The Wooden Sky / Nick Ferrio
Mavericks, Ottawa ON, March 26
A campfire-esque circle surrounded Gavin Gardiner on the floor of Mavericks, as his presence pulled the crowd in around him, ending the evening in a fitting fashion. The demand to see the Wooden Sky in the nation's capital forced the band to switch venues at the last minute — from the uber-intimate confines of Café Dekcuf, a 150-person venue, to Mavericks, housed below Dekcuf and twice the size. And that news was a bit disappointing. While the Wooden Sky are known for eschewing traditional venues and playing spaces much smaller than their relative notoriety necessitates, it's still a treat to see them in a living room type of space.
Nick Ferrio, sans backing band His Feelings, warmed the crowd with a handful of songs, including the two new tracks from his upcoming seven-inch, produced by Greg Keelor. His country twang was a simple, but great starter before the Wooden Sky. By the time Ferrio finished, Mavericks was filling up. It looked like word had reached the city's university dorms that the venue had changed and more tickets were available.
The impetus for this particular tour was to test new material for their next record. But they didn't want the show to turn into their personal jam space. "Did anyone go to Tom Petty's 'Mojo' tour?" front man Gardiner asked. The crowd's silence answered in the negative. "Well, you saved yourself $60 — people just left to buy beer [because of all the new songs] they were playing." With that they launched into a string songs from past records including "Angelina," "(Bit Part)" and "Something Hiding For Us in the Night." Gardiner's voice enveloped the venue, sounding richer, warmer and with greater command than recent memory can recall.
Sprinkled in between were a handful of new songs: "Baby Hold On" is soulful and soft, while "Write Them Down" — an old track that the band has never found a home for, until now — is beautiful and quiet, with a lovely guitar phrase singing in the background; it's destined to become a favourite. On the other end of the sonic spectrum lay an untitled song and "May It's A Secret" (note: in-show scribbling contributes to uncertainty of working titles), both straight-ahead rockers complete with lots of riffs and solo sections. They weren't a huge departure for the band, but they ventured off far enough that it was noticeable. The latter song had the crowd, somewhat subdued up to this point, in a frenzy, giving the band their loudest ovation. When their set ended —which included a raucous version of Petty's "American Girl" — Gardiner walked into the middle of the crowd, guitar in hand. Hushed, the crowd huddled around him as he tranquilly picked his way through "Oslo" and later appeased a request to play "North Dakota." He ended the night with "Oh My God," as the crowd sang along to every word. Perhaps it was his attempt to create the intimate setting he originally imagined for the evening. If so, he succeeded.
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