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?