The bar no longer has Blanche de Chambly on tap, so things were already off to a disappointing start before the alternative rock band even took the stage in front of maybe 50 people. One of the guitarists was white and had dreadlocks. That's rarely a good look, and it wasn't in this case.
Vorasek played "Noise Complaint," which the bassist said they'd received a few of at parties over the years. My complaint was against the group's mediocrity. The lyrics didn't offer as much as the band seemed to think they did and "Bolder," the one song I'd heard previously from the NXNE website that attracted me to it, didn't do much more for me than the other material when performed live. The Yankees-Braves game on the television above the bar was more interesting.
The Parkdale Hookers had been a mid-level choice for the past several Canadian Music Fests and NXNEs, but I'd never made it to a show, so the slim pickings in competition made 11 p.m. on June 13, 2012 the time to finally do it. The Toronto-based, suit-wearing power trio drew about 20 people and started somewhat promisingly with a cover of the Dead Boys' "Sonic Reducer." The band covered New Order's "Blue Monday" later in the set and I enjoyed the remakes more than the Hookers' originals, which were pretty much comprised of straight-ahead rock with elements of '60s garage and punk. I finally saw The Parkdale Hookers, and now I never have to again.
I noticed Dodge Fiasco's name on the sign outside The Cameron House as I walked by, but since the front bar performance wasn't part of NXNE, I was previously unaware of it. I walked in and the old favourite, which doesn't play too often anymore, had just finished its first set. I thought there might be a chance to return and catch a few songs after Carll's set at the Horseshoe, but that wasn't in the cards.
Carll, who I feel is one of the best songwriters around these days, opened the set with acoustic guitar and accompanied by a steel player for "Beaumont." He followed it with a cover of Tom Waits' "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" before another guitarist, bassist and drummer came on stage. It was a pick-up band of Canadian musicians, including talented guitarist Stuart Cameron, but you wouldn't have known that they all just got together for the first time that afternoon. Carll dubbed his new country-rock group The Canadian Cowboys.
"Bad Liver and a Broken Heart" segued briefly into "I Fought The Law" and "KMAG YOYO," the Dylan-esque title track from Carll's excellent second album for Lost Highway Records, was a fine follow-up. Carll told an entertaining story about chickens before performing his Ray Wiley Hubbard co-write, "Drunken Poet's Dream." The momentum continued with "Little Rock," "Hard Out Here," "Stomp and Holler" and "The Lovin' Cup" before the stage was reduced to two people like at the start of the show again.
Carll slowed things down for "Long Way Home" to end the set, but the healthy-sized and knowledgeable crowd demanded and received more. The encore began with "Live Free Or Die" and ended with a second song I didn't catch much of. Carll was the last performer of the night and it would have been nice to hear a longer set, but it was still longer than the average music festival gig so I was able to live with that.
Friends who were at the Dodge Fiasco show came by the Horseshoe and, while we were chatting, James "Cricket" Henry gave me his new Millwinders album (I haven't listened to it yet, but I look forward to it) and Teddy Fury bought me a Las Vegas Manhattan. It's not as exotic as it may sound, but it was a nice nightcap.