This past Saturday night, Wakefield’s landmark venue the Black Sheep Inn, was alive with the music of two of Ottawa’s cream-of-the-crop bands, The Powergoats, and leMeow. I was whisked away via shuttle bus, along with a healthy crowd of fellow ticket holders, who were in store for what was to be a memorable and highly entertaining night of amazing music.
The Powergoats, headed by guitarist/vocalist/songwriter Jamie Douglas, have had a long-standing reputation as one of Ottawa’s premier original bands. The strength of their last two albums, “Bottled Sunset” (2012), and “Ruby Headlights” (2016) have catapulted the band’s popularity, resulting in steady appearances at numerous venues and festivals. The music has an uplifting quality, and offers a variety of flavourful rock/blues based melodies with changing textures, tempos, and rhythms. With acoustic guitar in hand, Douglas climbed onto the stage with his band which consisted of Jack MacGregor (drums), Jeff Logan (guitar), Andrew Burns (bass), Zeek Gross (sax), Kelly Craig (trumpet), and PepTides members Scotty Irving (keys), and Dee Dee Butters (backing vocals). Later in the set, special guests Fabien Melanson and Michelle Richards would lend their vocals to some of the material.
Set opener, “Tiger Punch”, kicked off the night with its smooth flowing rock melody, and full blend of acoustic and electric sounds, which featured standout keyboard work by Irving, great lead work by Logan, and incredible backing vocals by Butters. Mid-way through the set, Butters would wow the audience with her powerful high range during her amazing vocal improv outro of “Gimme Shelter“. “Don‘t Go Falling”, swept the crowd away with its gentle Blue Rodeo-esque groove, as did “I’m Running”, one Douglas labelled “the saddest song I’ve ever written”. I loved its infectious walking beat, melancholy chord structure, gorgeous haunting synth, beautiful three-part vocal harmonies, and building energy which included a heated guitar solo by Logan. Richards later joined the crew to add her bright backing vocals to the vibrant, “Spin The Globe”, and to the bluesy “Emily Haines On My Car Stereo”, which also featured cool half-time drops, and Douglas’ lower buttery Bowie vocal register. “Blow By Blow” finished off the evening’s first segment with its upbeat rocking energy, textured with breaks into half-time reggae goodness.
Dressed in her gorgeous form-fitting glittery hot pink mini dress, Ottawa’s platinum-haired singer/songwriter, Gin Bourgeois of leMeow boarded the Black Sheep stage accompanied at first by her bassist and partner, James Rooke. With a rock glass of neat bourbon in one hand, Bourgeois already exuded a 30’s silver screen, Marilyn Monroe-meets-Blondie stage presence. With only Rooke on guitar, Bourgeois opened her mouth to sing a gorgeously crafted simple melody entitled, “Secondhand Love”, and filled the room with her solid, full-bodied vocals that more than pleasantly caught me by surprise. To open the show with a stripped down acoustic piece was not only an unusually bold move, it was the right one that immediately introduced the raw talent of her songwriting and the immensity of her voice. The crowd at once responded with enthusiasm, and the rest of the band from that point joined the two onstage, which consisted of drummer Jansen Richard, Brent Hultquist on keys, and the return of Zeek Gross and Kelly Craig on horns. Rooke switched to the bass to provide his funky styled licks for the rest of the night, along with some great harmony vocals and exuberant stage presence.
The show continued with a combination of original songs from leMeow’s debut album, “York St” (June 2016), along with some newer material, and some well selected covers. Their music was a time warp into a melange of 60’s/70’s soul/R&B, Motown, and pop. “Evening Blues”, an early piece that came together which kicked off the birth of leMeow, had a slow burning 40’s jazz/blues sultriness that was mesmerizing. The added synth rhythms brought about a modern touch, while Hultquist’s progressions delivered an atmospheric waterfall-like texture. “Baddest Dream”, was thick in retro soul influences displayed by artists like Amy Winehouse, Joss Stone, and Adele, while offering a fresh indie-fused pop sound. “Beg Borrow or Steal” was alive with a heavy presence of drums and horns from the get-go, which lent to the song’s bluesy big band feel, while pockets of 60’s pop offered a playful contrast. I was also grabbed by the vibrant funky throes of “That’s My Man”, a song which won them a trip to Tokyo to represent Canada in the Yamaha 2016 Asian Beat Contest, in which they won second place. Covers of Amy Winehouse’s “Valeri”, George Michael’s “Faith”, Ike & Tina’s “Proud Mary”, Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition”, and The Temptations’ “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg”, were colourful renditions that sent many to the dance floor, and were perfect picks that showcased Bourgeois’ commanding vocals. By the end of the set, Jamie Douglas also climbed aboard brandishing his harp, and the stage transformed into a sizzling jam formation of musicians, with impressive solos all around. At the show’s finish, the dance crowd remained in front of the stage, cheering for more. It seemed that the party was just getting started…a true sign of a well delivered show, which is what these two outstanding bands from Ottawa provided in spades.