"I'm so sorry, this is not jazz," proclaimed a flustered patron to his table.
It was midway through Larry and His Flask's set. The man was in a suit and accompanied by two women in fancy dresses. Everyone else in The Pyramid Cabaret was dressed casual, in vests or had facial hair. After killing another shot, the trio departed. Perhaps they missed the merchandise table, which displayed LAHF neckties and "Who Wants a Beard Ride?" t-shirts. It was the most punk rock moment of the night, next to Jazz Festival's only mosh pit.
One wonders how a well-to-do gentleman wound up at the wrong place. Perhaps spontaneity caused him to overlook the festival program and website. Regardless, the rest of the crowd warmed up to the string stretching performers.
The Schomberg Fair (Toronto)
"Are you guys still alive out there in Winnipeg?" asked banjoist and vocalist Matt Bahen.
Given how drummer Peter Garthside punished the skins, the audience was alert at best. The Schomberg Fair are billed as "Roots Rockin' Gospel Magic". Save Bahen's proficiency on banjo and bassist Nathan Sidon's well-deep vocals, this was an alt-rock set.
From the onset of opener "O Mercy", The Schomberg Fair came on strong. Two thirds of the Toronto trio slinked and strutted on their sides of the stage. Strings were tugged to the peak of their tension. At the breakdown, which was ripe for participation, the audience hesitated to clap and sing along.
The handclaps finally came during "I'd Raise My Hand". This was after a number of revelations. Firstly, this is a band that loves to play together. Their disposition was dark but their dynamic was sound. They even let Ian Cook from Larry and his Flask join in on the fun. Secondly, well into "Black Train", it was obvious that Nathan Sidon is bass incarnate. While singing, "Ticket is paid by the weight of your love," his vocals rumbled over Bahen's guitar. This was enough to warrant a small applause.
By set closer, "Satan, Your Kingdom Must Come Down", the sweat began to flow. Hands came together and voices arose from the wings. It set the stage perfectly for Larry and his Flask. However, it proved that there could have been more love for The Schomberg Fair. At least they'd found a few new fans.
Larry and his Flask (Oregon)
On their second song, "No Life", Larry and his Flask ha d their crowd clapping in unison. The Redmond, Oregon six-piece all formed a line at the front of the stage. Except for Jeshua Marshall, who swung his stand-up bass like a cheap Stratocaster knock-off. Everyone looked as comfortable as guitarist/vocalist Ian Cook's moustache on the microphone. This positioning allowed ample audience interaction and gave a sense that the band is a creative democracy.
Between the crowd and the bad-ass bluegrass band, it was hard to tell who liked who more. With inspirational speeches, ventures through the venue and numerous dances, this show seemed beneficial on both parts. This was also reflected in their song selection. "Flag and Concrete" transformed into Marvin Gaye's "What's Going On?" which prompted sing-along. Nathan Sidon stepped up for "Slow It Down" and fit almost too perfectly with the vocal dynamic. By the end of "Shakedown", Cook was forced to ask "Is this a Monday?"
Over sixty percent of the set was cuts from 2011's All That We Know. Through seventeen short energetic bursts, the band covered the bulk of the album with a few extras. They even dropped a song called "Hobo's Lament".
At points, it was hard hear anything over the sound of strings shredding. Call it proficient song-writing, some numbers were little more than a couple of chords and catchy leads. In essence, it was a celebration of the common ground between punk rock and traditional folk. The up-tempo performance even prompted a good old fashioned mosh pit. Perhaps it's best that some patrons sought an actual jazz concert.