Shortly after my friends, Kat, Lizzie, Lizzie’s friend Janis and I entered the back room of the Horseshoe last night, we met up with drummer Johnny Rowe, who was set to do double duty with two bands: Inlet Sound and Tin Star Orphans in back-to-back sets at the top of the evening – which is just fine by him because, stamina challenges aside, he loves to play.
First band up was Inlet Sound, a folk rock band from Hamilton with a great Celtic, violin-backed, east coast sound, bringing to mind great east coast bands like Great Big Sea and Rawlins Cross. Dream Awake, a lovely collection of lyric ballads, is their EP release – I picked up a copy at the venue last night – and their first full-length record The Romantics is nearing completion. Check them out and give them a listen here: http://www.inletsound.com/
I’d heard Tin Star Orphans once before, at the end of 2011 at the Rivoli, and was struck by the band’s raw, driving sounds – packing a big punch, but with a big heart – largely due to frontman Zachary Bennett’s lyrics and vocals, strong guitar arrangements (Bennett and Dean Marino) and Johnny Rowe’s percusssion. And I was very happy to purchase a copy of their recent recording The Days of Blinding Fear – lots of which we got to hear live last night.
Bennett’s vocals are alive and raw, going from soft and introspective on ballads like “Fire” to a ferocious growl in “Year of the Wave,” a prophesy of impending environmental disaster, warning of a Momma Nature losing patience, trigger finger twitching. Love the final line of that one: All fanatics may bow their heads and pray but I’m only hoping someone brings champagne.
Songs like “Fire” and “Jaw Wired Shut” – among my favourites – have a U2 sound, reminiscent of The Joshua Tree. Haunting and visceral. And “Three Cheers for the Coward” has an especially haunting sound, while “We Are Lions” is pure driving beat. Johnny Rowe was showing no signs of slowing down on the skins during that second set. If I were writing this about a classical concert, I’d characterize his playing as “robust.” The man can play – and he was still givin’ ‘er right to the end of Tin Star Orphans’ final chords.
You gotta give these guys a listen: http://www.tinstarorphans.com/