It was -11°C outside and apparently felt like a brisk -19°C, but the pre-show excitement I always experience distracted me from Kingston’s fluctuating weather. It snowed softly and the cool wind stung my cheeks, but I was overwhelmed with a curiosity of how this night would play out. Having never heard of the Toronto-based band The Golden Dogs prior to this show, I had little idea what I was in for.
Walking into the Grad Club (which is accurately described as campus’ “well-kept secret”) for the first time, I was pleasantly surprised to see how intimate the converted Barrie Victorian house was. Every show-goer on Friday night, despite age, gender, personal attire or drink of choice, seemed to fit just right.
The dim lighting, quiet chatter of the show attendees and distant clinking of pint glasses provided a certain genuine life to the house that is hard to come by in more commercial venues. The drooping red curtain in the background and single strand of Christmas lights, which seemed to light up to the beat of the music, only added more to the charm of the entire setting.
It seemed like another world on the inside, like an underground city reserved for a select group of music-appreciators of the diverse Kingston population. The peaceful, almost eerie atmosphere outside the cozy venue offered a perfect juxtaposition for what was to come, which was, quite simply put, an invigorating assault on my senses.
The main show area (which could otherwise be called a living room with a small stage) packed slowly as the opener, The Main Sail, graced us with their long-haired and lanky presence. Not long after, the room was filled with heavy bass riffs and raw garage band-esque vocals from the group, whose front man, Taylor Knox, is also the drummer for The Golden Dogs.
Although their short set of catchy, head-bob worthy songs seemed to all sound relatively similar, The Main Sail definitely pleased the small crowd that had formed around the stage. They established the wall-shaking tone for the rest of the evening, but the night hadn’t reached its full potential until The Golden Dogs took the stage.
The audience eagerly awaited the band they’d trekked through the blistering cold to see, chatting with fellow Golden Dogs fans, and sipping alcoholic beverages as the stage was being set up. Casual is the perfect word to describe the situation.
As I watched them set up the stage, I wondered who in their right mind would be wearing a scarf, hat, vest, and long-sleeved shirt inside a pleasantly cramped venue that we all knew would only become warmer once the band began. Little did I know, the man I was scrutinizing was Dave Azzolini, front man of The Golden Dogs.
With Jessica Grassia, Azzolini’s incredibly enthusiastic sidekick on keyboard, The Golden Dogs left the audience no time to adjust and jumped right into their opening number “Dark Room.” After an infectious keyboard introduction, Azzolini’s voice hauntingly filled the room, capturing my attention immediately. And you know shit’s going down when Grassia throws her tambourine and pounds the keys for that rhythmical, addictive beat.
To switch it up a bit, Grassia took over the drum kit and Azzolini, to my delight, picked up a ukulele to perform a perfect cover of Tom Waits’ “Rain Dogs.”
Following this, The Golden Dogs presented one of their newest songs and announced they would be releasing an album this summer. Finally getting out of their rut after waiting four years to release Coat of Arms.
Besides the music, what was most appealing about The Golden Dogs was their intense enthusiasm that rubbed off on the crowd. On top of that, Azzolini’s little quirks made for some great entertainment value—his spontaneous dance moves and bellyful yelps, as well as the sporadic shake of a maraca. Occasionally, guitarist James Robertson and bassist Jay McCarroll would share a microphone as they rocked out. Also appreciated were the creative homemade signs, declaring each song title as they progressed through the show.
They finished off their set with “Song Name Here.” Just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, Azzolini stepped into the crowd to face the stage for the second time during their set, jumping crazily as the song reached its climax.
The Golden Dogs’ love for their music made me hope I could someday love something as intensely. Maybe Azzolini holding a strobe light to his face wasn’t the safest of ideas, but it was pretty rock and roll.
The Journal caught up with Jessica Grassia of The Golden Dogs in light of their show last Friday night, check out the interview at bit.ly/goldendogs.
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