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Pokey Lafarge at Ritual – Ottawa Live Review

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DSC_0220 (1)Pokey Lafarge Live Review 

Friday July 3, 2015 

Americana revivalist Pokey Lafarge returned to Ottawa, Friday, July 3 at Ritual, bringing with him the best songs he has ever written. For those that think old blues and Americana are dead, Lafarge not only refutes these claims but demands a second coming. With excellent support from the likes of Uncle Sean & The Shifty Drifters and Weird With Cats, the night was a trip from genre to genre ending with an amazing vintage set.

Uncle Sean & The Shifty Drifters

Stage presence: 7/10

Image: 7/10

Musical Ability: 6/10

Originality: 6/10

Crowd Reaction: 7/10


The night started off very country with the most southern Ottawa band there is. The band played through track after track of killer old-style country music, while never feeling particularly played out. The addition of a banjo and stand-up bass felt refreshing and appropriate, even after bands like Mumford and Sons have overused them.

Between tracks like “Old Tattoo” and “Highway 69” the band kept the crowd cheering and singing along even when they were hearing these songs for the first time. This band gave the night a fine start with their catchy blend of rock and country.

Weird With Cats

Stage presence: 6/10

Image: 5/10

Musical Ability: 8/10

Originality: 8/10

Crowd Reaction: 7/10


The most surprising act of the night was local band Weird With Cats. Following the last band, seeing a group in casual wear seemed to suggest something simpler and maybe even an acoustic set. Even as they started their set things seemed to be headed in a lighter direction until their first song switched into a heavier rock sound that got the whole crowd jumping. My only real critique is the electric guitarist drowned out the band and for a considerably lighter night, was a tad too loud, given the rest of the night didn’t risk hearing loss. To the band’s credit though, I’ve never seen a mandolin player shredding quite as hard.

The band’s dynamic and diverse set never let things get dull. Songs like “Annie’s Ghost” mixed in catchy song writing with a great crowd song. The band’s heavier sound made for some great rocking out and near moshing moments, and their drummer’s killer fills really kept the energy going. But it was the song “I Really Like You” that elevated their set to something memorable. Dedicating to a couple in the front row the band got the whole crowd singing along instantly and won everyone over with a simple little love song whose chorus begs to be sang again and again. 

Pokey Lafarge

Stage presence: 9/10

Image:9 /10

Musical Ability: 8/10

Originality: 7/10

Crowd Reaction: 10/10


One would think that maybe the classic callback sound that Pokey Lafarge plays on record couldn’t work live anymore, but they would be dead wrong. Amplified by an incredibly energized crowd, Lafarge’s set was proof that music can really be timeless, with the right amount of style. The set took the crowd back to the 1950’s with an amazing live band complete with trumpet, clarinet and saxophone, and despite the simple nature of the music, the band were all top notch at their respective instruments, busting into solos every time Lafarge stepped away from the microphone.

Lafarge ruled the crowd having them singing along to every word, with his vocables (on songs like Goodbye, Barcelona) eliciting singing across the whole club. The crowd went insane as the trumpet player and saxophonist player came up to centre stage and had a play-off, they took things one step further when the trumpet player led one break by playing only his mouthpiece, and jaws dropped as the saxophonist proceeded to remove her reed and do the same. The surprises continued as the duelers danced in the back near the end of the night and clarinet/saxophonist Chloe even came up to sing a duet with Lafarge.

Despite the heat, Lafarge played in his full stocky suit for most of the night while sweating a waterfall, luckily some fans in the front tried to fan them off with their hats which he kindly wore at their request. Lafarge ended his set on his new single “Something In The Water” which raised the night to its loudest and left the crowd set to go home. But Lafarge returned quickly in a t-shirt for a small encore for a quiet acoustic song, putting the whole crowd in silence. His band quickly took back to the stage and played “La La Blues” getting the crowd singing along even more before ending the night with a series of duels between every member of the band. Needless to say Lafarge defies expectations of an artist emulating oldies and delivered a show that was exciting, engaging, and definitely more fun than listening to an oldies station.


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