Eamon McGrath releases Young Canadians at the Horseshoe

Eamon McGrath @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12

Date of show: May 24, 2012

Written by: Chiara DiAngelo

Confession: While I’ve been a fan of Toronto-via-Edmonton’s Eamon McGrath since his 2010 sophomore release Peace Maker, this was actually the first time I’ve seen him live. With his recordings, including the latest Young Canadians having a quieter sound to them, I was not expecting to be punched in the face by hard-hitting rock and roll when the band first walked on stage. But that is exactly what happened. And I loved every second of it.

With an indie punk-rock sound and his weather-beaten gravelly voice, McGrath shares the punk-rock quality of The Gaslight Anthem – just with grittier vocals, similar to fellow Canadians Matt Mays and Bry Webb of The Constantines. While they often say that rock and roll is built on “blood, sweat and tears,” for Eamon McGrath, it may just be “sweat.” With bursts of water droplets constantly falling as band members shook their heads until the stage was soaked – I swear at times it appeared that even the drum kit was perspiring.

This being his first show home in a long time since being on the road supporting Young Canadians since it dropped last month, the Horseshoe filled right up for his set. Starting with title track “Young Canadians,” the energy of this band was immediately evident. The hooded McGrath was constantly kicked out his leg and the guitarist, well he was just going nuts. For second song “Instrument of My Release” guitarist Peter Dreimanis sat down with the lap steel guitar. He also played the keys – often at the same time. He somehow managed to full-on rock out the entire time as well. Impressive to say the least. While “Pain of Love” is one of the slower songs on the record, live it was filled with some pretty intense yelling, giving it a life all its own. Wishing Bob Dylan a happy birthday, they then went into “Signals,” which actually has a bit of a Springsteen quality to it.

McGrath’s set also included a selection of older tracks off 13 Songs of Whiskey and Light, including “Holy Roller” and “Big River,” as well as “I Am the Deer” from Peace Maker. They ended final song “Rabid Dog,” with a clatter as the the drummer knocked half his drums over before heading off stage. Not thinking there would be an encore seeing as the drum kit had been half-destroyed, the band did indeed come back on stage, pieced the kit back together, and provided a jacked up, head-banger rendition of Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” with McGrath on his back, playing the guitar behind his head.

McGrath is one of the country’s great up-and-coming young talents. If you haven’t yet checked out McGrath, or even if you have, be sure to check out his next show. And when you do, be sure to buy him a shot!

Eamon McGrath @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Eamon McGrath @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Eamon McGrath @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Eamon McGrath @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Eamon McGrath @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Eamon McGrath @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Eamon McGrath @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12

Pow Wows

The third band of the night was local garage psych-rock group Pow Wows. With a gritty, greaser rock sound to them that is typically not immediately appealing to me, they impressed me with the energy they brought. There were times when one of the guitarists looked near combustion, he was shaking with such intensity. The singer/bassist also hopped down to play off-stage at one time, which may have worked better had the Horseshoe been slightly more filled for their set.

Mastered by Jon Drew, the band released their 7” Killing Me in March, and their set included both the title track and the B-side, “No. Thirteen.” With a bouncy psych-rockabilly sound to the bass and guitar, this one was probably my favourite. Never short on energy, the singer dropped his bass for the last song and fell to his knees, just to sing bent over the microphone.

One of McGrath’s favourite bands, they urged the audience to “party, buy stuff, buy beer,” but most importantly to “cheer for Eamon” and his new record. It was a great to see the camaraderie between bands displayed on stage.

Pow Wows @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Pow Wows @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Pow Wows @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Pow Wows @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12

The Dirty Nil

Somehow managing to see this band three times over the course of two weeks, you’d think I’d know their setlist off by heart or be bored of it by now, but with The Dirty Nil, every time is like the first time. Comprised of Luke Bentham (guitar, vocals), Dave Nardi (bass) and Kyle Fisher (drums), the three-piece is consistently entertaining, charismatic, and loud without being abrasive.

Hailing from the quiet little ‘burb of Hamilton, fast-talker Bentham introduced the band with “We-are-the-Dirty-fucking-Nil-from-Dundas-Ontario” before they launched into “Under the Orchids” from 2008’s Saccharine Visceral. With Bentham shredding on his knees from the very first song, it was great to see the band play with the same energy on the larger stage of a half-empty Horseshoe that they do on the tiny stage of a packed bar.

“Verona Lung” had Bentham and Nardi screaming into one mic, and new song “Cinnamon” proved why it is destined to be the “I don’t care” theme song to many a break-up with its lyric “I got fucked up and went out with my friends – you can be pissed off if you want to;” but it was the way Bentham screams with the biggest grin on his face and Nardi’s jerky gesticulating dance moves that truly won me over.

Their set also included two covers – Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream” and “When I Paint My Masterpiece” by The Band that was sent out to the late Levon Helm. They actually recently recorded this one for the upcoming Teenage Kicks’ Singles Club. While it’s obviously a lot harder than the original, they nailed it, giving it an edge all their own that fans of Helm and The Band would still be able appreciate. They finished with the heavy slow-burner “Caroline” and crowd favourite “Fuckin’ Up Young,” which is one that always gets a sing-along going – because let’s be honest, you can’t not belt out the chorus along with them.

Bringing the sweat, by the midway point of their set drummer Fisher has ditched his shirt. While this is a typical occurrence at every show, I’ve never actually witnessed it happening. Guess I just need to see them again!

The Dirty Nil @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 The Dirty Nil @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 The Dirty Nil @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 The Dirty Nil @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 The Dirty Nil @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 The Dirty Nil @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12


Continuing with the grungy country sound of One Hundred Dollars, Fiver is the new project from singer Simone Schmidt. Typically backed by the Blue Sage, tonight was a more stripped down affair with just Schmidt and Paul Mortimer (One Hundred Dollars) on guitar. With an at first unassuming look to her, Schmidt has a way about her that holds you in rapturous attention. It could be in part that with the way it quivers, her voice is one of the most interesting out there. The strength of Schmidt’s unique vocals paired with her somewhat dirty aesthetic and the way her shoulders hunch over the mic as she stalks the stage just gets me every time.

A gifted songwriter, her lyrics tell stories. One of the highlights of her set was the song “Calm and Collected,” which is on her upcoming 7”. This one tells the story of a woman whose door gets knocked down three times. The lyric “You think that’s right, you think that’s fair? / Would you be calm and collected, cool and respectable / When someone else comes beating down your door?” grabbed me the last I saw her (opening for Bry Webb) and it still had the same effect on me this time.

Despite the relatively sparse crowd for the opener’s set at this early hour, Schmidt thanked McGrath for inviting her to play his CD release. Her first 7” under the moniker Fiver, Two Songs From Fiver, will be put out by St. Catharines record label IndoorShoes in June. With both One Hundred Dollars albums having been longlisted for the Polaris Prize, this new project of Schmidt’s is one you are going to want to pay keen attention to.

Fiver @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Fiver @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12 Fiver @ Horseshoe Tavern, 24-05-12

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Categories: Live Music


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