Published Aug 08, 2011Walking into the nearly empty Dakota Tavern at 10 p.m. on a Friday evening to witness the tail end of Jerry Leger's soundcheck, one would never guess that in a mere matter of hours the room would be packed with rowdy fans, singing and dancing between shots of Jameson.
The Tacoma Hellfarm Tragedy, a pleasantly gritty-sounding four-piece, first warmed up the crowd, starting with a beautifully sad song that was appropriately named "Murder Ballad." The group mostly ran straight through their songs without spending too much time engaging the crowd, but the group did show their steadily growing audience that they knew how to jam and beautifully incorporate the slide guitar into their repertoire.
Following the opening set, Leger and his band took the stage. With his ease, warmth and comfortable stage presence, the Toronto songwriter began with a series of country jams that seamlessly glided into one another without missing a note. When the band would take a minute between songs, Leger was keen on entertaining the crowd with a small story told in a nostalgic cadence. At one point, he silenced the room and invited his drummer to make a couple jokes, teaching the crowd that the best time to go to the dentist is at "tooth hurty."
At the end of Leger's first set, he announced he was going to do one more song and then take a break, but after this song was done, his bassist glided right into the solo of "You Are My Sunshine" and the crowd spontaneously began to sing along joyfully, in what became the highlight of the night.
After a small break, the room was packed and the audience was comfortably drunk and ready to dance. Leger's set by this point had become much more jammy, filled with originals and, every once in awhile, covers of Big Joe Williams, the Clash and Hank Williams (for the "Hanky Panky" fans). As 2 a.m. rolled around, Leger announced last call at the bar and closed the place down with a few final jams, surely transporting any Toronto urbanite to a rural soundscape.