Sunset Rubdown Made It Worth the Wait in Ottawa

Club Saw, March 26

With Nicholas Merz

Photo: Chris Gee

BY Daniel SylvesterPublished Mar 27, 2023

Between the 2009 dissolution of Sunset Rubdown and the return of Wolf Parade in 2016, Spencer Krug delved into musical isolation with his Moonface project; his sole Ottawa appearance during those insular years culminated in a hushed and intimate solo performance at the Bluesfest School of Music and Art. That's why Sunset Rubdown's sold-out return to the nation's capital seemed more like a coming-out party than it was a simple nostalgic reunion.

As early arrivers crowded the front of Club Saw, opener Nicholas Merz took advantage of the evening's excitement, transforming the stage into a Lynchian theatre space. Adorned in a 10-gallon Stetson and cowboy boots, the moustachioed Seattleite positioned himself behind a modified pedal steel to craft warped noise loops. Rising to grip a mid-stage microphone, Merz performed a gentle half-step before descending to the club's floor to deliver gruff Scott Walker-esque whispers to the bemused but responsive crowd.

After a lengthy intermission, Krug entered the stage to fiddle with his keyboard, immediately breaking the tension by quipping, "I have a bit of housekeeping to do, I'll be another 20-25 minutes." Joined by the iconic lineup of Michael Doerksen, Camilla Wynne, and Jordan Robson-Cramer, Krug reached back into his catalogue to writhe through "Snake's Got a Leg" from the band's 2005 debut. 

Playing only their fourth show after a 14-year break, the quartet sounded amazingly tight throughout performances of "The Taming of the Hands That Came Back to Life" and "Silver Moons," while a rousing rendition of "Us Ones in Between" produced the evening's first audience singalong. Playing synchronized double duty of drums and synth, Robson-Cramer led the band into a moody "Shut Up I Am Dreaming of Places Where Lovers Have Wings," and the conclusion of the beloved 2006 track was met with a fan shouting, "I was one year old when that song came out," leading to a comical back-and-forth between band members.

As Krug kept the dialogue and witticisms flowing, his bandmates settled into a wonderfully loose set that found Merz joining in on bass and Doerksen and Jordan Robson-Cramer switching instruments. As the latter shredded through "Winged/Wicked Things" and "Stadiums and Shrines II," Doerksen added a thumping low-end to "You Go on Ahead (Trumpet Trumpet II)" and "Idiot Heart." As the show entered its second half, the band pulled out a few rarities, including "Coming to at Dawn" and a brand-new composition, "We're Losing Light." Finally whipping the crowd into a frenzy, the (now) quintet closed the set with locked-in and impassioned versions of "The Men are Called Horsemen There" and "The Mending of the Gown."    

Returning to the stage for an encore of "Dragon's Lair," Krug broke the news that they were over curfew. As the crowd pleaded for more music, it was clear that Spencer Krug was once again in his extroverted element and didn't hesitate to soak up every single moment.

Tour Dates

Latest Coverage