. : : April 20th, 2017 : : .
NQ Arbuckle seems like the ultimate basement-bar band. It’s no wonder they’re frequently playing sold out shows at venues like Dakota Tavern in and around Toronto: front-man Neville Quinlan‘s sprechgesang (a german word for spoken-singing — don’t worry, I had to look it up too!) and clever lyrics, the band’s tight rhythm section, the hooks that are instantly catchy (but maybe not in a top-40 sort of way), there’s no question that they’ve carved a comfortable niche for themselves and developed a devout following.
But I can’t help but wonder if they’re really pushing for any more than that. After all, there was five years between the Juno-nominated album Let’s Just Stay Here and the follow up album, The Future Happens Anyway. Their recent single, Love Songs for the Long Game, was the first sign of new music from the band in the six years since.
The reasons for that might just be hinted at in the promotional music video for the latter — filled with minutiae of modern life (in COVID isolation), presumably of Quinlan’s family. Three young children are featured prominently, and (again, presumably) Quinlan’s wife, whose difficult health concerns was the subject of several songs on The Future Happens Anyway.
That is all speculation, anyway. What isn’t speculation? Well…
Quinlan is also the Managing Director of Peermusic Canada — a publishing company that is a veritable who’s-who in Canadian music, including frequent subjects of this very blog (ie. Hawksley Workman, Hannah Georgas, Kathleen Edwards, and Royal Wood). He also is on the board of directors of the CMRRA, Canadian Musical Representation Rights Agency.
I guess It’s safe to say that even when his music is on the back burner, music is rarely very far from his mind.
That being said, the band’s opening slot at the Phoenix Concert Theatre would be a remarkable change of scenery from the Dakota. With a capacity of 1,350 concert-goers, the Phoenix hosts a hair over 10x the latter, and about 3.5x their other popular haunt, the Horsehoe Tavern.
If you think that would phase NQ Arbuckle, you’d be quickly proven wrong.
Perhaps they were unburdened by being the only band on the bill not promoting a new record. Perhaps it was the pressure-free opening slot on a four-band bill. Or perhaps the band just swaggers with a cocksure confidence befitting their talents?
Whatever the reasoning, the band rose to the occasion with a setlist that would’ve been home on the very top of the bill. Charming, energetic, and typically wry, the performance serves as a reminder of why the band is one of the crown jewels in Canada’s roots-rock scene.
I’ve often complained about the bass-heavy, nightclub sound system at the Phoenix, but only a slight whisper of crowd talk (that you usually really have to listen for to hear) separates the quality of this recording from something you might otherwise see on an official release. The vocals are loud and clear, guitars are crisp and bright, and the bass and drums prop up the low-end nicely.
As such, this is a must-have recording for fans of the band, but should definitely be something of interest to listeners of roots-rock basement bands everywhere. They might be most comfortable on stages in and around Toronto, but they deserve the attention of a national audience. Download it, and hear for yourself.
(This torrent originally appeared on DimeADozen.org while this blog was offline. This download is unchanged from it’s original release)
- [intro / land acknowledgement]
- Back To Earth
- Cheap Town
- Officer Down
- Red Wine
- Postcards From Princess
- Don’t Remember Me
- Skydive Home
- I Liked You Right From The Start
> You Can’t Always Get What You Want [Rolling Stones] [tease]