. : : October 2nd, 2011 : : .
When Eamon McGrath first took the stage as the opening act for Ha Ha Tonka at the Drake Hotel, most of the room was certainly thrown off by the visual dicotomy. With an acoustic guitar in his lap and a violinist and an electric guitarist/keyboardist on either side of him, I know my first thought went to a traditional roots-folk trio. Decked out in a leather jacket over a dark hoodie — with the hood up over a baseball cap — McGrath’s visage suggested something more akin to the Ramones.
The resulting sound was closer to a Live In New York-era Nirvana, perhaps propelled there by McGrath’s raspy growl that commanded the attention of the room.
With an unfathomable 25-albums released over the last five years(!!), I’m sure the trio had just as easy a time putting together a short 25-minute setlist as they did enrapturing the large crowd that had filled the room in anticipation for the headliners.
Apparently, in a full band situation, McGrath’s music swings towards high-octane punk. I’d be interested to see how these songs translate to such a diametrically opposing setting, seeing as they seem so well slotted for the acoustic set up. Or maybe, with such a breadth of songs, he is able to cull together a completely different setlist?
Regardless, the songs sounded great, and the flourishes contributed by Norah (on violin) and Peter (electric guitar/keyboards) added subtle depth and beauty to what might otherwise be fairly straight ahead acoustic-rock.
The set only threatened to derail once, when early in the set McGrath shredded the strings on his acoustic guitar. Ha Ha Tonka front man Brian Roberts swept in with a save, offering his beautiful sounding guitar as a replacement, in what McGrath cutely and aptly calls “reverse hospitality.”
The recording sounds remarkable with instruments and voice coming through clear and discernibly separate. The audience was whisper silent during the songs, only exploding with appreciative applause when appropriate. This is a damn fine recording, and well worth at least a quick spin.
Hailing from Edmonton, Alberta, Eamon now calls Toronto his home. I, for one, am glad to have him.
10. The History of Canadian Music
12. Instrument of My Release
Thank you Eamon, Nora, Peter, Ha Ha Tonka and The Drake!