This Great Lake Swimmers article was written by Eva Hibbs, a GIGsoup contributor
The Louisiana is the venue that everyone wants to see their favourite band play. 2001 saw The Strokes, Kings of Leon and Goldfrapp perform there. Amy Winehouse, The Libertines and Mogwai have also taken to its stage. Though, as Tony Dekker warns before he kicks off, “If you’re here to see The White Stripes for £4, you’re slightly too late.” Today, the low-ceilinged, carpeted room is host to bands who either feel very much on the verge of discovery or those who – selling out their home country shows – are accumulating international recognition. There’s no one on the bill that’s yet considered a great of rock/pop, “But,” Tony continues, “you have got us; we’re the Great Lake Swimmers from Toronto, Canada.” And that’s what it’s all about.
Along with them across the pond, the swimmers brought Meg Baird, whose delicate voice and winding melodies help wrestle out the week’s hustle and bustle. In the interim, high-spirited punters chat up Tony and co. at their merch table by the bar. If anyone purchases an ‘egg shaker’ for the show, the swimmers tell them, they won’t regret it. Come nine forty-five and the upstairs room is filling up quick. Unassuming audience members, such as I, take post up front, aligned with the sound rig. We’ve all been to festivals; we listen to our headphones full blast – how loud could it really be? After Great Lake Swimmer’s storming intro I take a few paces back. Seriously loud.
The foursome are Tony on vocals/acoustic guitar, Miranda on violin, Eric on banjo/electric guitar, Bret on double bass, and Greg on drums. They are accomplished players; they swing through their sixteen-song set with joy and ease, playing to one another as much as to the crowd. Tony’s effortless vocals snake us through their latest album release, ‘A Forest Arms’, occasionally dipping back to points through their twelve-year life as a band.
The new album’s showcase peaks at ‘Zero in the City’ and, though the energy ebbs at ‘Don’t Leave Me Hanging’, ‘I Must Have Someone Else’s Blues’ gets the patchy crowd too, singing along, pointing fingers. A front-rower is invited to shake the percussive egg along with them. Though ‘I Was A Wayward Pastel Bay’s’ refrain of “There goes another one, and another one” is beautifully paced, we are grateful for the burst of energy the well-known “Your Rocky Spine” brings. At the band members’ solos, we’re teased with the full extent of their abilities: Miranda, especially, incurs a number of hoots with her flaring violin number.
For better or worse, the songs following these musical bursts consequently feel like an exercise in control. The track they can’t kick off their set list, ‘Moving Pictures Silent Film’, is more affecting when summed up by Tony as “that moment when you wake up from a hibernation-like state and realise that things have changed”, than it is actually played out. Deserving of the encore they mount the stage for – ‘Expecting You’s’ simplicity and rhythm brought the crowd happily back – they take on a Cohen cover without any of the bravado you’d expect from talent as such, and nail it.