IDOW:: Rose Cousins, Dan Ledwell, i see rowboats

i see rowboats

The In The Dead of Winter festival is called that for a reason, I mean it's January 31st, we're right in the heart of winter. However, the weather for the festival's openning night was more like the dead of winter in Vancouver rather than Halifax. A balmy 4 degrees and constant rain might not ordinarily be ideal weather for an evening out, but compared to the -15ish temperatures we enjoyed the last week or so, it isn't so bad.

Plenty of folks agreed with me too, as when we arrived at the venue (I was joined this evening by some of Fairview's biggest herohill supporters, Barbara, Martina, and Malcolm) we were a little surprised to find that the venue was pretty much already full. This is a little strange for Halifax, where people are notorious for arriving downtown much later in the evening. Tara Thorne, who had taken over hosting duties from IDOW organizer Heather Gibson by the time we got there announced at 9:30 that the show was sold out, so kudos to everyone for coming out in force on a rainy, Wednesday night.

The show took place at the Italian Cultural Centre, which is, to the best of my knowledge, a place where normally all things Italian and cultural go down. Tonight however, its banquet hall was transformed into an intimate performance space, populated by some enthusiastic performers and a full, grateful audience. When we arrived, Toronto's Jon Brooks was already into his set, and the audience appeared to be very much into his performance as there was very little talking and all eyes were on the stage. Jon kind of looks like a cool, punk rock uncle, with tattooed arms and a fedora, but he comes off 100% authentic. He's a great storyteller, and his songs about the Canadian war experience were very visual. Cigarettes and Auction Days (About New Waterford losing men to both WWI and to a serious mining accident shortly after) were standouts for me.

Rose CousinsRose Cousins was up next, and she did a fantastic job. In my preview for this show, I said this:

If you go to this show and don't think Rose Cousins alone is worth the price of admission, I will personally refund the cost of your ticket (note: I will not actually refund the cost of your ticket).

Which was perhaps a tall drink of hyperbole, as I'd never seen Rose live before, but she certainly lived up to my expectations. She's supremely comfortable on stage, with an engaging personality and a great sense of humor, which was a pleasant surprise. Not even a crazy/inebriated lady in the audience who kept trying to bogart her stories could throw her off. Heart In The Game, a new (I believe) song Rose wrote about Elvis (and the one which set off the audience nutter) after visiting Graceland was very well recieved, as were favorites from her last album like One New York Ago, Pale Love, and Dance If You Want To. Rose brought violin/viola player Kinley Dowling for a number of songs, and she was also joined by Dan Ledwell on keys and lap steel for a few numbers. She was joined by those two and Jenn Grant for perhaps the funnest song of the night, a cover of Mr. Mister's Broken Wings. I don't think Jenn knew the song very well, but she gave it a go. Just a solid set in my opinion, and if you have the chance to see Rose live, I'd recommend it highly.

Dan Ledwell was up next, doing the songs from his recently released solo album, Two Over Seven. In fact, last night's performance served as his CD release show, and although a few people left after Rose Cousins' set, there was still a large crowd to help Dan launch his album. An album, I should mention, that I was already planning to review next week, but this set really reinforced my desire to do so. Dan comes across as shy and soft spoken, and although he wasn't as outgoing as Rose Cousins, he certainly matched her sense of humor with some well-timed, almost under his breath comments. Dan played the songs from his album in order, with just accoustic guitar and some organ sounds he played with his feet. I thought his songs of small town heartache translated really well to a live venue (recent Herohill mixtape opener I Have Made You A Mixed Tape was a highlight). Rose Cousins and Jenn Grant helped out with backing vocals and banter, and I just really enjoyed the whole thing.

Halifax's cinematic rockers (does this make sense? No idea, sounds impressive though) i see rowboats closed the evening, and they added some theatricality to the evening with matching white outfits and a dramatic entrance from their two-man horn section. I'd been wanting to see this septet (I don't know if there's officially seven in the band, but that was the count last night) play live since reviewing their EP in December, and although there were a few issues with the sound (I don't think the cello was coming through the sound system for the first song or two and there were a couple feedback blasts that almost made me wet myself), I wasn't disapointed. The band's energy and solid playing made up for the tech issues, and when they got things cranked up, like during the rollicking instrumental Mine And Strike, they were excellent. After they finished with a sparse version of their EP standout In Cars, with the whole band providing harmony for Will Robinson's hushed vocals, the small crowd was very appreciative. It was a shame that more people didn't stick around to see them, but considering the evening kicked-off at seven, it's not surprising.

Anyway, I've said enough I think. This was a great evening, and there are three full nights left for the festival, so if you're in Halifax, I'd strongly suggest you get out and see something.

MP3:: Rose Lewis - Heart In The Game (Live @ IDOW)
MP3:: Dan Ledwell - I Have Made You A Mixed Tape (Live @ IDOW)
MP3:: i see rowboats - Mine And Strike (Live @)

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