REVIEW gig The Sadies The Abilene, Toronto

The Sadies Don't Disappoint

Tonight we went to see a band from up in Toronto called The Sadies. We’ve been meaning to see them for quite a while and if you haven’t seen them, you’re missing out on a truly rare and precious jewel.

They’re fronted by the Good brothers, Travis and Dallas, who look like desperadoes from a Cormac McCarthy novel, and who spring from a musical dynasty steeped in rootsy Americana. On stand-up bass and mountains of stamina is a chap named Sean Dean and hidden behind a wall of weathered amplifiers, due to the diminutive nature of the venue was the drummer Mike Belitsky. Or at least I’m pretty sure he was. You could certainly hear him but you couldn’t actually see him.

A crowd of about 130 people crammed into what was once a small house in downtown Rochester and which has been converted into an intimate music venue called “The Abilene Bar and Lounge” (there’s nowhere to lounge, but there is a bar). Good the Younger has greying side-buns, straight hair parted to one side and a sincere smile that responds to the boisterous cheering from the raucous crowd. He looks like he could survive for years in the desert wilderness of the western United States as long as he had a horse, a pair of knives and a canteen. His older brother has long frizzy hair and resembles a taciturn ranch-hand who lives in a barn somewhere over yonder. Dean and the Goods spent the evening like any other, side by side, dressed in bright, ornately decorated suits, and their fingers speeding all over the fret boards of their instruments like world champion Morse coders. Belitsky’s beats from the back of the stage pushed the music all night, while the brothers’ voices were locked in harmony and their faces animated with emotion as they sung about life, love, and loss.

Despite their apparent Americana background, their love of exploration and experimentation is obvious. They delve into surf-rock, alternative country, rock ‘n’ roll psychedelia, and I even discerned a serving of traditional British folk. But the common denominator is twin electric guitars twanging at break-neck speed all the way to the county line along with their impenetrable engine made out of drums and bass. Good the Younger tunes and de-tunes his guitar mid-song all evening. At one point the brothers even got real close to each other and with their left hand played the notes on the fret-board of their brother’s guitar, while continuing to pick the strings of their own guitar with their right. And they didn’t choose to do this during a plodding country ballad, they picked one of their lightning quick songs where the guitars sounded like they were being played by twin Hank Marvins.

This band creates foot-stomping, rip-roaring melody after melody that threatens to bring the roof off especially at a small place like Abilene; but they are anything but one dimensional. Good the Elder switches over to fiddle or acoustic guitar for some diversity when the music requires it, and the band plays slow, haunting tunes with as much passion as the faster numbers. When Good the Elder sings, his eyes are closed and his mouth is as gaping wide as the Cumberland Gap. But then like the rest of the band, he smiles appreciatively to the applause for each song which grows louder and louder as the night progresses and the pints flow.

The Sadies really put their backs into it. Perhaps their suits are made of the lightest, most ventilated material in the world because despite all their animation, they didn’t seem to sweat one jot. They played for nearly two and a half hours, and they looked as fresh at the end of the night as they did when they first appeared from behind an inconspicuous door to take the stage. Before they could begin their encore, my good friend Eph standing next to me near the front of the crowd asked Good the Younger how many more songs they’d be finishing the show with. “Ten!” he replied with insouciance. We were sure he was joking, and although a lot of the songs were brief, he wasn’t far off. I think that us lesser mortals can only wonder at that kind of stamina.

The fee-paying public knows a class act when it sees one. Eph and I are already planning our February trip to Toronto to go and watch them at the venerable Massey Hall. I recommend that you look to purchase your ticket as soon as possible because when these guys take the stage life is Good.