If you’ll forgive the Forrest Gump reference I’m about to make, Nu Music Nites at the Horseshoe Tavern are like boxes of chocolate. You never know what you’re going to get. It’s always worth checking the Horseshoe listings because a great band could show up one Tuesday and you’ll curse yourself for not being able to see them for free.
This week’s lineup featured two well-known acts on the File Under: Music label; Will Currie & the Country French and Graham Wright & the Goodtimes Band. Both have already been involved with the Canadian music scene to some extent and both were delightful in very different ways.
First up, though, was Toronto’s Marlboros. The name sounded vaguely familiar to me but I had never seen them before until just then. It turns out they’re a pretty good country-flavoured band with quite a bit of energy despite not needed to move around on stage so much. The lead singer had a harmonica around his neck while he played guitar and I always find that cool. Later on in the set the female guitar player began joining in with vocal duties as well, including singing lead for a bit of the band’s song “Butterfly Woman.” The combined vocals of both singers produced some very strong songs.
Following Marlboros, Will Currie & the Country French took the stage. The band, as I expected, was enormous. Setting up the stage must have been a semi-nightmare. At any point the stage would have as little as five people or as many as nine, with four musicians constituting a kickass horns section.
Naturally, Currie took advantage of the horns and they started the set off with the opening track of Awake, You Sleepers!, the instrumental song “Arise, Take Up Your Lamps!” Currie & co. then plowed through a bunch of great songs from the album including tracks like “City,” “Flowers,” “The Harbourmaster’s Daughter” and “Tight Suit,” the latter of which made a girl in the audience cheer really loudly and inspired some serious dancing.
Currie was entertaining for two reasons. First, while playing the keyboard, he was never completely static. You could see he was enjoying himself and rocking out, occasionally standing up from his stool to groove with the band. Second, he talked in-between songs with such a noticeable kindness. The funniest moment was when he said “Thanks so much you guys. Can I get you anything?” Currie seemed a little incredulous that so many people were there to watch him and his band.
The following act of Graham Wright and the Goodtimes Band was a natural progression from Currie in a sense. Both men played on the Novels EP two years ago and Currie even sang with Wright on a song later in the set. The Goodtimes band worked as a complement to Wright very well. I recognized the band’s keyboardist as a member of the Elwins, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the other musicians had their own bands as well.
The set consisted mainly of songs from Wright’s album Shirts vs. Skins which was released last year. Having devoured each and every song on that album I found it quite easy to sing along. The band is decidedly more electric than some of his songs on the album were, which was both a blessing and a bit of a curse. On the good side, the opener “No Hard Feelings” had an awesome jam sessions in between the second hook and the final few lines, giving it a whole new dimension. On the other hand, the delicate song “Evening Train from Kingston Station” would have sounded a little better with a ukulele as opposed to the electric guitar.
Wright was absolutely hilarious in between songs. When Currie came up to sing he said “Will’s ordering Domino’s online, you guys! This set has been brought to you by Domino’s Pizza. No, I wish.” He also talked about how in the Goodtimes band’s short history it had had four drummers, and all four of those drummers were actually present at the shows.
Due to near exhaustion I didn’t stick around for Atom Division, but the show that I did see was entertaining in a more subtle way than usual. The band’s weren’t smashing guitars or anything, but their on-stage presences were well worth watching.