Black Dogs Birth Twins: “It’s a Double EP!” @ Raw Sugar

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Gavin Dyke & William Armstrong of Black Dogs played their double EP release show at Raw Sugar on Saturday, April 12 (Photo Credit: Walker Tamblyn)

There was a sweet¬†evening of words spoken, sung and spun at¬†Raw Sugar¬†this Saturday where two poets & two bands performed for a small crowd. All who attended were eager to hear new music¬†from an Ottawan band long overdue for an album.¬†Black Dogs¬†are a folk duo with a natural synergy that¬†took three years to come out with an album, but made it up to us with a double EP on vinyl. One side is¬†Quarter Life Crisis, the other is¬†It Either Happens All At Once Or It Never Comes At All, both of which are stacked with clear vocals & harmonics. They don’t cut any corners either, most songs are long & beautifully simple.

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It’s two guitars and one pedal between¬†the voices of Gavin Dyke & William Armstrong, along with an arsenal of harmonicas at Gavin’s side. Their lyrics were funny & nostalgic, my favourite:¬†“You take out vendettas like library books.” They’ll be playing their¬†first show¬†in Toronto at the Through Being Cool Vegan Baking Co. on April 26, so there’s a reason to visit the Big Smoke for ya. They took the time between every song to thank us for coming, and William specifically thanked¬†“Mom & Sandy” for making an appearance. They were also grateful to¬†Isaac Vallentin, of Pony Girl & LOG Creative Bureau, who produced half of their record. In the middle of their last song, Gavin reiterated: “His business is¬†called LOG¬†Creative Bureau, not LOG¬†Boutique. Sorry Isaac!” And from far back in the room came: “No problem!”

The musical opener was¬†Sparrowshanks¬†a.k.a. M.W. Smith¬†— a lanky, whirling demon with restless legs syndrome who’s played regularly with Black Dogs over the last year or so. He was a kind of spacey troubadour, playing what appeared to be a bouzouki for his first song, and the most expressive one-man performer I’ve seen this year so far.¬†His manic eyes and grunge sound were complimented by his aforementioned Willis-Ekbom disease and eclectic¬†manner. His final song was a story, one which matched his stage presence perfectly. The scope of M.W. Smith’s art also includes a¬†blog¬†steeped in esoterica & confessions of a curious, perhaps twisted mind. Beware of how¬†deep this rabbit hole goes.

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Between sets were two poets, Jonah Dyke & Matthew A. Scott, who were both featured in a small press zine called¬†Anomie¬†at the merch table. They were respectively described on the evening’s flyer as¬†Jonah: “a man ‘cash-poor, housebroken'” & Matthew: “well-versed in the practice of ‘Schadenfreude.'” Their spoken word pieces were experiential and quick little stabs at drawing us road maps into¬†their worlds.¬†Anyone who can stand up and say “this is what I see, this is what I’ve got,” to a room full of strangers is a brave soul. My poetry remains prose and you won’t see me giving renditions of show reviews in public any time soon… but who knows?