With plans already made to be in the GTA this past weekend, the announcement of a Devin Cuddy Band concert taking place at The Dakota Tavern was so well timed that it proved impossible for us to miss. Having only caught Devin’s solo performances over the last few years, we were excited to experience his music with the full band behind him. Snapping up our tickets, we made our first excursion of 2019 to The Big Smoke, eager for The Devin Cuddy Band’s early evening show at this iconic venue.
Joining Devin on this particular evening to open the festivities was his good friend Dustin Bentall. Taking center stage, it was impossible to ignore his presence, towering above his microphone in his trademark hat. As a well travelled and versed troubadour, Dustin’s on-stage charm and persona demands your attention. Just as Devin Cuddy and his brother, Sam Polley, share many characteristics with their father, Jim Cuddy, Dustin displays many generic traits clearly inherited from dad Barney’s DNA. With Trixie Berkel providing harmonies and guitar, Dustin was naturally eager to share new songs from his recently released “High In The Satellite” EP. He also made reference to ‘Hunting,’ his collaboration with Bradley Ferguson, adding the track “She Was;” described as a more mainstream sound that we may get to hear on the radio.
Receiving appreciation for their cover of an Everly Brothers number, Dustin would unleash that natural charm toward the rapidly growing crowd. “Let’s have a drink together, Cheers, Dakota, it’s great to be back,” he saluted. Returning to material from the EP, he would share a tale behind the track, “Fresno.” “Started out in San, Jose, California,” he stated. “I was leaving a friends’ place there, and took a drive across to Joshua Tree, and told me buddy I was going to stop in Fresno. As I was pulling out of his driveway … I was driving a ‘64 [Chevrolet] Bel Air … I was about to cruise through the desert and he was pretty excited for me.” “You’re not even secretly bragging right now,” Trixie injected, feeding off Dustin’s pride when accentuating the ‘type’ of car being driven, and eliciting many chuckles in the process. “I’m just setting the tone, I have a really good car,” Dustin retorted, before continuing his tale. “So he just started humming this melody, I’m going to Fresno, I’m going to Fresno, and so I sort of drove down the road, sorry, I was driving a ’64 BEL AIR, and I kind of kept that melody in my head.”
Dustin Bentall Set List:
- The Roses
- If Yer Willin’
- So Sad (Everly Brothers cover)
- High In The Satellite
- She Was
- Devils And Angels
Following a brief intermission, The Devin Cuddy Band took up their positions on the Dakota Tavern stage. Joined as always by his long-time friend and lead guitarist, Mike Tuyp, the quartet also boasted both Devon Richardson (bass) and Zach Sutton (percussion) from his Cameron House pals, Jane’s Party. And of course, standing in the wings was Devin’s brother Sam Polley, and fellow Jane’s Party member Jeff Giles, who undoubtedly would be convinced to take to the stage at some point later that night. Devin would also announce that Dustin would return later for a few tunes with the band. “Make sure you treat your bartenders well tonight, because usually they’re the hard working people in these rooms,” Devin later added. “We come from a different bar in Toronto called The Cameron House; it’s a great bar, as well as this bar … and between the two places, I’ve met a lot of great musicians over the years.” He would also use this moment to joke about his friend, musician Sam Cash, who was tending behind the bar at the Dakota on this night.
With a set list that spanned Devin’s entire back catalog, and a few new tracks and covers added for good measure, the band played lively and loose all evening. Popular tracks such as “Kitchen Knife,” “Afghanistan,” and “Radio” were naturally included, along with the unreleased “Bleedin’ Kansas” that Devin has been performing at shows for a few years now. Devin would add another unreleased tune; “It’s about a fictional break-up, although my girlfriend thought it was coming after she heard this,” Devin joked. “I told her not to worry, it’s about somebody else … in the band.” A quick drum roll from Zach to accentuate the statement, and laughter ruptured throughout the room.
Inviting Dustin to join the band for a pair of tracks later in the set, the BC native (and recent Toronto resident) would meander his way through the crowd to the stage, only to find that his guitar was not present. “Sam Polley was supposed to tune my guitar before I got up here, and it’s still in its case,” he stated, glancing over at his good friend to the side of the stage. “And now he’s chirping at me, that’s so Sam, right?” Dustin and the band would perform a cover of the Ridley Bent track, “Nine Inch Nails,” before forgiving Sam for his misdeeds, and inviting him to add vocals on Bentall’s own “Three Thousand Miles.” Always the great ringleader, Devin was equally at home adding harmonies while his brother and friend were under the spotlight; once again demonstrating his love for the music and appreciation of the crowd.
I’m not sure if Devin recalled that this was Pride month, but he was happy to share his tongue-in-cheek number, “My Son’s A Queer,” a track found on his 2012 “Volume One” album. “This is the first song I ever tried to have a stab at satire,” Devin explained. “It’s got a bit of a goofy theme, and I was at a wedding the other day, and my friend was playing the intro music on his classical guitar, and he started playing a bit of this song.” The band were firing on all cylinders down the stretch, and with Dustin, Sam, and Trixie rotating in and out of the lineup, some great covers of music from Bill Monroe and Barney Bentall were shared. With cries for just one more song, Devin would invite all of the musicians to the stage once more, along with Jeff Giles, and close the night with a phenomenal cover of “The Weight,” the classic hit from The Band. An amazing climax to a thoroughly entertaining show, and a wonderful opportunity to catch up with Devin and his friends once more.
Devin Cuddy Set List:
- Bleedin’ Kansas
- Forty Four
- She Ain’t Crying Over Me
- ***New Unreleased Track***
- Old Mary
- Kitchen Knife
- My Son’s A Queer
- Sidewalk In The South
- Maggie’s Hardware Store
- She’s A Lady (sic)
- I Got A Girl
- Nine Inch Nails (with Dustin Bentall, Ridley Bent cover)
- Three Thousand Miles (with Dustin Bentall & Sam Polley)
- I’m Working On A Building (Bill Monroe cover)
- Come Back To Me (Barney Bentall cover)
- The Weight (The Band cover, featuring Dustin Bentall, Trixie Berkel, Jeff Giles & Sam Polley)