Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars Mainstage Tent, Sackville NB, July 31
"I can already read the Exclaim! article about this show: 'plagued by technical difficulties,'" said Wooden Stars guitarist and pedal steel player Michael Feuerstack from Sappy's Mainstage last night.
The Wooden Stars reunited with Julie Doiron to perform songs from their 1999 collaboration, Julie Doiron and the Wooden Stars, something they haven't done in about 16 years (save for a handful of 2014 performances). The reunion was bittersweet, but more than that, it was beyond amusing to watch the band banter back and forth, mostly about sound concerns.
"I'd like a little kick in my wedge, please," said Doiron early into the set, which caught on as a kind of catchphrase, with audience members yelling it back at the band throughout the set. "Just a tiny bit more of his guitar in my nipple… speaking of nipples," added Feuerstack, much to the crowd's amusement, later elaborating by asking if anyone else's SappyFest wristband scraped their nipples in the shower. "Raise your hand, don't be shy! Class action lawsuit! If you smile big enough you can do anything up here." "Our band is actually an IQ test," chimed guitarist Julien Beillard.
To top it off, Beillard broke a string ("I could do most of it, but some of my key riffs…") and was lent a guitar that he just couldn't figure out. "This guitar looks really cool, I would really love to play it," he said, as he and other bandmates tried to sort out how on earth to get it going, sound-wise. Luckily, Shotgun Jimmie saved the day. "I think we may have to cut a couple songs," Doiron mused, regarding the delay.
Despite all this fun back-and-forth between the band (and the sound issues that began to feel like a long running joke), Doiron and the Wooden Stars' material sounded just as fresh and moving as it did when the record was first released. Doiron's ever-vulnerable delivery offered up simple but bluntly honest and often heart-wringing lyrics, her delicate voice soft yet strong, breaking at just the right moments to add to just the amount of that sweet emotion, eyes shut and head swaying. She's got a charming way of always paying mind to her bandmates, always looking to see how they're doing, sending them a smile and perhaps looking for reassurance that all's well. That, paired with the often ramshackle nature in which she goes about her sets ("Let's play this now?") makes for a time indeed.
"The Longest Winter" and "In This Dark" were all sweetly executed, with the sentiments in each seeming stronger, as if they've been steeping for the past 17 years. "Seven" had a fantastic break, ending with Julien Beillard's guitars squealing slowly into silence, "Sweeter" had the entire band with the eyes closed. The inclusion of Doiron's "Dance Me" from her 1997 record, Loneliest in the Morning, was heartbreaking, with added vocals from the band that really rounded it out.
"Apparently I always start this one fast, but apparently it's fine because they always bring it back to the right tempo," Doiron said before heading into "The Best Thing For Me," which had one Sappy goer stagedive into the crowd, a first according to Feuerstack. Doiron and the Wooden Stars were welcomed warmly by the Sappy crowd, and there are certainly keeners that wouldn't mind more. "These guys should tour again, tighten up," said a Sappy goer nearby.