Ruckus Warning in Effect: Slo’ Tom & Fiftymen @ The Black Sheep Inn, Nov. 30

“How do you like your winter so far?” asked Fiftymen frontman¬†Jeff Hardill to the dancing crowd before him. A sea of blouses & dresses screamed approval and continued to sway. Yes, the entirety of the stage crowders were women. It was full winter in Wakefield last night, light flurries & a solidified Gatineau River below the front steps of the Black Sheep Inn. It was some cold but with the steamed up windows and the arching backs it was also really hot.

Fiftymen performed to a boisterous crowd at the Black Sheep Inn on Nov. 30, 2013.
Fiftymen performed for a boisterous crowd at the Black Sheep Inn on Nov. 30, 2013.

It was a sold out show with many people holding onto their parkas & jackets. It tightened the place up but that didn’t stop those craving a heavy dose of hardcore country from dancing. Jake the percussionist let me know Fiftymen have been making music for about 14 years, with this album making it three records available to lovers of their rock country. Seven dudes hardly make two score and ten but here’s a good example of the whole being more than the sum of the parts. Their new album is self-titled and can be inspected for structural integrity¬†here.

It’s been a long time coming for fans of the Fiftymen, since the last album came out in 2005. The band members are perhaps not moving away from ¬†music but moving more in the direction of domesticity, with mortgages, children & business. Two of the band members are co-owners of Wakefield’s Kaffe 1870, just down the road from the Black Sheep. They do not plan to tour much but will make some small ventures into Ontario. I say if you can write & perform songs that have couples dancing in traditional circles, like at a high school dance, you should keep at it. Their music stimulates movement and in my case thirst. This is whiskey drinking music if I’ve ever heard it.

Slo' Tom & the Handsome Devils lit the kindling on
Slo’ Tom & the Handsome Devils lit the kindling on the last night of November in Wakefield, QC.

Before that¬†Slo’ Tom and the Handsome Devils¬†warmed up the inn with wit & rousing alt country. Slo’ Tom is a grinning ball of mischief and a celebrated story-teller. Before the song “Trans-Canada Highway Go!” he mentioned off-handedly that he’s toured Canada extensively in a rusty van. This tidbit made me wish I’d been fully awake in the early 90s to see Tom and bandmates Pat Banister & Dave Dudley, riding the wave of post-Nevermind¬†mania with raw, exciting punk right out of the nation’s capital. By the time they were no longer a band I was 12 years old…

Ever heard of furnaceface? They were princes of indie punk during the last decade of the 20th century. I can’t say what makes the recipe of that band so delicious but the funny lyrics & the costumes are definitely the paprika.¬†Basically, if you enjoy live music in Ottawa you’ve come within one or two degrees of separation of Slo’ Tom. Showcase Mondays at Zaphod’s,¬†Spaceman Music, and¬†Manpower¬†are all the quirky children of one of the coolest indie champions that Ottawa can boast.

They were also promoting their new 7″ single on vinyl and his album I’m Sick released last Saturday. New music for everyone! He beamed the whole way through his set and near the end had us all raise a glass to Paul Symes, the owner of the Inn, without whom these warm nights wouldn’t be possible. I’ll drink to that, and I’ll drink to the thought that even in the midst of our coldest nights there are still these strongholds of laughter & music just off the beaten path. If you can make it there, the fires will be stoked and the kegs will be tapped, all waiting for you.