White Cowbell Oklahoma / Big John Bates & the Voodoo Dollz / The Schomberg Fair Maverick's, Ottawa ON November 26
Published Nov 29, 2010A cold Ottawa night began rather inauspiciously with the Schomberg Fair's speedy folk punk. The Toronto trio's mix of gospel, blues and punk rock got feet tapping but failed to ignite the crowd during the brief set; soon it became clear who people were waiting for.
The top-hatted Big John Bates and his band followed, burning through their vicious set of punk blues and rockabilly in under an hour. A rumbling take on "Burlesque Is Dead" put a match to the night, but as good as the sound was, there was also the stage show: upright bass player Brandy clambered atop her instrument, while burlesque dancers the Voodoo Dollz were an amusing distraction, pulling audience members onstage to spoon-feed them Jägermeister or knife fight during songs. By the time the Vancouver three-piece closed with a smouldering Cramps cover, the crowd was begging for more.
It's hard to discuss faux Southern rockers White Cowbell Oklahoma without mentioning the madness that goes down anytime they play. The six-man band assumed the stage clad in western shirts, with mascot/cowbell player Chainsaw Charlie making a simple inquiry: "Are y'all ready for some rock'n'roll?"
The band proceeded to blunder through alternate-universe FM classics like the bluesy boogie of "Cheerleader" and the self-explanatory "She's Got My Love in Her Hand," with a vigour that could only be described as inhumanely rock'n'roll and fuelled by liquor and the love of Jesus. A deafening seven-minute rendition of Funkadelic's "Hit It and Quit It" saw Charlie applying his namesake to several rolls of toilet paper, coating the crowd in shredded white. By the time the boys returned for an encore of "Put the South In Your Mouth," the crowd was practically foaming at the mouth, chanting the chorus. Rock'n'roll ain't dead, it just moved to southern Ontario.