Nothing beats starting the weekend a little early, taking a Friday as a vacation day from work, and heading up to Canada once again for some great live music. Add in some great spring (almost summer, even) weather, and the knowledge that we had plans to see three shows in two days, and the weekend just kept getting better. And for this particular Friday evening, our plans would take us on our first adventure to Stratford, ON, a fitting destination for this proud Englishman. Having heard about Stratford being the twin of its English Shakespearean counterpart, I warmed to the town very quickly upon our arrival. A few reminders of my homeland were present, from the English and Scottish stores downtown, to the impressive architecture and ‘River Avon’ that runs parallel to the town. Yes, we were made welcome immediately, and anticipate returning soon to explore it when given more time.
Upon our arrival at Revival House, a refurbished former church turned restaurant/live music venue, we marveled at the conversion, which retained the original stained glass windows and organ pipes on the wall, but now had restaurant seating, bar/kitchen, and a decent size stage where the altar once stood. With this show being part of the “String Bone Presents” series, we took delight in meeting musician/host Barry Payne (String Bone), and appreciated the opportunities to chat both before and after the show. As we settled in with some great food and beverages, Barry would act as master of ceremonies to invite Oh Susanna to the stage to get the party started.
Suzie Ungerleider has long been a favorite musician of ours, and while we had really hoped to catch her current tour in support of Stephen Fearing, when we saw the announcement of this show on a bill with The Sunparlour Players, we quickly purchased our tickets. Still promoting her most recent “A Girl In Teen City” album, Suzie naturally dedicated most of her set to the new music (absolutely no complaints here – this is a gem of an album and deserves to be in any record collection). While we shall never tire of hearing tracks performed live from this album, what really adds to the allure of an Oh Susanna live show is how easily Suzie converses with the room. Telling tales of her past that formed the basis for this album, even though we’ve attended a few of her concerts, there are still fresh stories to be heard. Tales of growing up in a small west coast logging town called Vancouver (before the boom), of falling in love whilst walking around the city, and of the typical teen angst and rebellion that challenges everybody in life, Suzie easily draws you into her teenage world with such candor.
Prior to her performance of “My Boyfriend,” Suzie would earn chuckles from her story of growing up as a Pat Benatar wannabe, singing songs into her hairbrush and imagining herself as that romantic rock star. This theme would be continued later in the set, when her new found punk music phase would introduce her to some ‘cool’ characters, where she wanted to be ‘DOA’ on the outside, but held a glimmer of ‘Pat Benatar’ within as her security blanket. Tracks such as “Lucky Star,” “Tickets On The Weekend” and “The Darkroom At The School” allowed us all to explore some of Suzie’s fond (and not so fond) memories of growing up in Vancouver. After wrapping up her set, the incredible applause from the room convinced Suzie that an encore was welcomed, and after confirming that there was enough time for one more song, Suzie hopped back onstage and dug into her back catalog for a rousing edition of “Drunk As A Sailor.” We had no doubts that Suzie would bring her A-game as always, and nobody was left disappointed.
Oh Susanna Set List:
- Walked All The Way Home
- My Boyfriend
- Lucky Star
- Wolf Boy
- Tickets On The Weekend
- The Darkroom At The School
- Summer Baby (unreleased track)
- Drunk As A Sailor
After a brief intermission, Barry Payne would return to the stage to once again thank Suzie for a great set, before welcoming The Sunparlour Players to Revival House. Comprised of the duo of Andew Penner (whom we have gotten to know through his other musical endeavor, Harrow Fair) and Michael ‘Rosie” Rosenthal, we had eagerly awaited the opportunity to experience their eclectic and highly energetic alt-country music live. Having recently rediscovered their “Hymns For The Happy” album here at home, our curiosity was consumed by how such songs are performed live. And with a 15 track set list awaiting us, we would quickly be blown away by their raw and unadulterated energy and musical talents.
With four full length albums in their back catalog, Andrew and Rosie had no shortage of material to share, nor did they have a shortage of instruments to incorporate into their set all evening. Just witnessing Rosie seated at his drum kit, playing keyboards whilst holding his bass guitar, and tapping away at a xylophone periodically demonstrated the skills of an artist who was certainly his own one-man band. No musical slouch himself, Andrew had numerous guitars, kick-drum, percussion, and effects at his disposal, rotating some mid-song on occasion. Together, they formed a formidable duo with incredible chemistry and an edginess within their music that was impossible to ignore all evening
The Sunparlour Players would opt to visit their 2009 “Wave North” album to kick off the show, opening with “North,” and adding “Joy In What You Lack” and “O’ Captain” as the evening progressed. They would also include “Runner” from their 2011 “Us Little Devils” album, and both “Soapbox” and the popular “Bless This City” from their most recent “The Living Proof” album. Andrew would include tales about the inspiration for some of these tracks, from growing up in the ‘Sunparlour’ region of Leamington, ON (“Battle of 77”) to his favorite park (“Point Pelee Is The Place To Be”).
Of course, their debut “Hymns For The Happy” album would be well represented. Popular tracks such as “Pacifists Anthem” and “If The Creeks Don’t Rise” were greatly appreciated, as were the inclusions of both “Dyin’ Today” (amazing to see Andrew utilize a bass as a regular guitar for that low end sound) and the rousing, yet quirky “John Had A Bell And A Whistle,” which would ultimately draw the show to a close. The duo would step aside, but only briefly, as Andrew announced that it was “difficult to exit the stage with all these instruments, but we’re not playing any games, you know we’re not done yet.”
Returning to the spotlight, the duo would send everybody home with two encore numbers; the finale once again calling upon material from the debut album. Dedicated as a song about emancipation and his love for the river, The Sunparlour Players closed with “The Detroit River Is Alive.” Receiving their well-deserved ovation, Andrew and Rosie bid everybody farewell. The duo brought such intensity and energy to their show all evening, yet still had enough in reserve to meet and greet with their fans following the show. It was an absolute pleasure to catch up once again with Andrew, to make our first acquaintance with Rosie, and of course, to chat with our good friend Suzie too. As part of his “String Bone Presents” series, Barry Payne orchestrated a fantastic evening of music, in a venue that boasts some pretty amazing acoustics too. A great way to close a Friday night in ON; Team GDW actively encourage all music fans to check out the String Bone Presents concert series and enjoy such an event for yourselves. We had a wonderful time in Stratford at Revival House – and are sure that you will too.
The Sunparlour Players Set List:
- Battle of 77
- Pacifists Anthem
- By Your Side
- If The Creeks Don’t Rise
- Dyin’ Today
- Point Pelee Is The Place To Be!
- Bless This City
- Joy In What You Lack
- O’ Captain
- John Had A Bell And A Whistle
- Damn All Of You Off Of Us Little Devils
- The Detroit River Is Alive