Posted by: Joe | December 16, 2006

…in which our hero makes a pilgrimage.

I don’t remember a time when I didn’t know about the Horseshoe Tavern. Even before I knew what a tavern was, I had heard the phrase. My dad is the biggest Stompin’ Tom fan in the country. My brother and I would spend hours riding around with him on the backroads of Charlotte County, belting out Margo’s Cargo, Luke’s Guitar and Big Joe Mufferaw to the 8-track in his beat-up old van. The first album cover I ever remember seeing was “Live” at the Horseshoe.

So last night, after living in The Big Smoke for 8 years, I finally saw a show at the Shoe.

It was pretty much as I expected–a rough-around-the-edges watering hole where a plain-spoken Maritimer like Tom would have felt right at home. It’s small venue–room for perhaps a couple hundred people, if they’re really friendly–but “cozy” isn’t a word that’s likely to be associated with the Shoe.

As I arrived, Andyland opened their set. I didn’t know anything about them going in, and 10 minutes of Google searches after the fact didn’t help. My first suggestion: pick a new name. Searching for “andyland” returns the bloody phonebook.

Some further digging led me to discover that Andyland is a side project of Andy Lloyd, one of the approximately 400 members of Henri Fabergé and the Adorables. OK, that’s an exaggeration. I’m not a big fan of the so-called indie “supergroups”. In fact, I even hate the term. I find their sound loose and unpolished, because a) the band rarely has the same lineup twice, and b) they rarely practice together because of the large numbers of people involved.

Andyland (while not a supergroup in itself) was no exception, and I found them mostly unremarkable. Lloyd’s voice, while unique, lacks versatility and would be better relegated to a backup role. They never really grabbed the crowd, and kept their set short.

Next up was one of the bands I came to see, The Rural Alberta Advantage. Unlike Andyland, lead vocalist Nils Edenloff’s gravelly twang commanded attention. They’ve got a minimalist alt-country-folk-rock thing happening that’s unlikely to gain mainstream appeal, but the songwriting is great, and I quite enjoyed the set. “The Dethbridge in Lethbridge” and “Four Night Rider” are both fantastic tracks.

These Electric Lives took the stage sometime after midnight. Mark, the lead singer is one of the bartenders at High Park Curling Club, so there were quite a few familiar faces in the crowd. I’d been looking forward to seeing TEL for months, and they didn’t disappoint. Their energy and enthusiasm is infectuous and before long everybody in the place was bouncing. They closed a tight performance with “We Should Be Believing”, a surefire hit that should get lots of radio play. I’ll be bringing along everybody I can drag to their next gig.

These Electric Lives – Keep Love Safe [MP3]

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