Nothing spices up a weekend like some unexpected live music. Last Saturday I awoke to a message from friend and Blender founder Marc. “Dave,” it said, “go to Zaphod’s tonight. Check out Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs.” I quickly opened my window and tossed all previous plans out of it. I had never heard of Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs, but I figured there was no better way to get an introduction than the small and intimate setting of Zaphod Beeblebrox. I arrived mid-way through Adam Baldwin’s opening set. I stopped by the bar to grab a pan-galactic gargleblaster and settled into the crowd, already getting nice and warmed up by Adam Baldwin’s classic high-energy rock sound. By the end of the night I was a Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs convert.
Many people in the crowd had clearly come for Adam Baldwin, due to his already established fame as a member of Matt Mays’ band. I must say I’m not the biggest Matt Mays fan, and that carried over a bit into this show. In both cases of seeing Matt Mays and Adam Baldwin, I felt that there was certainly nothing wrong with their music, but I feel like they are both bands that I have heard before. Their shows are still fun, but they did not motivate me to go seek out their albums.
Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs, on the other hand, really pulled me in. I was first struck with the harsh rasp of Sam Cash’s voice. It reminded me of a more rock-oriented Bob Dylan. Later in the set Sam explained that he was actually rapidly losing his voice on this tour, thus accounting for the additional struggle that isn’t quite there on his new record, Stand Together, Fall Together. I rather enjoyed the character that the sore throat brought to his singing, although I hope he gets his voice back due to the fact that performing in that state is quite unpleasant. Nevertheless, Sam Cash did not let his vocal troubles deter his performance. He still managed to deliver a rich and powerful collection of songs throughout the set.
All of my favourite live bands take some time to explore their own musical territory when playing live. I love it when a band decides to see where a song will go if they crack it open a little. Not only does this result in a more diverse live show, it also gives live performance a separate value to a band’s studio work. On an album the band can present more concise and precise renditions of their songs. While playing for a crowd they can expand a song into instrumental improvisational space, creating a wholly different experience for the listener. Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs are not necessarily the most jam-oriented band around, but they definitely explored their music. Raw, distorted instrumental build-ups ended up being the highlight of the evening for me. Unfortunately, Zaphod’s had to go be Zaphod’s and kick the band off at 11, meaning the beginning of the set featured patient and expanded tunes, but as soon as Sam noted the time the band was forced to move right through their last few tunes. I maintain that Zaphod’s would be one of the best spots in Ottawa if they didn’t have this horrendous practice at all of their shows. The bands want to play. The fans came to see them play. Why slap everyone in the face by kicking out the band?
To wrap up, Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs released their second album, Stand Together, Fall Together, a few months ago. The album features fun, up-beat rock with a bit of an imperfect raw edge to it. The classic guitar-bass-drums-vox combo just never gets old, and Sam Cash and the Romantic Dogs have managed to present their own fresh take which is well worth your time. Check em out!