The Juno Award nominatee Strumbellas played a show at Zaphod Beeblebrox on Jan. 11, the only Ottawa stop in their Canadian/U.S. tour.
This six-piece band of sombre soulful indie-rockers is in its prime, having just released their sophomore album We Still Move On Dance Floors in late 2013.
Doors opened at 8 p.m. and within less than half an hour the show was sold out and security had to turn away disappointed fans.
But for the ones who got in, the audience left coated in sweat from stomping and hollering.
“It’s never been that life-threateningly dangerous on stage before,” said David Ritter, pianist and vocalist of the Strumbellas.
“We’ve developed to be quick and dirty. We set up quick. We are a quick blast of energy on stage. Then we take down and enjoy the night,” said Ritter.
Zaphod’s partnered with Spectrasonic, a local booking company known for pairing local musicians with bigger name bands when they stop along Ottawa venues.
“We like that we don’t know the locals bands we’re playing with. Seems like a lot of new friends and opportunities,” said Simon Ward, guitarist, vocalist and founder of the Strumbellas.
The evening featured the peculiar musical styling of looping artist Elgin Skye and the artful local attractions of Brandon Allan & the Bad Decisions.
Elgin Skye’s songs were clever and presented with wittiness as she sang about being buried in the Montreal snow and pulling out lines like this: “What a woman wouldn’t give to have a man that only wants her for her brains… zombie, zombie, zombie, zombie!”
Julia Allen, a third-year communications major at Carleton University and contributing vocalist of Brandon Allan & the Bad Decisions, complimented Elgin Skye, saying her “set was amazing,” and that she sounded like “a mix of Alanis Morissette and Regina Spektor.”
By the end of the show, the Strumbellas stomped barefoot in a puddle of their own sweat, although Ritter would argue the pool was from Ward who spilled a beer between songs.
When Simon put his shoes on, the crowd begging him not to, the show had come to an end.
Ritter, an English graduate from Carleton University, said it was an amazing experience for him to be able to “revisit the roots after the rise” in Ottawa with the well-recognized band.
The Strumbellas are a five-time-returning band to Ottawa’s popular music venues but Ward said he would love to play a show somewhere weird like a circus, a scuba diving instructors’ course or a senior citizen’s home.
“Just to see people dance to our music – the ones who won’t come out to the shows because we play too late,” said Ward.
The band is all about considering who and how their music will affect.
“I was in Chicago. Two dudes came to our show. They sold their Averette Brothers tickets to come see us and drove four hours. One of the guys said he lost someone in his family recently and the music I wrote helped him through his grieving process,” said Ward, describing his most memorable tour experience.
“All I want to do is write music to help people through sad times,” Ward told Glue.
Ward explained that the new album is exponentially better than the first.
A press release noted that the new album “seemed a natural progression for the band, whose dark lyrics about death and solitude crop up amongst beautiful lyrical mindscapes of trees and lakes and home.”
“It’s amazing to see growth before our eyes,” said David Ritter.
But the Strumbellas are picking up and heading far from their home of Kitchener, Ont. for a couple months as they continue on the 2014 tour.