name-your-price basis through his Bandcamp. These should help tide you over until he has something new to offer!
Tim Moxam was the middle act of the night. He is likely best known for his role playing guitar/trumpet with Toronto alt-country darlings Great Bloomers, but on this occasion Moxam was showcasing his solo efforts. Keeping it all in the family, he was backed by Bloomers bandmates Adrian Cook (keys, pedal steel) and Anthony McKnight (upright bass). They played a low-key folk rock set complete with a swoon-worthy country twang provided by the pedal steel. Their set included tracks he’s been working on, such as “Satisfied” and “Mouth of the Wolf,” as well as a Calexico cover.
While the trio is currently recording with Josh Korody at Candle Recording Studio, they are headed off on tour with Great Bloomers come September, thus pushing back the potential release of a full-length album, likely until the new year. In the meantime, I’m hitting repeat on “Reborn Man” and filing Moxam under “Ones To Keep An Eye (and Ear) On.” I’d highly recommend you do the same.
I got to the Drake part way through acoustic crooner Gavin Slate’s opening set, just in time to catch a new song, “The Truth.” The lyrics “I tell myself I’m better off without you, but that ain’t the truth” instantly caught my attention. With his dreamy and honest folk tunes, Slate first captures your ears, and then he captures your heart.
Currently working on a new record in Hamilton, between songs Slate mentioned that he recorded his EP at The Tragically Hip’s studio. He got a laugh out of the audience telling a story about how he messed up his vocals trying his best to impress them when they stopped by. His set also included “Stranger in the Dark” and “Falling” off his EP Life as a Salesman. “Falling” was actually just featured during the make-out scene of an episode of Saving Hope. He joked that in Canadian television, this is about as racy as you can get. His natural and humorous stage banter was – almost – just as endearing and entertaining as his songs.
His set closed with single and title track “Life of a Salesman,” which he also recently released a great video for. Filmed in Toronto, Slate pranked Starbucks, making his own “Pick of the Week” download cards for this song that he distributed in stores. If you haven’t had a chance to watch this yet, get on it! The song can also be downloaded for free on his Bandcamp.