Great Lake Swimmers folk up The Echo

Saturday night , Toronto’s Great Lake Swimmers rolled into Echo Park for an early evening show at The Echo. The band’s latest release The Waves, The Wake (Nettwerk Records) saw singer/founder Tony Dekker take the folk rock ensemble in an adventurous new direction instrumentally and texturally, and those songs featured prominently in the evening’s performance.

Opening with “The Real Work” and following with “Side Effects” and “The Talking Wind” the new material flowed from the stage with intricate melodies and rich arrangements. These were highlighted by Kelsey McNulty on keyboards playing a big part in translating the album’s arrangements for the live setting.

From the third song on Great Lake Swimmers was joined on stage by Toronto singer-songwriter Megan Bonnell who sang on the album and just happened to be in LA taking a brief break in touring for her own 2018 release Separate Rooms (Cadence Music). The two voices together sound pretty incredible and it was such a treat that we got to hear that.

The rest of the set featured more songs from The Waves, The Wake as well as classics like upbeat “Palmistry” from 2009’s Lost Channels and “Your Rocky Spine” from 2007’s Ongiara with its plaintive vocals and shifting tempos. Every time Tony mentioned they were playing a new song there was a pause where I think he expected a groan from the audience but everyone was down with the new stuff and as long as those two songs get played, it’s all good. And “Pulling on a Line”.

Given the low rate of encores at shows lately (Is it because millennials don’t get encores, or because they refuse to participate in the tradition of demanding them?) it was great to see the crowd very fired up after the set and we got two extra songs “Think That You Might Be Wrong” from 2012’s New Wild Everywhere and Ongiara’s “I Am Part Of A Large Family”. As the crowd swayed through that last song it felt like we were all family by the end.

Words and photos by Tim Aarons