Rock, Blues, and a Healthy Dash of Crazy

On March 29, three bands gathered at the Gordon Best Theatre for a small, but varied night of rock, blues, and some miscellaneous. Headliners were the phenomenal local blues-rock group Tarantüela. Accompanying them was talented local singer-songwriter Trevor ‘Tiny’ Davis (of The Silver Hearts) and Brampton’s Friendly Rich & The Lollipop People, who were riotously entertaining and provided more than their fair share of the night’s ‘miscellaneous.’ ECL was there, and we’ve got a short review and a gallery of photos from the night.

Trevor 'Tiny' DavisThe night started off slowly, with a quiet, stripped-down set by local singer-songwriter Trevor ‘Tiny’ Davis, singing to a still mostly empty house (it was only 10PM). Davis is likely best known as one of the founding members and lead songwriters for The Silver Hearts, one of the all-time Peterborough greats. Since 2000, the Hearts have made a name for themselves, playing a style of music that liberally borrows, remixes, and recombines from any number of folk music forms: country, blues, jazz, ragtime, and anything else that seems interesting.

Davis’ set mostly consisted of his old Silver Hearts tracks, plus a few new Davis-exclusive pieces in there, too. However, with only Davis’ guitar on stage and piano accompaniment courtesy Tarantüela frontman Jay Swinnerton, this was a distinctly different performance than a Silver Hearts show, which normally has between eight and eighteen people on stage. It was nice to hear some old favourites in a new form, with sleepier, sadder versions of the songs than the boisterous Hearts would have delivered. If The Silver Hearts are the music that they’d play at happy hour in a saloon somewhere in the old Wild West, then ‘Tiny’ Davis’ solo material is what they’d play at closing time at that same bar.

While the music in Davis’ set was wonderful, it wasn’t the most energetic ever, and with two performers still to go, and still a pretty sparse crowd in attendance, my thoughts were heading more towards the bed than the dance floor. So the next performer, the explosive Friendly Rich & The Lollipop People, was a perfect follow-up. Even if it had only been the six-member Lollipop People, this band would have easily passed for a solid blues-rock band. They were skilled performers, had great musical chemistry, and seemed to be having a ball on stage. But the whole thing was kind of thrown for a loop by the inclusion of the band’s bizarre, wonderful frontman, Friendly Rich.

Friendly Rich & The Lollipop People, offering the EucharistOne of Rich’s best-known credits is his time as composer for the gonzo Tom Green Show, which should give you some idea. His vocal style swung wildly between an angry whisper (think Tom Waits) and a booming announcer voice (think somewhere between the lead singer from The B-52’s and a circus ringmaster). Indeed, the whole performance had a bit of a circus vibe to it – if that circus had included random yelps, grunts, pops, sudden switches to other languages or simple gibberish, and songs about having sex with Christ’s stigmata. There was actually a strong religious (well, sacrilegious) bent to Rich’s set – maybe because it was an Easter weekend show? Rich at one point stopped the show and started offering audience members the Eucharist (actually No Name rice crackers, see right). Noticing it was a more subdued evening than he might normally play, Rich also took the rather unusual step of stopping the show and opening the floor for a Q&A session with the audience. I’m not sure it had anything to do with music, but it was actually pretty successful in getting the sleepy audience involved in the performance.

As a side note: the day after the show, Friendly Rich & The Lollipop People undertook a bit of an experiment, playing every Tim Hortons in Peterborough, and every Tim Hortons between here and their next gig, all the way in Gaitneau, QC. We caught their ‘set’ (which consisted of exactly one song, “A Perfect Day For Bananafish” – named after a J.D. Salinger short story, for who-knows-what reason). Check out our video of the performance:


Next up were headliners Tarantüela, with yet another variation on the night’s general blues-rock theme. By this point in the evening, the Gordon Best was finally starting to fill up, and Tarantüela delivered a fantastic set of swampy, bluesy rock that seemed to be out of another era and another place. Even the song “Big Flood,” nominally about the Peterborough Flood of 2004, somehow managed to be more about a flood in Tupelo, Mississippi.

It’s hard to discuss Tarantüela without discussing the bands that so clearly came before it, like The Band and The Kinks. This of course isn’t a criticism. It’s to the band’s credit that they’re so keenly aware of what’s come before, and that they’re both talented enough to pull it off, and smart enough to be able to put their own spin on things. Frontman Jay Swinnerton’s got a great bluesy growl about him, at times reminiscent of Mick Jagger in his heyday, at times moreso Janis Joplin. In fact, the band overall has tremendous chemistry, and their sound is remarkably unified, with every piece seeming to fit in just so. In addition, they’re not afraid to play around a little bit. On of the night’s first songs was a ballsy, defiant version of Woodie Guthrie’s “I Ain’t Got No Home” which gave the song a slowed-down, heavier bluesy groove.

Our photographer, Scott Dancey, was on scene, and was able to get these photos of the night.

Photos by Scott Dancey.

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