Born Ruffians came from humble beginnings in their hometown of Midland, Ontario. And despite having moved to Toronto to release two critically-acclaimed albums, it is their communal attitude that brings them back to intimate venues. On November 2nd, this meant a sold-out gig at the Casbah in Hamilton, Ontario. And damn, I’m glad for it.
The quartet of Luke Lalonde, Mitch Desrosier, Steve Hamelin, and Andy Lloyd have just finished recording their new album due out on Paper Bag Records. Luke himself just released a fantastic solo LP entitled ‘Rhythymnals’ on the same imprint. After two years of writing and recording, the album is finally out on all formats, but a limited edition 180 white vinyl copy is definitely worth the buy. The only thing keeping the band’s record from our hands is — as Steve put it to me after the show — “label stuff”. He also attempted to use hand genstures to demonstrate how cool the record sleeve will be, but abandoned the act halfway through. I appreciated the effort, Steve. It’s safe to say it will be f*cking awesome. Having played larger-sized venues like The Phoenix in the past, it was a pleasant surprise to hear they’d be playing such an initmate show at the tiny bar. Mitch took some time to express his concerns for fan safety on Twitter:
Sold out. Friday night. Hamilton. Girls, bring your shin guards so you don't destroy your knees on the stage edge like last time. #safety—
Born Ruffians (@BornRuffians) November 03, 2012
It was a frigid night, but a lengthy line had formed for the all-ages show half an hour before the doors were slated to open. Cowlick were the first opening band. Aside from the lead singer’s status as a walking H&M billboard with the douchey fedora in tow, they were largely forgettable.
After that, The Elwins’ set was a welcome affair. Consisting of guitarist Matthew Sweeney, drummer Travis Stokl, guitarist/keyboardist Feurd Moore and bassist Frankie Figliomeni, the band makes a lively brand of indie pop that encourages fan participation. Many found amusement in feeling Feurd’s outrageous mustache.
In a special moment which many were anticipating, Matt called Luke up on stage to perform a cover. Those who weren’t in the know were surprised to hear that the two would be having a go at Beyonce’s ‘Countdown’. After coaching fans on how to “countdown”, the two launched into a pitch-perfect rendition of the hit, but added their own distinctive flavour to it. The Elwins concluded their short set with many news fans, myself included.
Now if you didn’t know, Born Ruffians has some rabid female fans, some of which were present at the Casbah that night. (Here’s a great video that Much Music shot with the band in Ottawa, detailing their rich history with the city and showing some of these fans in action). The drinks had been flowing among these wonderful ladies all night and we had many great dance moves to thank alcohol for. Hell yeah for white girls twerking. They even grabbed this disgruntled writer for a photo together. So when Lalonde made his way to the stage in order to set up his many guitar pedals, they understandably put their groupie caps on and went apesh*t. Luke, being the gracious man he is, consented to some pictures.
Born Ruffians tunes are based on quite a simple formula. Four guys plus a guitar, bass, keyboard and drums. But factor in a packed bar of fans and you have an electrifying bit of alchemy. The band hopped on stage to some loud cheers and launched right into the absolutely giddy, ‘Barnacle Goose’. Fans proved their worth by shouting Lalonde’s lyrics at a decibel that can be described as “so loud that are my ears still ringing 3 days afterwards?”. Derosier and Hamelin made a cheeky pair on the bass and drums, hollering the backup vocals with vigour.
A brief moment of quiet took place after the song’s conclusion, where the band and the fans sized each other up. A voice broke the silence shouting, “Nice stache!”, which pointed to the sparse growth of hairs on Lalonde’s upper lip. An exhale of relief echoed across the bar and a bemused Lalonde said, “Oh sh*t…I ran out of shaving cream.” After everyone cracked up, the band played ‘Retard Canard’, a poppy number whose chorus demands a barbaric yawp of “I just wanna set the world on fire” that the fans met with exultation. Derosier got the spotlight on a bass solo that sent everyone into a clamour as the song built up to its climax.
Next came one of the group’s most well-known hits, ‘Hummingbird’. Once the familiar chords were heard, sh*t got wild. There was no polite standing around and nodding to the beat. High off the music itself, everyone moshed around as the entire audience became backup singers. To describe the bliss that took over as Lalonde and the sold-out crowd shouted, “We’re not gonna die like this”, is to explain the happiness that overtakes a 13-year old girl who just finished watching ‘The Notebook’ and is already planning to elope with Ryan Gosling.
The slower jam, ‘Sole Brother’, was a welcome break from the pushing and shoving, while also being amusing. The aforementioned drunk girls were now even more intoxicated and had been yelling “Steveeeeeee” at Hamelin all night in a plea for attention. Laughing, the drummer took to the mike to ask the girls their names. They shrieked and shouted back, “Josie and Olivia!”. He asked them to stop, saying that it was distracting, and implored the crowd to shout their names instead.
‘Foxes Mate For Life’ was another highlight, where the wiry Lalonde seemed to release a lot of his tension and become at home on stage. Josie and Olivia had continued to serenade Steve with his name, so he shouted, “My name’s not Steve, IT’S FREDERICK”. This did nothing to quiet them, and they kept on being awesome.
The “real” fans who’ve been listening since their self-titled EP were rewarded with a super rare performance of ‘This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life’. The song is a cacophony of yelps and hoots about having to “pay bills” and “write essays” in which a sardonic Lalonde pokes fun at how self-absorbed we all are. Lyrically, the song demands a ton of pitch shifts and varying vocal inflections, but everyone kept pace. It is their most cathartic track and it was a pleasure to scream, “I need a girlfriend, I’m lonely / Someone to love me and f*ck me /I need to get laid immediately/But also someone to fulfill my needs” with other ecstatic twenty-somethings.
‘6-5000’ was one of the three new songs played that night. New is actually a stretch for this particular tune as they’ve been playing it live for close to a year now. It’s a lively track that is best enjoyed in a tight environment, rather than at an open-air show like SOM.
Da Ruffs closed the regular set with a frenetic rendition of ‘I Need A Life’. It was strangely apt for the predominantly university-going crowd who are also engaged with thoughts of what to do as they grow older and struggle to come to terms with a newfound responsibility. Lalonde and two hundred others shouted, ‘I need meaning/I need a mission/I need a path/I need conviction/I need a life I’ve never had/I need much more good & much less bad” as if to agree with the singer; Yes, we need all of those things! But the song is not a mournful bit of twee trash that encourages anti-social behaviour. If anything, the sonorous shout of “Oh, but we go out at night” was a gruff shove in the back, telling everyone in attendance to grow up and deal with life.
An encore composed of ‘Kurt Vonnegut’ ended the night on high note.
Shoutsout, Josie and Olivia.
HAMILTON! What the fuck. Let's do this again sometime. instagr.am/p/Rjod7bJCXR/—
Born Ruffians (@BornRuffians) November 03, 2012
- Barnacle Goose
- Retard Canard
- Sole Brother
- Oceans [NEW SONG]
- What To Say
- Foxes Mate For Life
- Cold Pop [NEW SONG]
- Little Garcon
- This Sentence Will Ruin/Save Your Life
- 6-5000 [NEW SONG ish]
- I Need A Life
- Kurt Vonnegut