The most unusual aspect of Monday night’s quiet jam at the Drake Underground was the absence of annoying chatter during three folk-rock solo sets. Everyone knows Toronto keeps it real by keeping still, but normally a quieter show means restless drinkers hoping to catch up with friends while they absently watch a show as if it’s background music. Astoundingly, the audience remained almost completely and respectfully silent throughout Baby Eagle, again through Woolly Leaves, and again for Sackville, New Brunswick’s Julie Doiron.
And no, the place wasn’t dead. In fact, the Drake Underground was tightly packed with almost no standing room. Conversation wasn’t lost on Doiron, who carried on a lengthy discussion with one audience member encouraging him that it was never too late to learn French. A bit of a chatterbox in the most endearing way possible, Doiron probably spoke more than anyone else in the room. It wasn’t boring; just eerie in the best way possible.
Toronto’s Baby Eagle (a.k.a. Steve Lambke), also a member of the Constantines, seems in direct opposition to his other, more aggressive, rock ‘n’ roll band. He’s less anthemic, more personal, less rock, and more folk. While at times he sings just above a whisper. He threw down some catchier country hooks that call for obvious comparisons to Bob Dylan.
Woolly Leaves (a.k.a. Will Kidman, pictured above), is another Constantines member who followed suit, playing a heartfelt selection of songs with a strong sense of place. Slightly less catchy than his bandmate, Kidman was part bleeding-heart, part goofball, and like the other artists performing, entirely engaging.
And then there was Julie Doiron, formerly of Canadian indie-rock legends Eric’s Trip and now of Shotgun & Jaybird. Somewhat embarrassed and horrified, Doiron reminded her audience that she’s been playing music for seventeen years. Playing songs from her own repertoire and Shotgun’s, Doiron used self-deprecating humour to charm the audience, refusing to take a sip from her beer until she admitted that in contrary to what she claimed in a recent NOW magazine article, she has fallen off the wagon. “It’s not these that get me,” she said, gesturing toward her beer, “It’s the tequila. So I can have this.” After about six songs or so, she opened the room to requests, which fans did not hesitate to make.
Maybe a little long, maybe a little slow, but you couldn’t ask for more from a Monday night. Well, you probably could: how about re-thinking a $15-$17 cover charge at one of the biggest rip-off bars in town?
Photo courtesy of Carrie Musgrave.