Photo by Michael Pacitto, Mike + Ness Photo
The Steamers made it a family affair Saturday night when they rocked two sets at The Branch in Kemptville.
The intimate venue was filled with family members, colleagues, local regulars and a few of us who made the trip down from Ottawa. Starting with the family theme, the night began with the cutest of two song sets as lead singer and guitarist Quin Gibson was joined by his 10-year-old daughter Reagan. The two covered Dan Mangan’s “Robots” and it was wonderful. Reagan’s soft, yet confident voice was contrasted by Quin’s booming rasp and acoustic picking, complimenting each other very well. The rest of the band then joined them on stage for a cover of Aiden Knight’s “Jasper.” (Video of Jasper cover here.) These songs had full-grown men in the crowd tearing up. What a beautiful way to start off a show.
As people wiped their eyes and blew their noses, The Steamers (minus banjo player Greg Fitzpatrick) got down to business. They played a more mellow acoustic set than usual, but it was stellar nonetheless. One of the things that always astonishes me about The Steamers is that all of the members sing and don’t just back up. It seems like every member has a song where he or she sings lead vocals and that adds such a great dynamic to a live performance. Then on top of that add in the fact that they have songs in both official languages and have many opportunities for crowd participation and you truly are in for a treat. One of the best examples of that is their song “Wolfpack Presley” which is a French track where the crowd is often called upon to howl like wolves at the top of their lungs.
The band played two great sets filled with originals new and old and some really fun covers. The first set was highlighted by “Head North,” “This is a Song” and “Wood Smoke Whisper” which is the first song the band ever wrote. “Wood Smoke Whisper” was originally written by bass player Sara Fitzpatrick about camping, but as she said “once the boys got a hold of it, it’s became about murdering somebody.” Hey almost every good folk/bluegrass band has a song about killing someone and burying them in the woods.
After a little break, a few drinks and chatting with family and friends, it was time for set number two. By now Quin’s children had gone home and he could finally let loose. “Ah, the kids are gone, I can swear now,” he said with a chuckle. This set featured great originals such as “Blue Skies,” “Mike,” and “Destination” plus drummer Phil Castiglione being the first drummer I have ever seen in my life play while wearing a cardigan. They threw in a female-led slowed down mellow version of The White Stripes’ “Hotel Yorba” which was really well done. Lastly they capped off the night with “Strings and Skins,” where they worked in a bunch of snippets of other songs including “Pints of Guinness Make You Strong” and “Sink, Florida, Sink,” some “Bohemian Rhapsody” by Queen, “Don’t Stop Believing” by Journey, “Linoleum” by NOFX, “Roxanne” by the Police and rounded it all out with “Wagon Wheel.”