Wolfe Island goes coastal

Doiron takes trip on the ferry, Superfantastics go overboard

Nich Worby opened for the Superfantastics and Blue Heeler Sunday night at the Island Grill on Wolfe Island.
Nich Worby opened for the Superfantastics and Blue Heeler Sunday night at the Island Grill on Wolfe Island.

A few steps away from the Wolfe Island ferry, the Island Grill has wood paneling, beer logos and photo collages of local bar regulars—all the makings of a dad’s basement, complete with a conspicuously septic smell.

For the three laid-back bands playing this past Sunday—Blue Heeler, the Superfantastics and Nich Worby—the location couldn’t have been more ideal—particularly for Blue Heeler’s Dick Morello, who used to summer on Wolfe Island.

Morello, a New Brunswick singer-songwriter who played with The Janitors and Shotgun and Jaybird before teaming up with former Eric’s Trip member Julie Doiron to create Blue Heeler, said he named his 2004 solo album, RCPMRIEFTMAS, an acronym of the warning instructions on the side of the ferry’s lifeboats.

“That was my first experience with what could be called photographic memory,” he said. “And actually my only experience of it.”

Morello opened Blue Heeler’s set playing guitar and singing many of the songs from his solo album, while Doiron played the drums.

Slightly hunched behind the microphone in a wool sweater and thick-rim glasses, Morello looked every bit the part of the sensitive and awkward artists he has been compared to. His songs combine the detail-heavy lyrics of Weakerthans front-man John K. Sampson and Antony Hegarty’s quirky, emotional vibrato with the bare guitar sounds of Jeff Buckley. Doiron sang backup on Morello’s songs, and at one point said she was surprised at the way her vocals sounded.

“We’re just sort of figuring out the songs on the tour,” Morello said. “Now we can say we learned that one on Wolfe Island.”

Halifax’s the Superfantastics, who are touring with Blue Heeler, are Matt MacDonald and Stephanie d’Entremont.MacDonald sang lead vocals, playing an endearing sea-foam green guitar and d’Entremont played drums. Although their songs were sweet and poppy, long periods of banter between songs became distracting and, after a particularly long conversation about d’Entremont’s family tree and some incest jokes, annoying.

MacDonald has clearly taken a page from fellow Haligonian pop rocker Joel Plaskett’s songbook, though the Superfantastics and their songs were more consciously twee than Plaskett’s working-class appeal.

The Superfantastics’ best moment was a song on which MacDonald went back and forth between playing the guitar and a keyboard that he joked could double as a time machine based on its retro-futuristic beeping sounds.

Local songster and Queen’s student Nich Worby opened the show, with a tighter arrangement than Kingston has seen from him since the winter.

Sunday night’s line up included his long-time bass player Matt Kicul, guitarist Paul Saulnier (PS I Love You, The Dirty Colours) and Bryce Baigle (Average Lime, Living Planet) on drums.

With Kicul and Saulnier singing acoustic backup, Worby’s trademark cascades of wordless ‘whoas’ and ‘ohs’ were rounded into focus from random sounds into expressions of real emotion.

Worby closed the set with a rendition of his as-yet untitled song that breaks down into what sounds like a Motown girl-group chorus.

Between songs, Worby announced that the last two copies of his 2006 album, Oh How?, were available for $10. Also going for $10 were whacks on his slowly dying car, which barely made it off the ferry.

Afterwards, Worby said playing a show on Wolfe Island makes show-going into an effort for the people who attend—and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

“The whole night is an event—just getting onto the boat,” he said. “The whole sort of context of the show is a bit different, because you’re not just walking into a pub and casually coming across a band—you’re making a deliberate effort to get on ship to see people play.”

This effort may have explained the otherwise inexplicable attention paid to all of the show’s artists by the mixed crowd of older Grill regulars and young, fresh-off-the-boat Kingstonians.

“I found people at the show were really attentive because they deliberately went there,” Worby said.

After problems with his vehicle interfered with a recent tour, Worby decided instead to focus on recording a new album, which will be out later this fall. In the meantime, he could use the $10 if anyone’s interested in banging up his car—it can be found parked next to the Island Grill.

Though concert-goers and all of the musicians made it back to the mainland on Sunday night, Worby’s car was left behind.

“It’s going to a scrap yard,”

he said.

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