How do you get civil servants to stay out past midnight on a Thursday evening? Answer: keyboards, keyboards, and more keyboards. In fact, it’s probably a good thing that Royal Canoe and The Liptonians aren’t in Ottawa more often – hordes of hungover, bleary-eyed government folk, their eardrums still ringing with echoes of the previous night’s soulful indie pop, might lead to a complete shutdown in the federal service.
Of course, such an apocalyptic scenario’s a long way off – perhaps it was the mid-week slot in the Prairie Scene schedule, or the threat of tornadoes battering down Mavericks’ brick walls, but the dance floor was sadly a bit sparsely populated for the two Winnipeg buzz bands. The Liptonians had the bigger turnout, and didn’t disappoint, kicking the tracks on Let’s All March Back Into The Sea, their most recent album, into high gear (although a driving cover of Wilco’ “Walken” was my personal highlight). But whereas the Liptonians had the numbers, Royal Canoe had the best dancer of the night – an umbrella-wielding, Dean Martin-aping hipster who strutted and twirled to Matt Peters’ crystalline falsetto and the grooves laid down behind him. High point: the soaring “Exodus of the Year” and its pulsing 5/4 time signature. Saskatoon’s Maybe Smith, who showed up onstage alone (backed, he quipped, by his band “Kamouflage – with a ‘K'”), opened the night with two extended medleys – an intriguing idea, but one that seemed a bit out of place given the bands that followed. I’d have loved to have heard his cerebral laptop indie pop, so sumptuous on record, fleshed out a bit more. But overall, a pretty excellent Thursday night in the nation’s capital. -Trevor Pritchard