Band of Horses Facebook It's early afternoon, and Ben Bridwell and Bill…
- Posted on Aug 3rd 2011 2:00PM by Lonny Knapp
Courtesy of the Beauties
On a recent Sunday, Spinner tagged along with the Toronto five-piece as they logged an impressive five sets, on three stages, in two cities -- all in one day. Come along for the ride as we spend a day with the Beauties.
4:00PM -- Guelph, Ontario -- Lobby Call
When the big white Ford Econoline van pulls up in front of the hotel, the Beauties are already waiting outside. The night before, the band's tour -- both backing and opening for singer-songwriter Serena Ryder -- culminated with an outdoor performance for over 12,000 fans in Ryder's hometown of Peterborough, Ontario. Before that, they were in Halifax. Despite traveling over 1,900KM in just under 48 hours, the band is well rested and in high spirits, except for drummer Derek Downham. He complains that he hurt himself while swimming laps in the hotel's pool.
"I jammed my finger," he says, removing an ice pack from his right hand to reveal a grotesquely swollen middle finger.
With a marathon of music ahead, the injury is cause for concern. The Beauties are set to back Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew and Serena Ryder at Guelph Ontario's long-running Hillside Music festival, before deadheading home to perform three sets at the band's regular Sunday night gig at the Dakota. Nevertheless, Downham's bandmates show little sympathy.
Hopping into the van, singer-guitarist Darin McConnell quips, "It doesn't even look that swollen. He's a big baby." Downham doesn't mind the ribbing, he says, despite his injury, he's in better shape than when the band played the festival a year earlier.
"At least I'm not naked and tripping on mushrooms," he confides before joining the others in the van.
4:55PM -- Hillside Festival -- Backstage
The Hillside Festival is one of Canada's coolest multi-day music festivals. For the first gig of the day, the Beauties will back Broken Social Scene's Kevin Drew in a beer tent dubbed the Island Stage.
Drew is a regular at the Dakota Tavern and often joins the band on stage on Sunday nights. Earlier this summer, the friends got together to write a batch of tunes. Enjoying a cold one back stage, singer-guitarist Shawn Creamer says that while the band is pleased with the outcome, they haven't discussed recording an album.
"We've literally taken all the pressure out of it by not talking about that," he tells Spinner. "We purposely kept our agents and managers out of it. We just want to have a good time together. This is just about friends playing music."
The Hillside gig is the debut of Kevin Drew and the Beauties, and word is, Drew is nervous.
"He hasn't played with a band other than Broken Social Scene in a very long time, and he's got more at stake then we do," Creamer explains.
6:00PM -- Kevin Drew and the Beauties
The band hits the stage and pummels through a set of freshly penned rock tunes. Drew -- on sabbatical from his beloved indie rock collective -- is having a blast; he takes a turn on drums, bass, guitar and the keyboards, and his enthusiasm is infectious.
On stage, a group of seasoned musicians is making music without an agenda, and the audience is eating it up. When fellow BSS singer Lisa Lobsinger joins the band for a super-charged take on Arcade Fire's 'Empty Room,' the tented room vibrates like a travelling Baptist ministry.
Afterward, Drew credits his back-up band for letting him work without a net.
"They are musically very trustworthy. They have this energy between them, they are fully dialed in, and they blend in with what I'm doing so easily," he says. "It's music for the sake of music, and it's a spiritual high."
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Coming down from the first set, the Beauties are backstage killing brews with fellow musicians Andrew Scott of Sloan and Do Make Say Think's Ohad Benchetrit. While most festival performers are satisfied with a 45-minute slot, the Beauties are already itching to get back on stage. "When we play a 45-minute set, we are like, "What the f--- is that? Seriously, we are just getting warmed up," singer-guitarist Darin McConnell tells Spinner.
8:00PM -- Mainstage -- Serena Ryder and the Beauties
On the main stage, backing Juno Award-winning singer Serena Ryder, the Beauties reveal a softer side. On hits such as 'Weak in the Knees,' and a 'Little Bit of Red,' guitarists Jud Ruhl and McConnell weave gentle lines, bassist Paul Pfisterer locks in the bottom end, while Creamer bolsters Ryder's already solid vocal lines with spot-on harmonies.
Most impressive is Downham, who earlier seemed intent on destroying his drum kit, but now shows remarkable restraint. When Ryder unveils 'Only You' and 'Standing Still,' two excellent songs co-written with Downham, it's clear the drummer's contribution goes beyond smashing things.
Last year, Serena Ryder hooked up with the Beauties to record the exceptional cover EP, 'Serena Ryder and The Beauties.' Lounging on the grass enjoying a post-show beer, Ryder tells Spinner that if she has her way, the collaboration will soon yield a full-length album.
"I've wanted to make a full-length record with them forever. If the stars align, it would be unbelievable," she says. "They are really amazing, big-hearted, wonderful men. They are in it 'cause they love playing music, partying and hanging with their friends. There is none of that rock star bulls---."
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As festival headliners Sloan prepare to take the stage, the Beauties load up their gear, pile into the van and make the 100KM trek back to Toronto.
11:25PM -- Toronto -- The Dakota Tavern
The Beauties arrive at the Dakota Tavern late for their first set. The bar is already at capacity and a line of music fans is forming down the block. It's a Sunday night but the folks packed into the Dakota Tavern didn't get the memo; the beer is flowing and the party is brewing -- Monday morning is the last thing on anyone's mind.
The Beauties take the stage performing originals such as 'Fashion Blues' and covers like Holly Go Lightly's 'Devil Do,' and the rowdy crowd sings along with every word. The band is on home turf, and they pull no punches; they whip the crowd into a frenzy, bring them back down, then wind them up again.
Creamer is the co-owner of the hip watering hole, and for over five years, the Beauties have held down a Sunday night residency. Ruhl tells Spinner that when the band returns from dates on the road, a gig at the Dakota is a homecoming. "It's just like coming home to where we were born," he says. "It's dirty and sweaty, and we are usually pretty drunk, but this is our home."
12:30PM -- The Beauties with Serena Ryder and Kevin Drew
For the second and third sets of the night Serena Ryder and Kevin Drew join the Beauties on stage, and offer lucky hometown fans a recap of their Hillside Festival performances. These late-night tequila-powered sets are looser, more intimate and equally impressive. One wonders if the musicians' faces are beginning to hurt from all the smiling.
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With last call looming, the Beauties are onstage performing their fifth and final set. It's been a long day, but the guys show no signs of fatigue. In fact, as the evening wears on and the tequila pours more and more freely, the band only gets tighter. Like that drum-pounding Energizer bunny that hawks long-lasting batteries, the Beauties just keep going and going. The band's vim is impressive. When pressed McConnell reveals the secret ingredients to the band's stamina potion.
"It's trucker pills and tequila," he jokes, but then adds more seriously. "No, we just get on stage and do what we do."