The Jerry Cans played a packed house at Ottawa’s 27 Club on Monday.
The Nunavut roots rockers started out with a jig led by violinist Gina Burgess, kicking off a night of fun folk-rock that combined East Coast fiddling with Inuktitut-language lyrics and Inuit throat singing.
Burgess’s fiddling and Steve Rigby’s thunderous drums upped the intensity on an early interlude that saw throat singer Avery Keenainak take centre stage. Keenainak would later trade vocals with lead singer Andrew Morrison on an emotional new song (set for release on Valentine’s Day) that seemed to leave them both exhausted.
“Both me and Avery almost passed out singing that song,” Morrison laughed, as the two vocalists chugged back a bottle of water each.
Early on, Morrison announced that they had a friend in the crowd filming a music video for the band’s latest single. “So, if you’re not cool with that…” he advised, trailing off; “I don’t know. I really don’t know how to finish that sentence.” (He later wondered aloud whether they should have had audience members sign waivers).
In any case, no one seemed to object. The audience seemed to consist largely of long-time fans who could be seen enthusiastically dancing and clapping along. There were plenty of cheers when the band asked if anyone in the crowd was from Nunavut (and of course even more when they asked, “And who wishes they were?”).
“We love playing in Ottawa,” Morrison gushed at one point, introducing a fan favourite song about the band’s choice to sing in Inuktitut; “We don’t have to explain shit!” (Ironically, that tune featured the show’s longest stretch of English lyrics, referencing Morrison’s own struggles in mastering the Inuit language).
The second half of the show had Morrison discussing northern issues, including the mental health crisis facing many remote communities; he noted that the guitar he was playing previously belonged to a musician friend who’d died by suicide.
The band also provided more joyful fan service in the form of popular tunes including “Iqanajarumanngittunga” (“I Don’t Want To Work”, which Rigby dedicated to “all the Inuit women” in the crowd “who are killing it at work”) and “Mamuqtuq” (a celebration of seal meat, a northern staple unfairly stigmatized by misguided animal rights activists), as well as a hip-hop-tinged ode to bong hits and a deep cut from the band’s first demo.
They closed with “Ukiuq,” taking a moment to reflect on their experience performing the song at the 2018 JUNO Awards and congratulate this year’s northern nominees.
Opening Act: Trevor Alguire
Trevor Alguire’s opening set was nearly drowned out by the already rowdy crowd, but was worth checking out. The Ottawa-based singer-songwriter played a set of heartfelt folk tunes that matched his pleasant voice and intricate guitar arrangements, closing on a heavier note with a gritty rocker “The One.”
Line-up: Trevor Alguire / The Jerry Cans
Venue: The 27 Club, Ottawa
Date: Monday, Feb. 10/2020