The Montreal collective known nationwide as The Unsettlers will be playing an intimate showcase this Wednesday night at Phog Lounge (157 University Ave. West) and if you don’t get your tickets soon, you may be on the outside looking through foggy Phog windows. This 10-piece gypsy symphony is coming in hot off the heels of critically acclaimed performances at the Montreal Jazz Festival as well as two solid performances at this year’s Festival Epicure into a venue that holds but 65 people. On past visits to Windsor, they’ve played far bigger rooms, but this time, things are going to get sweaty.
The Unsettlers are a hard band to categorize musically. With ten members adding their sounds (and with ten unique personalities attached), the band is like a jamboree of emotions, ranging from the whisky melancholy to the excitably gypsy. Somewhere between Tom Waits and Gogo Bordello, you’ll find The Unsettlers and even that description is pushing it. When the ashes settle, when you’ve run out of record store/radio created sub-genres of music (East Euro indie gypsy-folk swing?), all you’re truly left with is a sound that is 100% Unsettlers.
Two of the principle music writers have close ties to Windsor-Essex. Pianist Dustyn Lucas (who resembles a five and dime Schroeder from the Peanuts comics on his little piano) is from Kingsville and frontman B.W. Brandes is a long time veteran of Windsor’s music scene, toiling in the popular ’90′s band Big Daddy A & The Merves as well as serving as the bassist in the psychedelic rock supergroup The Golden Hands Before God… during their last year of playing and touring. But whatever their Windsor roots planted, it was their almost Muppet Movie travels that created the entity that is now the Unsettlers.
Gestated on the West Coast, where Brandes and Lucas teamed up with the lovely Genevieve Schreier and Brie Nelson as well as Sudbury native Santosh Lalonde, they relocated to Montreal where they picked up more members, swelling to the ten piece congregation of impressive musicians and even more impressive drinkers, creating a groundswell of music that is as undeniably infectious as the band is talented. They’re still touring promoting last fall’s ambitious and epic double CD Oil & Blood, a Coen Brothers-esque carnival ride of death, love and graveyards that served as a monstrously fun follow-up to the haunting self titled debut from a few years previous. In that the past few years, they’ve played countless shows and festivals (including this year’s Montreal Jazz Festival, several Montreal Fringe festival appearances, shows at the prestigious Montreal concert Osheaga, and a run playing at an actual carnival Quebec), recorded a live EP for CBC Radio (which essentially previewed some tracks for Oil & Blood mixed with some favourites off the debut), and played more shows in a year than some bands play in their career. And in between breaths, members of the band have created side projects (using principally each other) such as Brie Nelson and Her Other Men, Bad Uncle and Deer Ashes, Dear. This is a family who lives together and plays together. They know each other’s intricacies and delicacies so well, that they’ve created the perfect commune of music and social interaction.
And all of that is evident when you watch one of their shows. This isn’t just a group of ten musicians playing to check each other’s ego. Each note is carefully inserted, each line spit with the ferocity it deserves, each moment is fully and absolutely realized – this is a show. This is the way music was designed to be presented by people who enjoy each others’ musical company equally as much as they enjoy yours.
In anticipation of the rush of people expected, Phog is preselling tickets for this show, so one would advise you get there soon. Tickets are $10 each for an evening with The Unsettlers (no opening act, three straight hours of show) and it’ll be worth all the oil and blood in the country.
An Evening with The Unsettlers, Wednesday July 13, Phog Lounge (157 University Ave. West), 9pm, $10 in advance and door, 19+