The Thermals with The Shaky Hands at the Horseshoe Tavern, Toronto
I’d spent my whole Sunday in downtown Toronto just walking around aimlessly in some kind of reflective saunter - to picture the mood, think more along the lines of Green Day’s Boulevard Of Broken Dreams rather than Kansas’ Dust In The Wind - when who do I bump into? Hutch! That’s Hutch Harris of The Thermals.
There I was, standing on the corner of Queen Street West at Spadina, about to cross the street, when from the corner of my eye I noticed the lead singer of The Thermals. I was pretty sure it was him. Yeah it must be...
Me: “Hey.... Hutch?!”
He looks at me with a weary quizzical look...
Me: “Hutch from The Thermals?! Hey man, I met you back in Norway a couple of years ago. My name’s Brian, we did an interview, remember?”
Hutch: “Oh... yeah. I remember. I thought you looked familiar. Tromso, right?”
How bloody random is that? I met Hutch Harris two years ago at Bukta festival in Tromso, and shot an interview with him as part of my documentary My Tour. And now here we are, again, meeting totally randomly on mid afternoon in the heart of downtown Toronto.
Hutch looked totally knackered (translation for non-British people: very tired), but I walked with him for a couple of blocks west while he looked for a place to pick up a packet of fags - (that’s cigarettes.... you knew that). I asked Hutch how The Thermals were doing - pretty good apparently - and found out that they were in town as part of their North American tour to promote their latest album 'Now We Can See'.
Hutch soon found a corner store to get his smokes, and headed back towards Queen and Spadina, which is where he’d be taking to the stage in six hours time to play at the Horseshoe Tavern. I talked to Hutch for a couple more minutes, during which I told him about how things were going with Music Vice and I talked a bit about My Tour. Hutch was looking really tired, but he’d been patient and polite to what was probably a whole lot of rambling from myself. Once we got back to that same corner that we’d met at five minutes earlier, we went our separate ways. Of course, I felt obliged now to stick around in town for the rest of the evening to catch the band...
After some more walking around, and a couple of hours of using the local Chapters book store like a library, I made my way back to the Horshoe at about 10 o’clock. The Shaky Hands were on stage, pleasing the crowd with an excellent outing with a set that was both mellow and vibrant. The band are touring as the main support for The Thermals on their current tour, and share the same hometown of Portland, Oregon.
"Show me your life highlighted for me the strengths of the The Shaky Hands frontman Nicholas Delffs who seems to be a very capable songwriter, of a promising band."
There were a couple of songs by The Shaky Hands that stood out for me. First, The Sleepless, which is good song that excels due to its staccato style, with stuttering beats and riffs, and lyrics which slowly stagger to a climax. Towards the end of the set came Show Me Your Life, which is a song I found an instant affection for. It’s nice when you hear a song for the first time and it just clicks in your head and it feels like it should be part of the soundtrack of your own life - this is one of the joys of music, when you find a song that immediately becomes so personal to you. The lyrics of this song are what make it extra special, and it highlighted for me the strengths of the The Shaky Hands frontman Nicholas Delffs who seems to be a very capable songwriter, of a promising band.
In terms of the actual sound, the sound guy at the Horseshoe should give himself a pat on the back, because the levels for The Shaky Hands set were absolutely spot on. The drums sounded clean and vibrant, the vocals were just right, and the bass and guitars were mint too. This was the perfect setup for the Shaky Hands to showcase themselves, and I reckon they did a good job. Their music is reflective, chilled out and and a great go-to band for some mellow music to add to your ‘Road Trip’ playlists.
And so to The Thermals, who opened with the triple threat of Returing To The Fold, I Let It Go then How We Know - with that last one being one of the best songs of the night, and a strong personal favourite.
The crowd were quickly into it, and the atmosphere was decent. The band themselves, however, looked weary and tired. There was no banter or interaction with the audience, and on stage frontman Hutch Harris, bassist Kathy Foster and drummer Westin Glass seemed distant from each other. The most energetic of the trio was Kathy, who did a few weary jumping jacks during the show, which wasn’t really necessary.
"...because its The Thermals you can’t ponder and worry too long about how selfish and destructive mankind is, as the band keep you grinning and singing along with all their “oh-way-oh-woah’s”. "
Tonight The Thermals were on autopilot. The band just looked tired. Not that it mattered anyway, because The Thermals have a special knack of creating music that puts smiles on peoples faces. A perfect example of this is the lead single from their latest album - Now We Can See. This is a song that makes a social commentary about how we should want for less. It’s a lyrically smart and meaningful, and because its The Thermals you can’t ponder and worry too long about how selfish and destructive mankind is, as the band keep you grinning and singing along with all their “oh-way-oh-woah’s”.
The set moved along quickly, with The Thermals starting just before 11 p.m. and finishing up before midnight. There was an encore which ended the night with It’s Trivia and Everything Thermals. The Toronto punters were left to go home happy, and hopefully The Thermals managed to get some rest on their way to their next stop, which was a night away in Northampton, Massachussets.
A great band that I look forward to bumping into and seeing live again somewhere in the future.
© Brian Banks
The Shaky Hands - www.myspace.com/shakyhands
The Thermals - www.myspace.com/thethermals
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