Whisky & Kings bring time warp to Clark

Campus band scene revives itself with old school jump and jive

Free Whisky doesn’t disappoint with their diverse and range of instruments, playing with and spicing up country sounds.
Free Whisky doesn’t disappoint with their diverse and range of instruments, playing with and spicing up country sounds.

There’s nothing like a heartfelt song to induce waves of nostalgia. That’s exactly what happened at Clark Hall on Thursday night. Generally, the campus band scene has been strictly contemporary rock but last week proved we have some old souls in our midst. First on the bill was country-bluegrass quartet Free Whisky—a name just as appealing to university students as their performance was to the room of loyal Clarkgoers. Their impressive outfit of instrumentation included everything from trombone and cajon box drums, to the more traditional banjo and harmonica, seamlessly blending to create a down-home, but always exciting, sound.

Written mainly by virtuosic lead vocalist Ben Wright, the brief but engaging songs showcased romantic prairie melodies and lyrics tinged with sweetness and sardonic humour. Crowd favourite “Eugene’s Body” featured lovable, crusty neighbourhood drunkard Eugene, while “Coffee Spoons” and “3 Long Hours” seemed to be a voyeuristic look into conversations between couples.

Whisky effectively harkened back to times past without sacrificing modern appeal. No one in the room could deny fiddler Chance Kellner’s skill for strings or her harmonic chemistry with Wright—a page right out of Belle and Sebastian’s prairie playbook. The addition of bongos and some Spanish guitar infused a flamenco flavour into the country vibe, a dissonance that was welcomed.

Whisky’s strength, though, was in their storytelling. Each set a rustic, melancholy painting of men at work in the mines, the women who waited for them, and the grumpy, old men who wanted their beer served at the bar’s backdoor.

An homage to the big band swing of the 20s and 30s, the King Street Swingers took the stage around 11 p.m. Clad in their finest suits, the band was composed of a collection of gentlemen who could undoubtedly out-swagger T.I. This eight-piece set, complete with full brass section, upright bass and an electric guitar straight out of American Bandstand, literally got their audience jumping, jiving and wailing. Apparently us modern recessionistas can dance just as well as the originals.

Of special note were both the lead vocalist’s Louis Armstrong-esque signature growl and the sparkling turn of the trombone. Though a risky throwback to AM Radio, the Swingers pulled it off with selections from a canon of more popular swing numbers such as “Sing, Sing, Sing” and a jazzy rendition of “Fly Me To The Moon”.

It just goes to show that when it comes down to swingers and whisky, we’re all a little bit old school.

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