Dear Blackwolf, The Heavy Medicine Band and Brandon Allan @ Irene’s

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Photo by Elizabeth Durnford

On Friday, there was a warm crowd filling Irene’s Pub in anticipation of some sweet jams. I was eager to see what Dear Blackwolf would bring to the table. I’d heard good things about the band, but had never had the pleasure of seeing them, and after missing The Heavy Medicine Band‘s Megaphono set, this was a no-brainer.

brandon allen, irene's ottawa
Brandon Allan at Irene’s (photo by Elizabeth Durnford/Ottawa Showbox)

Brandon Allan and his band opened the show with a smooth, low-key set of country/folk rock that was immediately palatable and engaging. The soft drums and pedal steel paired perfectly with Brandon’s own mellow, almost lazily charming voice. The band was largely comprised of musicians from other Ottawa bands: on drums was Brad from The Amalgamation, on keys was Brodie from Future States, and on acoustic guitar was Sean from Lost To The River. The band sounded great, and they even reminded me of Attack In Black at certain points, which I thought an apt comparison because former AIB drummer Ian Romano played on multiple recordings with Brandon and some of the musicians who joined him this evening.

The crowd swelled near the stage as The Heavy Medicine Band came out of the woodwork to get set up. Their slow-building, psychedelic sound was captivating and brought Brandon’s smooth precedent to the next level, subtly coaxing the energy of the room to a higher level. The atmospheric guitars create a broad landscape for singer Keturah Johnson’s voice to soar and peak with a strong presence and precision. The band’s Conduit EP has been released on vinyl by Record Centre Records, and features a B-side of vinyl-exclusive content so snatch that up while you can, and if you sleep on that, the band’s other recordings are also on Bandcamp. Get some.

heavy medicine band, ottawa, irenes, keturah johnson
Keturah Johnson of The Heavy Medicine Band photo by Elizabeth Durnford/Ottawa Showbox)

The evening’s headliners, Dear Blackwolf, the self-proclaimed ambassadors of rumble music, took the stage to a score of eager dancers. The crowd had thinned somewhat between sets, but those at the front now were there to dance and really make use of the space. I thought the whole “Rumble Music” thing was cool because at one point, they actually broke into a rendition of Link Wray’s classic jam “Rumble”. It’s one of those tunes that everyone knows, but not everyone knows they know. You know?

Honestly, I was hoping these guys would just let loose and kick the energy up a few more notches, but they opted to keep things tight and steady, which seemed to sit just fine with the crowd, who were hootin’ and hollerin’ at every break. In another classic instance of seeing live music in Ottawa, the drummer actually also plays in Lost To The River. Dear Blackwolf’s releases have respectively been mastered by Gavin Gardiner (The Wooden Sky) and local hero Dean Watson (of Gallery Studios), so yeah – they sound pretty great.

All these bands have great, refined sounds, with evident comfort and confidence in their chosen styles. All well worth a listen, and worth your dollar to see live.

dear blackwolf, irenes, ottawa
Dear Blackwolf at Irene’s (photo by Elizabeth Durnford/Ottawa Showbox)

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