Ottawa band leMeow has been making waves in the city for the last couple years with their catchy retro soul-meets-Motown sound that continues to capture hearts everywhere they go. Back for a second appearance at Bluesfest, the band grew in size this year to include newest member Nick Gauthier on guitar/vocals, and a guest appearance midway through the show by the Texas Horns. Together they took a packed Claridge stage crowd on a hand-clapping, toe-tapping ride of songs from their debut album York St. (2016) along with a few new numbers.
Lead singer/songwriter Gin Bourgeois boarded the stage dressed in a colourful striped mini dress, looking every part a blonde siren of the silver screen. The band opened up with “Evening Blues”, which had a hypnotic vibe and a driving tribal beat, and all at once I was transported back to a 1930’s New Orleans speakeasy. I was especially touched by a stripped-down piece entitled, “Secondhand Love”. Bassist for the band James Rooke switched to guitar to provide the sole accompaniment which spotlighted Gin’s pure and robust vocals that were wrapped around a gorgeous melody. Rooke leaned in to share the mic and added some harmonies, which brought an intimate touch to their stage presence.
The band gave the audience a sneak peek performance of upcoming single, “Drip Drop”, which began with a finger snapping intro into a smooth walking bassline groove. One called “Milk & Honey” was rich in a soulful jazz flow, and featured Brent Hultquist who stepped out from behind the keys to deliver a great sax solo that tail-ended in a surprise segment of “Careless Whisper”. The next surprise was an arrangement of a 1965 song by “The Brunswick Playboys” called “On The Outside Looking In”, which had all the elements of a bopping 60’s merseybeat, but with an added big band polish by The Texas Horns. Gin’s father, present in the audience, had once been part of this band, and was completely surprised to hear leMeow’s version of one of their songs.
I loved the R&B flavoured “Catcher In The Rye”, with its bright changing melody, textured rhythms by drummer Jansen Richard, and wonderful orchestral swells by The Texas Horns. The title track from their debut album shuffled along with its quick soulful energy which generated plenty of hand-clapping from an enthusiastic crowd. Gin led the way in heating up the audience with her dynamic stage presence as she constantly worked the stage’s catwalk. The band capped off their set with a gospel-infused bit of 50’s rock ’n roll magic entitled, “That’s My Man”, which brought the applause meter even higher, and tied things up nicely with a standing ovation. leMeow certainly got the party started, and kicked off another great night of music at Bluesfest.
RBC Bluesfest runs from July 5–15, 2018 at LeBreton Flats. Visit ottawabluesfest.com for the lineup and schedule. Keep checking back for more of Apt613’s Bluesfest coverage and follow us on Instagram for the latest photos.