The Dirty Nil, from nearby Dundas, were the first band up. They made me wish I was drunk, and I mean that in the best way. They sounded like ‘90s college rock and punk, and like a soundtrack to a drunken party with your best bros. In other words, they were a great band for a crowd of first-year students trying to get to know each other.
Dirty Nil’s reckless energy was infectious, and every chorus seemed to involve a top-of-the-lungs yell.
They played a solid Replacements cover, but their version of “Immigrant’s Song” got a bigger cheer. I watched a guy form his hands into a passionate and completely un-ironic pair of devil horns.
When singer Luke Bentham announced that the last song was called “Fuckin’ Up Young,” the crowd let out a big cheer. Maybe they just liked hearing someone say ‘fuck,’ or maybe they were fans of the song, but to me it sounded like a rallying cry that the students would not fuck up being young.
The Dirty Nil made being in a band with your friends seem like the most fun thing in the world. My only complaint is that the guitar could’ve been louder.
The second band was the Toronto-based Great Bloomers. Where the Dirty Nil jumped, these guys bopped. Their sound was folk-indie pop.
I didn’t notice they had a keyboard player until I tried to locate the source of a loud, distorted farting sound on the third song. But then the guitar player brought out a surprise trumpet and all the sound-problem sins were forgiven.
Later, the singer hilariously misheard the “you’re hot” cheer from the crowd as “you’re high,” and I can only imagine how weird it would’ve been to have a couple thousand first-year students calling you out for smoking marijuana. But the Great Bloomers loosened up by the end of the set, and current single “I Wanna Die Young” was a nice highlight.
Then came the Sheepdogs, all the way from Saskatoon. I was totally prepared not to like the Sheepdogs, but I’ll be damned if all the three-part vocal harmonies and harmonized guitar solos didn’t sound great.
I think years of listening to formulaic classic rock from my parents has made me dislike anything that sounds like it’s from Q107, but the ‘70s rock and blues of the Sheepdogs was too catchy for me to hate. They sounded and looked like a bunch of guys who have a nerdy love for the music and fashion of forty years ago and wanted to lovingly recreate it as accurately as they could.
The Sheepdogs’ music exploded with such good vibes that I even saw the hint of a crowd surf. It took two attempts and only lasted about half a second, but it was there.
Near the end of the set, the singer thanked everyone for coming out. Even though there was no drinking, the guitar player then ran to his red plastic beer cup and handed it to someone in the crowd, to which the singer responded, “Well, that’s going to be taken away.”
Even if the beer was taken away, I’m sure the person got a good story out of it. But even more unexpected than having a Sheepdog hand out beer was that this Welcome Week concert kind of made me miss being in first year. Make sure you’re not “Fuckin’ Up Young,” kids.