A packed crowd of 694 fans crowded into the intimate confines of the Ready Room Wednesday, October 18, to enjoy Ontario, Canada's sextet The Strumbellas' brand of catchy sing-along, hooky choruses, country-pop alt stylings, and warm Canadian humor. The crowd, including families with small children in tow, were treated to 17 songs and two encores -- "Diane" and "Home Sweet Home" -- and kept the crowd swaying, dancing, singing and yelling at the top of their lungs in glee until the final note dissipated. Strangely, Wednesday was also the day of the death of the Canadian musical hero, Gord Downie, of the Canadian institution, The Tragically Hip, so the night had an air of heaviness.
The Strumbellas launched into "Wars," a tune that showcases the Strumbellas' blend of countrified, folky alternative pop. The audience danced, jumped up and down, and sang along with vocalist and front man Simon Ward's wonderful wordplay and catchy choruses.
Ward, was in constant motion -- running back and forth on the stage, leading the crowd in acoustic, bare-bones sing along acapella breaks. At one point, he hung from the monitors and staging and gave the audience a Bono moment of intimacy and connection. The audience stomped and clapped in ecstasy to their other anthem "We Don't Know," from last year's album Hope. The stage was dimly lit and adorned with umbrella lights. The mood was cozy, homespun and folksy. Their fun-filled and emotive set included other numbers such as the sunny pop gem "Young and Wild," "In This Life," the slow honky-tonk Nashville-tinged tune "The Hired Band," and more.
Violinist, vocalist, and keyboardist Isabel "Izzy" Ritchie was also in constant motion and adding sweetness to the bitterness and light to the darkness. The rest of the band, including drummer Jeremy Drury, lead guitarist Jon Hembrey, bassist Darryl James, and keyboardist David Ritter, all served the song and provided sweet backup and harmony vocals to many of the night's stellar renditions.
The band closed with their hit 2016 single "Spirits." Massive airplay, placement in commercials, and massive popularity on platforms like Pandora and Facebook have made The Strumbellas a well-known commodity and familiar musical friend. Ward and band seemed to bask in the warmth of a crowd singing their anthem back at the top of their lungs.
In a world of synthetic bands, pyrotechnics, and gimmicks, The Strumbellas deliver an organic, heartfelt, and earnest experience that's a rare thing in our virtual world of fast food and empty encounters. For an hour plus, the audience was at home, joyous, and left the troubles of the cruel world outside; where they belong.
The opening act, Strafford Vermont's Noah Kahan and band, were a complementary pairing and were well-received by the packed audience. Kahan, a young troubadour of a tender 20-years-old, and his crack band of talented musicians played a compact set of tunes including his new single "Hurt Somebody" and his debut single "Young Blood." Fans of Jack Johnson and John Mayer will welcome Kahan's songs to their playlists.
Click below to see more of Doug Tull's photos of the performances.