The Strumbellas Sell Out Their Sto(m)p in Ottawa

January 15th, 2014 by  |  Published in Concerts

The Strumbellas- promo - photo credit Heather Pollock

Photo credit: Heather Pollock

Last Saturday I got the chance to see The Strumbellas at Zaphod Beeblebrox. While their 2012 effort My Father and the Hunter was recently nominated for a Juno award, the band is currently touring their fall 2013 release We Still Move on Dance Floors. The album has received warm reviews. Joining them was the like-sounded Brandon Allan & the Bad Decisions. Both bands play a catchy blend of alt-country and indie-rock. Montreal solo act Elgin Skye opened the evening.

Though I heard that the show had sold out as I arrived, I was surprised by how much of the sell-out capacity had shown up before Elgin Skye began her set. The lively Saturday night crowd was ready for a good time, and beers were ordered faster than the bartenders could ever have poured them. Elgin Skye didn’t disappoint. Accompanied by drum loops, back-up tracks, and a humble attitude, she entertained the crowd with quirky songs about love, loss, and zombies. She has a wavery sing-song delivery that I found charming, and reminded me of Feist. She was rewarded with a spirited response from the audience.

Ottawa’s own Brandon Allan & the Bad Decisions were quick to take the stage afterward. Playing their first show of 2014, they were accompanied by a modest local following. Musically, their work is familiar territory for any fan of the indie/alt-country genre. What really made them stand out is the vocals. Brandon Allan has a smooth, relaxed delivery that adds vulnerability to the lyrics without sounding whiny, which is necessary for me to appreciate the genre. I’ll admit that I have a casual dislike for most alt-country, but I was pleased to find that I liked The Bad Decisions quite a bit. I’m sure I’ll see them around.

I had already listened to The Strumbellas’ records, so I knew I would like them. And they didn’t disappoint. Perhaps getting the best reaction from the crowd was single “End of an Era,” though it was hard to tell. Their fans were pretty loud and rowdy for the entire set. The evening peaked for me personally when they played “Sheriff.” The sing-along chorus is even more fun live than the oddball video they promoted the song with a year ago.

The Strumbellas’ tour still has quite a few dates left. After a show in Almonte this Saturday, they swing through the U.S. for a smattering of shows, before returning to Ontario in mid-February to play two shows in Guelph and four in Toronto. I’m sure they’ll have plenty of stomp left in their boots by then. See this band while you can.

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