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The Start: Leather ties and Lust for Life

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Photo courtesy of The Start.Photo courtesy of The Start.

The Start is playing the Pour House (62 William Street in the Byward market) on Saturday, October 2nd from 10 pm till late.

I’m a little embarrassed to be posting a favourable preview for a cover band. Usually, when I’m searching out live local music, I’m drawn more to the hip, the underground, and/or the indie scene. But on a sweaty July evening in a Hintonburg tavern this past summer, Ottawa Brit pop/punk/mod band The Start got my attention, and admittedly, a lot of my energy.

Cover bands are often considered no more than living juke boxes – they create a lively background over which restaurant or bar patrons can yell, laugh, and otherwise intermingle. In Ottawa, it seems that the more common ones play a lot of Sailor folk songs and mainstream rock (can one actually spend a full night at the Heart and Crown without declaring oneself sick from the drink and needing home for a rest?). Yet the Start doesn’t quite fit the Ottawa pub band stereotype, and here’s my best attempt at explaining why:

1 ) They play songs that you don’t think you know, but you know. Except for those of you Brit pop/punk/mod experts out there, I’ll bet you don’t think you know 35 songs in that category. But to my surprise, I did, AND they made me dance. According to lead singer Graeme Weekes, the band initially focused on British mod music (think the Kinks, the Who), but they moved to incorporate more punk (The Clash, Jam), new wave (Elvis Costello, The Police), electronic (Depeche Mode) and other artists who defy classification (Billy Idol). They will even play the occasional American mash-up (think Iggy Pop’s “Lust for Life” merged with “You Can’t Hurry Love” by the Supremes).

2) They are dead serious. From my interview with Weekes, I got a sense of how much effort they put into their schtick: songs are perfected; band candidates are rigorously evaluated; and their performance as authentic Brit as possible.

3) They dress unusually sharp. We’re talking black Italian suits with thin leather ties, bought by Weekes on Carnaby Street in London. The same outfits as traditional mod bands used to wear, I am told (so don’t go mixing them up with 50s salesmen getups).

Whatever the formula, I hereby argue that it’s okay to go to the pub to catch a cover band. The Start’s catchy playlist had me and a full crew of friends dancing and laughing in the aisles, surpassing my usual expectations for an Ottawa pub night by far.

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