Night two of the Grey Cup Festival concert series was set to highlight a pair of Alternative bands, Reuben and the Dark and Sloan, and a fun party band out of Toronto, Dwayne Gretzky, that was intended to warm up the crowd…but in the end it would be Gretzky that would steal the ball and take it all the way to the end for the night winning touchdown.
Ok that’s probably the first time the name Gretzky has ever been associated with football but if it works, why not? This 12 piece number out of Toronto was virtually unknown out here in Eastern Ontario. I had done a bit of homework on the group leading up to the Grey Cup Festival and all of my friends in Toronto raved about them and told me that they would likely be the highlight of the night…well, they were right. To be honest I was faced with a choice last night, go to Kingston and cover the Arkells and Matt Mays or come to Ottawa for the Grey Cup Festival for Alternative Night…it was my curiosity about Dwayne Gretzky that pushed me to chose Ottawa and I’m glad I did.
Most bands start their sets slower and build to the big songs but not Dwayne Gretzky. This group started at full throttle from the second they walked out on stage. Covering massive hits from the 60s, 70s, 80s and maybe a couple of 90s tracks thrown in for good measure every play (song) lead to a touchdown with the audience. Let me put it this way, the group was only 2 songs in and they had already attracted as many people into TD Place as were there the night before for country night and the people kept coming. Talking to a few others in the audience who felt that it would be impossible to top that performance. Incredibly even after that game winning performance Dwayne Gretzky went on to put on a second show over at the RNation party which, from what we heard, was equally impressive. My advice to you if you live in Toronto and haven’t heard of Dwayne Gretzky yet is to go and check them out, as a matter of fact you can do just that very soon as they’ll have a New Year’s Eve bash sometime between December 31 and January 1, you can find full details and tickets here. As for Ottawa I’m certain that after last night there’s no question they’ll be back, it’s just a question of when and where. Keep an eye on their website for show details.
Calgary based quintet Reuben and the Dark got the ball next. Although very popular with the fans in attendance I felt that following a high energy act like Dwayne Gretzky this act was far to melancholy. I was only familiar with a few of their songs, among them, the ever popular, “Bow and Arrow” which was even better live. Front man, Reuben Bullock, engaged with the audience tiptoeing around the theme of the weekend. Over the course of their set they made a few decent plays but in the end it came well short of matching the opening act. Reuben and the Dark return to Ottawa in just a few weeks as they open for the incredible Serena Ryder (who we just interviewed yesterday, stay tuned early this week for the full interview) at the Centrepointe Theatre.
The headliner of the night is one of Canada’s most popular bands, Sloan. It’s been at least 20 years since I last saw Sloan but I remember them as a up tempo, high energy live act. But would it be enough to overcome the points disadvantage created by Dwayne Gretzky? In short, no. Sloan came out with flying, it looked all but certain that they’d be able to top Dwayne Gretzky. Rolling through hit after hit, the crowd still growing, it was a powerful set. It was nice to see that the band I spent my college years listening to was still cranking out music like they were 25 years ago. I wouldn’t call Sloan my favourite band but they definitely have tracks, like “Money City Maniacs” and “The Good in Everyone” from the 90’s that you would find on my rock playlist. But last night I just found that it wasn’t enough. Dwayne Gretzky was just so good and so perfect and the bar was set so high that it would make all following bands look like amateurs. Sloan promised new music in 2018 and you can catch them on tour throughout the year with numerous festival gigs coming up including Stars and Thunder in Timmins, it wouldn’t surprise me if we saw an RBC Bluesfest date added as well. For full details and dates visit sloanmusic.com
The Grey Cup Festival continues today and we’re heading in to take in a full day of activities at Lansdowne Park and will cap it all off with the Classic Rock Concert tonight featuring Trooper and April Wine. If last night’s crowd was any indication you’ll want to make sure you get a ticket for tonight’s show because something tells me it’s going to be an incredible show. You can check out our Spotify Playlist for tonight’s show here!