Sunparlour Players / Sheesham & Lotus

The Black Sheep Inn, Wakefield QC November 14

BY Daniel SylvesterPublished Nov 18, 2009

Perpetually billed as Black Sheep Inn favourites, Toronto's Sunparlour Players crammed Wakefield, QC's premiere music venue with what seemed to be an equal mix of bored locals and fervent fans making the drive from Ottawa.

Decked in almost-authentic turn-of-last-century gear, Kingston, ON fiddle and banjo duo Sheesham & Lotus immediately drew the crowd in with their gentlemanly ragtime strut and ceremony, integrating kazoo, jaw harp, harmophone and old-timey megaphones into their stylized stage show. Losing an eternal battle with the Black Sheep's sound guy, Sheesham & Lotus strained to belt out their vocals, forcing the duo to bark and shout when they should have been crooning and harmonizing. But no amount of sound issues could stop Lotus Wight's banjo-romp and Sheesham Crowe's hambone-stomp from bringing the nominally reserved Black Sheep crowd to their feet.

Playing the Black Sheep stage for the fifth time in two years, Sunparlour Players were met with great affection and ovation. Returning the goodwill with a feral Arcade Fire-style percussion breakdown, vocalist Andrew Penner wrangled it in with an impassioned delivery of "O' Captain," from the band's sophomore LP Wave North. Skillfully manipulating a staggering 16 instruments between the three members — including Dennis Van Dine simultaneous tackling of bass, keyboards and kick drum, and Michael "Rosie" Rosenthal's enthusiastically sweat-soaked drum detonations — Sunparlour Players lamented through a set that came across equally ferocious and affectionate.

Dealing with sound problems of their own and observing a third of the crowd apathetically smoking cigarettes through stage windows, Sunparlour Players closed the set with the captivatingly penned "Point Pelee Is the Place to Be!" As Penner moaned and squirmed though the refrain of "Point! Point! Point!," Sunparlour Players demonstrated that rare ability to come across as a band who sound just as gorgeous drowning as they do while soaring.

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