Who: The Deep Dark Woods (with The Crooked Brothers)
When: July 22, 2010
Where: Logan’s Pub, Victoria
The Crooked Brothers, a folk-roots trio from Winnipeg, Manitoba, opened the night with a good set of toe-tapping country tunes that had the whole of Logan’s Pub in Victoria up on their feet. With Darwin Baker playing slide guitar, acoustic guitar, harmonica, and singing; Matt Foster playing guitar, banjo, and singing; and Jesse Matas playing mandolin, guitar, and singing, The Crooked Brothers were joined by two ladies from Victoria on double bass and drums. Their set lasted almost an hour and included waltzes, harmonica blues, and old-time interpretations.
The Deep Dark Woods were the headline band, hailing from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. Over in BC for tour dates at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, DDW came over to Victoria for another show at the popular Logan’s Pub. The crowd was loud but very appreciative of this country-rock band from the Prairies, cheering loudly at every mention of Saskatchewan. Whether the praise was because the pub was packed with Prairie ex-pats or because most people were already quite drunk, I’m not sure.
The Deep Dark Woods played a rather long set, playing old favourites, a string of new songs, a few covers, and ended with a 10 minute jam session. Their sound was well-refined and experienced no technical difficulties during their set. The band finished the evening with a two song reprise “because we just want to keep playing,” said guitarist and lead singer Ryan Boldt.
When I see bands live, I am always intrigued by how they perform. This is more than just a musical evaluation, it is me scrutinizing facial expressions, wordless communication across the stage, and the way the members dance or move to the music they are making. Ryan Boldt’s face for some reason reminded me of an animated dragon in one of the old TV shows I watched as a child. Whether it was his scruffy beard and shaggy hair, or the way he barred his teeth while furrowing his brow when singing, or just his massively imposing 6’4” frame, I’m not quite certain. His stage presence when not singing comprises of a series of “Heys,” “Yahs,” and “Arrrs” as well as a dance I can only describe as slow motion, cowboy strutting line dancing, without moving from one spot on the stage. He also stops moving when soloing and looks out into the spotlights. I have already mentioned Boldt’s large frame, and he apparently uses the lowest microphone on stage, having to stoop over to sing.
Chris Mason is the bassist and a vocalist. From the get-go he was bobbing his head vigorously which made his hair constantly bounce over his glasses while watching his left hand fly up and down the fret board. Later in the show his head bobbing would migrate down to his ankles and he would be rocking his instrument as only bassists can. He uses the tallest mic and has to look up to sing. Burke Barlow is the impressive lead guitarist who creates a sound from his Fender Telecaster that finds home somewhere between soft country twang, dirty country rock, and an arena-filling delay tone that U2’s The Edge would be jealous of. This tone comes not just from the Fender but from Barlow’s collection of pedals including a slight delay and a homemade volume boost. Perhaps being so close to the stage that I was behind the over-head speakers helped me hear this sound clearer, but when that homemade pedal was kicked, the sunburst Tele blasted through all other noise without pushing the band’s sound out of earshot.
Lucas Goetz and Geoff Hilhorst are the two other members. Goetz plays drums and sings and Hilhorst seems to be the mature one of the group. I mention this primarily because I have a belief that only mature people can play an organ properly and Hilhorst had the audience in fits of hoots after some of his Nord C1 solos. Hilhorst also played electric piano and had a smile on his face almost constantly, the only member to do so. Goetz’s contributions were endless and his fills fit perfectly in breaks from singing.
The Deep Dark Woods’ show at Logan’s was the second time I had seen them in less than a week after catching their performance at the Vancouver Folk Music Festival, but both times I was impressed and thoroughly enjoyed myself. It was well worth $10 to go see this band again, even though they didn’t play all my favourite songs. All the members are very friendly and enjoy chatting with fans after their shows. I would recommend this band to anyone who likes folk-rock, country-rock, good music, and original lyrics. It may not be a dance party, and they may not get your heads banging like some bands will, but The Deep Dark Woods truly are a great Canadian band.
The Crooked Brothers‘ website.