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Sam Roberts Band @ Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival

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Who: Sam Roberts Band

From: Montreal, Quebec

Where: Ottawa Dragon Boat Festival, Mooney’s Bay Park, Ottawa

When: Friday, June 21


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Style: Wholesome, natural Canadian rock and roll; somewhere between the Tragically Hip, Neil Young, and Rush

Crowd: On a breezy, perfect June evening, Canadian music fans and concert goers came out in droves. The sprawling hill beside the stage played cozy host to some toe-tappers, hand-clappers, and a more relaxed experience. Down on the front lines, packed to about 100 meters back, were those not content with a removed concert. Folks stood elbow-to-elbow, young and old, boy and girl, tall and short, in efforts to get a glimpse at the hip-shaking, knee-wobbling Roberts and his band. The crowd embraced every second of the show with eager screams and dancing to match that of the band. It was an ocean of chilled-out, good-time-seeking shakers and movers, and Sam Roberts Band delivered.

Technicalities: Crystal clear sounds being sung from a Gibson ES-335, a Telecaster, a keyboard, a bass, a set of drums, a saxophone, and a few microphones. Sam Roberts Band turned this rag-tag collection of wood, steel, brass, ivory, and wires into a living, breathing phenomenon. The saxophone solos on “The Last Crusade” and “Let It In”, both tracks off of 2011’s Collider, were drool-worthy, and perfectly audible; stepping out into the forefront, without piercing any eardrums.

Image: Sam Roberts Band have cultivated a much sought-after image for young Canadian rock hounds. Easy-going, chill and unimposing, but with just a little smack of cheek and excitement to it. Button up jean jackets with matching jeans on the bottom, t-shirts, and muscle shirts. The way a rock band should be: understated and humble, but tantalizing in their coyness.

Memorable Moment: The opening twang of “Brother Down” will never NOT create an unrivalled roar from a crammed-full amphitheatre. The groove and energy that are present through the song, filled out with its’ “wise beyond its’ years” feel and sage words, are remarkable and invigorating. “One life to live but we’re doing it wrong, you see,” Roberts croons. The truth found in the lyrics is equally hard-hitting.

Overall: SRB has yet to fall short of transcendent in the flesh. A palpable and exciting mix of groovy, laid-back, and distinctly Canadian attitudes and styles layer and shroud the band in something you can’t quite put your finger on, but you just know you want to be a part of. It’s a great party when Sam Roberts dons his guitar and howls into the microphone under the deep, velvet Canadian night. A Friday night in Ottawa was no exception.

Review by Luke Ottenhof

Photos by Ty Hooper


The Scene