The Greenhornes in Toronto – A Review

April 6, 2011 at 2:48 am (Uncategorized)

As a walked from my car to the Horseshoe Tavern for Sunday’s Greenhornes show, it started to snow. Now living in Canada, I’m used to snow, but as this was April 3rd and a few hours earlier the temperature had been double digits, it had a slightly strange feeling to it. The rest of the evening, no less so.

The Horseshoe Tavern is one of my favourite live venues in Toronto, so the weird weather aside, I was eagerly looking forward to the show. Nestled on Queen Street West near Spadina, the Horseshoe  holds about 300 people (more at a pinch), and with careful maneuvering, you can get a pretty good view of any band. I’ve seen Sun Volt, Sparklehorse, Alex Chilton, Link Wray, Dick Dale, and countless others there over the years.  

The Horseshoe was about half full when I arrived. I had a quick look at the merch table (Greenhornes switch blade combs anyone?) then found a seat near the back.  One thing that immediately struck me was the amount of plaid in the audience. By my approximation, almost 10% of the audience was wearing it. Is this a neo-grunge turn? On a less pleasant note, Horseshoe Tavern, your bathrooms had a Larry’s Hideaway feel to them. This is not a good development. (If you’ve were ever at Larry’s, you know what i mean; if you weren’t, count your blessings)

Anyway,  I hadn’t been there for more than ten minutes when the opening band Hacienda came on.

Hacienda are a four-piece band from San Antonio and play a bluesy style of rock. They played a fifty minute set of fairly tight music. There was nothing in their set that was out-of-the-park, but they were competent and hardworking, and more than enough to warm up the crowd for the main event. Have a listen to their stuff at their Myspace page – free MP3 for the price of your email)

Thirty minutes went by and the Greenhornes took the stage. The Greenhornes have been around since 1996 and are from Cincinnati. They play solid rock and roll with a sixties garage band flavour coupled with the British invasion (think Kinks and The Creation not the Beatles) .

Unfortunately they also are better known for their work other bands. Bass player Jack Lawrence and drummer Patrick Keeler are members of the Raconteurs, and Lawrence also played with the Dead Weather. Probably the biggest moment for the band was their appearance on the soundtrack to Jim Jaramusch’s  Dead Flowers, where they played back up to Holly Golightly. If all of this sounds good to you, the best place to start is the 2005 compilation Sewed Souls is a good place to begin.

When the band hit the stage, it was to a roar of approval and they quickly tore through some very catchy songs. The band sounded like a way above average garage band. You know, the kind of band that when you listen to a song and it reminds you of other great songs that you know, but then you realize these are originals, not covers, and it’s an homage not a cheap rip off.

Unfortunately, the band had trouble sustaining this momentum. First because, to my aging ears, they were just too loud. The crowd resembled nothing so much as a lava lamp, moving into the front, only to back away as the sound took its toll of the hearing. Second, just as things would get going, the band would slow things down with what seemed like extended versions of their songs (this was particularly evident on a number of intros, where the song seemed to take forever to get started). And, as if in response to this slowed down vibe, in one horrible moment, people ahead of me took out lighters to perform the tired rock industry tribute to a band’s slow numbers.

The show ended on an up note with “Pattern Skies” and “Lost Woman” followed by a two song encore.

So definitely a game of two halves. Not a bad show, but not exactly as transcendental as I expected walking in.

Here’s the set list

 1. Underestimator
2. River 
3. Thing She Says
4. Sorrow
5. Song 13
6. Cave Drawings
7. Hard Times
8. Saying Goodbye
9. Go Tell Henry
10. Better Off
11. The End of the Night
12. Pattern Skies
13 Lost Woman


1. High Time Baby
2. My Sparrow 

(Courtesy of )

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