All photos by Elizabeth Durnford/Ottawa Showbox
T’was a Saturday like any other… just kidding. It was a lovely combination of miserable and cold, the first whispers of what will surely be a typically freezing Ottawa winter. But nestled in the heart of the small riverside community of Wakefield is a place of solitude and warmth known as the Black Sheep Inn. When asked if I was interested in venturing out, I believe my response was “Heck yeah,” or perhaps something with a little more profanity, regardless it was a welcomed offer of warmth and music. I will rarely turn down a night at the Black Sheep Inn.
Blacksheep, unlike most other venues in the Ottawa area, requires guests to put in a little more (lot more) effort to actually make out to a show. It never fails to surprise me every time I pull in to the very full parking lot. This show was no different. I knew going out that it was a sold out show, and sold out for Black Sheep means that people arrive hours before doors to grab a seat, and a bite to eat, before a night of music. Wakefield quite literally provides the audience with the full dinner and a show experience. Typically the space will be adjusted for the type of show, I’ve attended anything from sit down lunch shows with audience members under the age of one, to being taught how to dance traditional blues; anything goes. You can also expect that whether there is room at the front or not, you are practically on the stage with the band, and if you weren’t, did you even go to Black Sheep?
The first band up was Lowlands, hailing from Guelph ON, they brought with them a dreamy yet harsh folk set. Combining poetic story telling with full sound drumming, banjo and steel guitar. They were loud, homey, and went well with the warm theme of the evening. They brought songs from their album Huron, as well as songs off their new album Erie, which we can keep our eyes and ears open for its release later this fall.*
The Wooden Sky took over shortly after. The audience energized as they took the stage and it quickly became clear why. They started their set off with a bang and kept up the energy right through to the end. Combining electronic aspects with folk, they absolutely took over the venue. I’m confident in saying that people would have danced had there been room, but like I mentioned, it was very sold out. Along with the electric side of the folk spectrum, they also brought harmonics and violin. They played a diverse set covering songs new and old, debuting some and bringing back some classics. The band took a moment part way through their set to make the night extra special for one couple in the audience and then slowed it down for a few songs, leaving just two band members on stage.** They picked it back up for the final few songs and ended the show on a high note.
Both of these bands are currently touring Eastern Ontario and visited a few places in Quebec. The Wooden Sky hinted at the very real possibility of there being an upcoming holiday show at St. Albans Church, which is something everyone can keep an eye out for, and in a brief conversation outside with Lowlands, they also seemed keen on returning to the Ottawa area in the near future.
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*Lowlands has plans of releasing an album titled dedicated to each of the Great Lakes which is super groovy.
**Unbeknownst to everyone, a couple had gotten engaged either just before or during the show (details were unclear) and the band took that moment to dedicate a very cute song to them, and there were tears and dancing.