On Friday March 23, 2012, Streets of Hastings held their official release party at the Avant Garde bar in Ottawa, ON. I went there to do a show review (and to take in the show for personal enjoyment as well). If you’ve never been to the Avant Garde bar, let me paint you a little picture.
This is a small bar – definitely part of its charm as a venue for artists to perform. The stage / bar area is at the front, and is a very narrow area. It opens up at the back, beyond the washrooms, where there is a fairly large seating area with a couple of couches. There is Russian Communist-era art hanging all over the place, featuring some funny looking posters advising “No Foul Language”, or for movie buffs, a movie poster for Battleship Potemkin. The one thing you should take away from this though, is that it is small. This is important to my review, but I’ll get to that shortly.
I decided to drive downtown, thinking that with a show starting at 8pm, if I got downtown by 7:45 I’d be able to quickly find a parking spot and get a nice table for my friends who were showing up later after 9:30. Not so much. It took me the better part of 15 minutes to find a spot, and another ten minutes (which felt like five, I swear!) to walk back to the bar. I ended up snagging some seating at the back, which unfortunately resulted in not being able to see the stage.
Still, I could get glimpses of the stage when I went up to order a $3.75 can of Diet Coke, so I was not completely oblivious the entire night. Because the venue is so small, you could pretty much see all of the stage when you got up (even if the area in front of the stage was super crowded). Remember how I said that it was important that the bar was small? The band’s guitarist Phil likened the place to a house party, and I have to say that’s exactly the vibe I got while they were playing.
When I got to the bar, I was immediately able to find the band and talk to them, and even got into a conversation with a couple (whom I assume are related to one of the band members) about the terrible score of the Sens-Habs game (let’s just not talk about it here. It was an ugly game). Throughout the show, people were gathered into little groups and chatting away, while occasionally mingling through the crowd to check out another part of the place. Hands were clapping as the show progressed, and in general, the small-venue atmosphere was great.
The opener was Mark Kenny, a singer/songwriter also based in Ottawa. I didn’t get a good look at his stage presence, but from what I could tell it was Mark and a guitar on stage. He had a great mix of genres, playing everything from alternative, to folk, to celtic, and also some blues mixed in there. He did a few covers, and I think my favourite was his City and Colour cover – you could swear you were listening to Dallas Green if you didn’t know better. I had a couple of live tweets about him while I was waiting for my friends to show up.
As for Streets of Hastings, these guys were excellent – especially when you consider Phil told me later he was downing spoonfuls of honey and throat lozenges. They thought they weren’t the greatest, but hey – you’re always your own worst critic, right? (Aside: I thought that the interview didn’t sound technically as good as it could have, but everybody who’s heard it says otherwise) The live show is definitely an experience to take in – the songs are a bit looser than on the album, and the crowd really got into it. Like I said, I didn’t get too many chances to get up to the stage because of the density of the crowd in a tiny area, but they seemed to be in their element and having a blast.
And really, if you’ve heard my interview with them (check out Podcast 46!), that’s what they’re in this for: to have fun. And above all, that’s what the band was saying after the show, that they were just having some fun up there. What more could you ask for?
All three guys – Peyts, Phil, and Trucker – are great guys and as much as they’re looking for exposure for their band, they’ve really helped me out as well. I really appreciate their work ethic and their music, so I hope to get out to some more of their shows in the future. Sláinte!