Sunday, May 21, 2017

Live Review/Photo Essay: The Damn Truth / John Lee’s Hooker, Capitol Club: May 20 2017

Text / photos © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2017
Videos from the Internet
The Damn Truth's soundcheck

On the morning of May 20, 2017, I received a text from musician / poet / promoter / band manager Ralph Alphonso suggesting that I should go check out a band from Montreal that was headlining the Capitol in Saskatoon that night named The Damn Truth. 

When Ralph makes a suggestion, I pay attention. The Damn Truth [TDT] were one of three bands playing that night, including John Lee’s Hookers [JLH] (from Rossland, BC) opening and Soft Cotton  as the swing group. It’s been too long since I’ve seen some new live music, so even after a day of weeding, hoeing and planting, I set off.

I walked into the place, which is run by one of the ex-members of local town heroes The Sheepdogs – one of my fave venues in Saskatoon, I would like to add – as The Damn Truth were finishing their soundcheck. I took a couple of pix, and then settled down to wait for the show, also sitting through the very brief JLH check.

Through the suggestion via text of Ralph, I went over to TDT and introduced myself. We ended up having dinner together in the club (their food is pretty basic hamburger kinda stuff, but well made… I had the chicken bacon burger, in FYI TMI sharing). I explained my history briefly to them, and we all shared Canadian themed topics, like weather, crime statistics, and big vs. small city life. They also explained that while they are technically the headliners, Soft Cotton would go on after them to help keep the hometown crowd there (unspoken for, I am assuming, buying drinks; this a business model choice for which I have no problem).

At some point as I was ending my meal, JLH came on, so I excused myself, and went off to see them play close up. That night it was Brad Mackay on guitar/vocals and Austin Delaye on drums/vocals; I’m not sure who was on bass (Johnny Dudar?); normally there is a fourth member, as well. Gotta say, even as a power trio, they kept it going.

Their sound is a southern rock blues, laying more towards the rock end. Their long hair belays their mode, and they kicked some butt doing it. The place was still sparse, but those who were there were enthusiastic, especially one guy who stood right up front (blocking my camera, I must add) finishing multiple pints that night, and who had on a shirt that had a Toronto Blue Jays log and said, “I (heart) BJs.” Um, yeah.

Anyhoo, Southern Rock not being my oeuvre, I didn’t really have too much of a frame of reference so I couldn’t tell which were originals and which covers (someone behind me wondered if they would cover “Freebird,” which they happily didn’t), but I certainly enjoyed the set. If I get the chance to see them again, odds are they will have a different name though, because apparently three days before the show they were given a cease and desist from the estate of John Lee Hooker about their name, and they are actively looking for another. What about JL’s Hooker?

After TDT set up their extensive amount of equipment, including stage lights, a box that lit up when stood upon, an extra drum, maracas, and a huge peace symbol, they came on full tilt. A solid blues rock band, lead vocalist/guitarist Lee-La Baum took immediate control of the room, and orally blasted the songs at scorching levels. Accompanying her in solid musicianship are Tom Shemer on lead guitar, bassist PY Letellier, and Dave Traina on drums.

Their level of musicianship and stage presence is solid, with no slacking by any member. There have been comparisons with Janis J., but I don’t buy that, but only because there is only one Janis. I’m sure someone will compare them to Heart, but nah: the Wilson sisters are okay, though have no real bite outside of the studio. However, I can imagine a killer bill (if I could scoop through time) of TDT, Minnesota’s Sena Ehrhardt Band, and Brooklyn’s own Flame. But this night, TDT were holding the genre heart high. How much fun is TDT? Well, they covered a U2 song, “Love is Blindness,” and it did not make me think of the original, I’m happy to say.

After the set, I was invited back stage by Dave Traina, and took the opportunity to thank the band for the great set, and for the change to hang out with them a bit. Next time they come to town, if they aren’t playing at a stadium sized venue, (a) that would be a shame, and (b) I will definitely go see them again.

I left at 1 AM, due to physical exhaustion after a day in the garden under a hot sun, just as Soft Cotton was setting up. As I really wanted to see them, my rationalization was that I would hopefully get another chance soon as they are local to Saskatoon. My apologies to the band.

Thank you Ralph for the suggestion (right as always), and to The Damn Truth for being open to dinner talk, and a great show. Videos of the band appear after the photos, which can be enlarged by clicking on them.

 John Lee's Hookers:


The Damn Truth:



Bonus: How they sound (from the Web):

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