Live Review: Canada Down Under takes over Sydney’s Leadbelly with Scenic Route to Alaska and more

Last night Newtown’s Leadbelly saw a Canadian invasion, with some of Canada’s top rock and country acts gracing the same stage that recently housed iconic Australian rockstar Nic Cester. Amy Nelson, Twin Peaks, Dylan Menzie, Louise Burns, and Scenic Route to Alaska were amongst the artists to bring the music of Canada Down Under.

With big shoes to fill, Amy Nelson was the first to take the stage. Despite her small stature, the country pop powerhouse dominated the stage, hand on hip, accompanied only by a guitarist with hair so glorious, she worried it could outshine her. Her worries were unfounded, as Nelson lit up the venue with sassy new single, “Ish”.

Second up was British Columbian duo Twin Peaks, who followed suit by bringing their own version of female driven, Canadian country to the Australian audience. As notable as their lofty, soaring harmonies was the entertainingly chaotic dynamic born between the pair. Between banter and a quickly squashed attempt at the Canadian anthem, Twin Peaks brought forth relationship driven songs, successfully depicting loves found and lost without making you feel as though you’ve just listened to a Taylor Swift diatribe. The stand out track of the set was, “Damage is Done” a song that described the regret and consequences of a night spent too hard on the bottle.

The third act to take the stage was PEI’s Dylan Menzie, accompanied only by his partner and violinist, Kinley Dowling. Of the entire showcase, Menzie’s Eastern accent stood out as the strongest of the bunch, as did his impressive vocal range. Menzie opened the set with his number one single, “Kenya” and followed it with a sentimental, fiddle-heavy track reflecting on the feeling of returning home. Although his claimed influence by Led Zeppelin is not at first obvious, it’s present in the building structure and climatic nature of his songs. Menzie finished his set with an incredibly moving composition written for his aunt, “Fran’s Song” a nostalgic, emotional piece, which sang, “I hope you have peace and I hope you have pleasure. Don’t worry about me, I’m getting better.”

Next up was Louise Burns, accompanied by a guitarist, drummer, and keys player. Burns created a shift in musical dynamic with, “Who’s the Madman” hypnotizing the audience with her dreamy vocals, reminiscent of, and as impressive as, Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac.  Despite finding her earliest success as a teen in more constructed pop band Lillix, it’s clear that Burns has found her place as a solo artist, leading behind the bass guitar. From there, Burns offered psychedelic tracks such as “Storms” which could (and ought to) become staples on any Australian music festival circuit.

Closing the night was Edmonton’s Scenic Route to Alaska, a band used to playing for audiences of thousands back in Canada, and for good reason. The three-piece brought a new energy to the stage, playing the more uplifting, “Paris,” followed by the sombre, introspective track, “Every Year or So”. The band’s standout track was new single, “Slow Down” an effective depiction of finally coming home after months on tour. Singer Trevor’s vocals, despite being inherently Indie-Canadian on most tracks, here have a welcome grittiness, a sound that could find radio success as much in 2007 as today in 2017.

The highlight of the night came not from the acts’ performances directly, but from their unintentional ability to live up to every positive Canadian stereotype. Within the audience, the most engaged members throughout each act were fellow Canadian musicians, with Twin Peaks, in particular, enthusiastically singing along during sets of Menzie and Scenic Route to Alaska.

Overall, the vibe of the night was friendly, accommodating, and emotionally evocative, much as you’d picture the Canadian landscape itself.

Canada Down Under took place at the Leadbelly in Newtown on 6th November 2017. Many of the bands who performed are continuing their tours around Australia in the weeks ahead. Head to their Facebook pages for more details.