Limblifter connects at Ottawa’s 27 Club

March 8th, 2020 by  |  Published in Concerts

Limblifter at the 27 Club (2020) by Aaron Kaiserman

Limblifter at the 27 Club (2020) Photo Credit Aaron Kaiserman

There’s nothing like a small venue to endear a band to its audience. Whether to get to know fresh local band Outfielder or the veteran can-rockers Limblifter, The 27 Club’s intimate, downtown bar space is a fantastic little venue for discovering something new and reaffirming a love for something older. The deafening acoustics and too-low stage seem hardly to matter at a show this intimate and alive.

Fan Service

The last few years have been very good to fans of 90s alternative acts, especially can-rock bands, who are delighting long-time fans with 20th and 25th anniversary shows of classic albums. Few of these prospects have excited me as much as the opportunity to hear Limblifter bring their 2000 triumph, Bellaclava, to a small but fiercely loyal crowd.

Fierce and loyal they were: Never have I seen a band connect so directly with the audience, one who was bobbing and singing along to every confusing, imagistic lyric.

The connection between the band and fans was even more pronounced when I saw something I’d before only fantasize about at a concert. When a fan jokingly requested “Bullring,” a song from the album that the band was sure to get to eventually, frontman Ryan Dahle recognized the man as someone who had once requested the same song many years ago at the same venue (back when it was Zaphod’s). Astonishingly, not only did Dahle recall the requester, but invited him up to the stage to sing along to perhaps the greatest song in Limblifter’s catalogue. Judging by the crowd’s ecstatic reaction to the performance, I’m not the only concertgoer who ever fantasized about sitting in with their rock and roll heroes.

Limblifter at the 27 Club (2020) by Aaron Kaiserman

Limblifter at the 27 Club (2020) Photo Credit Aaron Kaiserman


This was a highlight among a night of highlights. The show began with some straight-forward performances of Bellaclava‘s lesser tracks – all great nevertheless. With those out of the way, plus a few gems like “Pregnant” and “Teen Fang,” the band turned up the already soaring energy by playing outside the featured album. 2015’s Pacific Milk was a startlingly laid back disc, by Limblifter standards, so it was astonishing to see the album opener, “Cast a Net,” performed with such raucous intensity and fury, particularly from drummer Eric Breitenbach.

Other standouts included the otherwise forgettable “Hostess” given new life through a jammy, spaced out post-rock sonic soundscape interlude. The band ramped up anticipation for one of their biggest hits, “Ariel vs. Lotus,” with a funkified intro section that took the already great track to another level. Bellaclava‘s other big hit, “Wake Up to the Sun,” was given similar treatment with a fuzzed up, trippy outro section, urging the crowd to share in a glorious paean to the centre of our solar system.

Even an aborted attempt at an unrehearsed song, “Come Over” by request, was just one of the many ways the band showed love to their fans.

Watching Limblifter play and hearing Dahle’s sometimes chilling lyrics is a flirtation with emo sound and themes, such as on tracks like “Tankhog,” with its eerily pertinent refrain of “everything must be infected,” or the self-explanatory show-closer and early hit, “Screwed it Up.” But the enthusiasm, verve, and ebullient positivity of the music itself belies the self-abnegating and sometimes nihilistic lyrical themes. Never has a crowd sounded so triumphant group-scream-singing mantras like “I’m an accident.”

Can Rock’s Past and Future

Local band Outfielder set the stage with an appropriately chill, retro 90s post grunge vibe that struck me as equal parts Watchmen and Toad the Wet Sprocket. Their stage presence was tentative and sometimes clumsy, but the confidence and craft of the music spoke for itself.

If Limblifter represents Can Rock’s past, and Outfielder its future, then we can look forward to many great concerts to come. Let’s hope Limblifter is back in 4 years to showcase their under-the-radar masterpiece, I/O. Maybe they’ll even open for Outfielder this time instead of closing for them.

-Aaron Kaiserman

Check out the full setlist here:

Limblifter at the 27 Club (2020) Aaron Kaiserman

Limblifter at the 27 Club (2020) Photo Credit by Aaron Kaiserman

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