From late-’50s prom to a dark jazz club: Mike Templeton reviews the Pelts

The Pelts perform at Ottawa's Rainbow Bistro

Mike Templeton is originally from a place in England you’ve probably never heard of.  But he now lives in Ottawa where, when away from his day job, he enjoys live music, good food, and most importantly, great beer.

You should go see The Pelts. You really should.

You won’t regret it. The Pelts ain’t dull.

The Pelts are a four-member band reminiscent of a late '50s jazz group

These lads have fun with music and transmit it across the dance floor all night long. It’s an infectious blend of rockabilly, rhythm and blues, 60s garage, and Mersey beat. The original set, which sprinkles in a few tantalizing covers from the 1950s and 60s, leaves one wondering if they’ve been transported back to the Cavern Club in Liverpool. With their perfectly fitted black suits, The Pelts could play at late ’50s high-school prom and then go straight to the dirtiest jazz club in town and rock that place, too.

All without loosening their ties.

They played a rockin’ show about a week ago at the ByWard Market’s Rainbow Bistro, making April 22 — in their own words — “gooder” for Easter’s Good Friday.

Drummer Sam Menard‘s penetrating beats anchor this tetrarchy and, may I say, with no little flair. All the while, Blazer Mack – imposing in stature, with an equally imposing six-string bass – drives the rhythm all night. Singing duties for this band are split. The Rev. Dano Spanx brings a booming voice with a touch blue-eyed of soul. The Rev. also brings to life a sax with such flourish that one is left to wonder why this instrument is no longer at the very fore of modern music. Meanwhile, the wonderfully syncopated guitarist, Billy SLiM, brings a voice that suggests more than a few late nights and the iconic touch of having loved and lost.

The Pelts' Billy SLiM

SLiM and the Rev are the band’s main songwriters, and if you enjoy original material with infectious rhythm and delightfully constructed, wryly humourous lyrics, you will love this material. In particular, SLiM’s beautifully realized ”Rosie Loves Mickey” is a sort of modern-day homage to love and heartbreak and love again, supported by a tempo that could have come straight off the Death Proof soundtrack. To wit, the song opens with the lines:

She hid a thirty-ought-six on a Vespa Sprint / Between her little black dress and a silken slip / Going after Mickey was all she said.

The band is steadily developing an ever-growing hardcore local following in Ottawa, with shows now selling out venues. The crowd they attract is eclectic, but most seem to share the love of uninterrupted dancing to the wee hours of the morning.

The Rainbow Bistro, located at 76 Murray St.

Next up for the band? Finish recordings for a debut album and heading out on the road.

And a quick word about the Rainbow Bistro: If you have lived in this city for longer than six months and you haven’t been there, then shame on you. Really, take a good hard look at yourself, ’cause it’s probably the best live music venue in Ottawa and is that rare thing: A music venue that actually loves music. The staff are the friendliest bunch you can imagine, the bar service swift and courteous, and there is no pretension or prejudice.

Go there, and love it.

Even better, go see The Pelts there next time they visit. I’ll see ya there.

Thanks for the review, Mike! Wanna learn more about The Pelts? Check out their website and Twitter account! And they’ll be performing at the Great Glebe Garage Sale on May 28.
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