The weather outside may have been frightful, but the bands at Clinton’s Tavern in Toronto on August 7th certainly were delightful.
The singer-songwriter and alt-rock showcase featured a medley of performers perfectly suited to every aspect of your summer – or, at least, what’s left of it – from picnics on sunny days, to dockside at the cottage, and loud concerts at the Amphitheatre, too.
First to take the stage in the Tavern’s back room was Shawn Clarke and the Green Hearts. The three piece ensemble, fronted by none other than Shawn Clarke himself, consists of an acoustic guitar, a bass, and an accordion; and the combination could not be a happier one.
The group’s sound is mellow, warm, and old-tymey. Their calm, relaxing set could go on forever, and that’d be okay.
Clarke plays with the same lack of urgency as in the Plain White Tees’ ‘Hey There Delilah‘, and with the passionate peace of Rufus Wainwright’s ‘Halleluljah’. At times, his vocals are reminiscent of Bob Dylan’s (the early years).
The accordionist’s ethereal backing vocals nicely compliment Clarke’s without overshadowing them, while the bassist’s lines provide a backbone strong enough to support the trio’s cute and quirky sound, tying it together and gently stringing it along.
Following Clarke’s Green Hearts cool was The Henry Taylor Band. And they’re not a country group.
The quartet has country-ish elements, like frontman Taylor’s piercing harmonica solos, or his lean, almost nasally voice, but you couldn’t quite call them country rock.
Cottage rock, on the alternate, fits quite well.
The two electric guitars offer more than enough energy to keep the audience interested as Taylor’s vocal chords take a break, while the bass smooths out any imagined kinks.
The drums offer the right level of hard-hitting back beats to progress the band’s tracks on time, the perfect amount of chiming cymbals to lift the mood – and compliment Taylor’s harmonica.
Recalling the feel-good, care-free vibe of The Travelling Wilburys (the ’80s supergroup speared by legends like Bob Dylan, George Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne – look ’em up, kids), the harmonica is not cheesy or folksy, but adds a tint of bluegrass to the group. It doesn’t compete for the spotlight, either, but often slides subtly into centre stage.
And closing the night was Lucky Stabb. The four piece ensemble had everything a good rock show should – loud guitars, thumping bass, lots of energy and a twang of nostalgia.
The electric guitars are pitched higher and give off a ’50s era doo-wop vibe. The vocals are a throaty yell. They’re nasally, sing-song at times, until they’re grunge, and until they’re screaming. And until the guitars are loud and the drums are beating and the bass is surging in your chest.
Then, Lucky Stabb, that grunge-esque, punk-edged quadruplet, brings the energy.
They jump, run, and bounce on stage. And, like the beads of sweat dripping down their temples, Lucky Stabb’s energy slides off of them and makes the audience want to get up and move – dance, jump, bounce, and bop – along with the screaming singer, ripping guitarists and banging drummer.
Indeed, the singer-songwriter and alt-rock showcase was a hit, and yeah, you should have been there jamming with the rest of the crew at Clinton’s.