by Hollis Morgan
The Spirit of Rasputins Beard two-stepped its way into history after an evening of solid entertainment from a terrific line-up of four great bands. Most of the evening my attention was focussed on the energy generated by the entertainers on the new, wonderful stage at the front of the Elmdale House Tavern. But when I looked around half-way through the night, there were smiling faces right to the back of the room and every table was full. The Beard is having a good run.
Julie Element and the Elementals delivered a wonderful opening set. They took us on a journey by plane, train and…uhhh, ambulance! Strummed major seventh chords; lush accordian, mandolin and congas; and tasty harmonica, all contrasted wonderfully with Julie’s quirky lyrics. At times, I felt I was seated along the Seine in a Parisian cafe. At other times I knew I was bouncing along in an OC Transpo bus. Julie Element is a wonderful performer with a growing local fan base who draws you into her stories. Well done.
Next up were godknowswhat from the Wakefield area. Not many Rasputinites knew about this quartet…but they sure do now! One-step, two-step, three-step…more!! This Quebecois, cajun style band had people out of their seats dancing to their infectious rhythms. And what was that drummer playing? A bodhran for a bass drum, a plastic two-gallon pail for a tom, a snare and a high-hat? Definitely a funk kit for the record books. This band performs in French and English, and in styles from up-the-valley, down-the-delta, and across-the-pond…did I mention the medley of Greek fiddle tunes? Godknowswhat delivers amazing energy with accomplished and polished musicianship. Strong, striding bass; tight percussion; excellent interplay between fiddle and accordian; and, the occasional ballad metered out on ukelele. I’m sure they’ll be back at the Elmdale with a party night all to themselves.
The third set was pure alt-country delivered straight from the hip by Old Whiskey Road. Without drums, the strong guitar of lead singer Dave Morrow drove the rhythm beautifully. Dave’s heartfelt songs and delivery, along with Chrissy Lovingood’s harmonies, had me thinking of Gram Parsons and Emmylou. Not that they sound the same…they have their own sound…but somehow it felt familiar. With just the right balance of electric guitars, keyboards, and acoustic guitar fills, Old Whiskey Road is rekindling a comfortable old style on which many of us grew up. I just sat back and mellowed out on this band.
Josh Taerk from Toronto, with one year left as a teen-ager, finished off this Beard with a set of self-penned ballads that spoke of love lost, love found, and love betrayed. Sometimes, a young man’s heart turns to song writing, and we all benefit! I’m an old folky fogy, but Josh took me back to my youth. Through his songs I remembered first loves, heartbreaks, betrayals, and the unexpected loss of a friend. Backed up by one of his bandmates on very tasty electric guitar, Josh delivered a warm set and finished off the evening nicely. With a gig coming up at The Wakefield Inn, and a summer touring schedule that promises to keep him on the move, some day we’re going to say, “I remember when I saw him at the Elmdale…before he was famous!”
Check out the photo gallery!
See you at the next Beard on May 23rd.