There was a hum about the Wise Hall and a timeless sense of gathering, with the room sensually lit by faux-candle chandeliers and strings of bulbs pinwheeling out from the mirrored ball centred high on the roof. Calgary’s Rotary Park, the first act of the evening, stepped out onto stage and aligned abreast forming a five-piece string band.
Harmony arose from the quintet, opening with the gentle “Tumbleweed.” The song was complete and embracing — warm like the lights above. Surprising the audience by leading away from traditional songs, Rotary Park played a New Orleans’ style “Goodbye Baby Blues” transitioning into ‘50s doo-wop, then seamlessly linking with a metronome and a full rendition of Pink Floyd’s “Time.” Rotary Park’s eclectic and impressive set — and their second time to the Wise Hall — proved their talents.
Vancouver based Gerry Hannah & the New Questioning Coyote Brigade took the stage next. Armed with an Epiphone and ironically wearing a sleeveless shirt emblazoned with “Alcatraz,” the local punk icon and his band got straight to business with the rocking “Like A Fire,” from his 2014 release, Coming Home.
Between songs, Hannah told a brief story about getting out of prison and being told by his parole officer at the time to “quit that anarchist club” and to “marry a respectable woman and settle down in the suburbs” — the following songs were his response to that “voice of authority.”
“21st Century,” a song from Hannah’s early days with The Stiffs, charged the crowd to their feet. With subversive iconoclasm and examining lyrics, Gerry Hannah & the New Questioning Coyote Brigade kept their rock relevant, exploratory and engaging.
Hailing a whirlwind tour from the Cariboo, The Joey Only Outlaw Band took the stage next. The crowd, reflecting the diverse mix of the night, were on their feet and dancing immediately, largely unwavering for the full and powerful set from Only & the Outlaws.
Calling for a “resource revolution,” he introduced the title track of his freshly released album No More Trouble in the Peace, questioning the legitimacy of current industry policies, while the crowd keeps dancing.
The band, featuring long-time double-bass player Ed Hanrahan, drummer Sean Scallion, lead guitarist Mike Vigano and 8-string lap steel guitar wizard Steven Drake, gave it their all as Only continued orating his fables, strange histories and legends — “The Stompin Tom Story,” “Fire On Anarchist Mountain,” and “Midwest Festival” all came out of his stash of hits. Returning to the new album, the epic requiem “A Tempest Wind” brought a sombre reminder of impermanence and carried the atmosphere into a long introspective jam. The crowd’s enthusiasm was spurred on for the other country punk tunes, like the party pleaser “The Stupid Fucking Things I’ve Done.”
As the show drew to a close, Joey Only set his guitar down after reciting the verse of “One Last Song” singing, “Maybe this will be my last song / Oh maybe this will be my last show / You never know” and invited new and old friends to stick around, have a drink and catch up. The Outlaw Band finished strong as Only stepped down from the stage and into the crowd, immediately embraced by friends.