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Celtic stylings and acoustic PSAs

Enter the Haggis and Cary Ann work the Pour House: a live review



Enter the Haggis, Cary Ann Hearst & Michael Trent
The Pour House
Mon. Sept. 6

After a loud, low rumble in the distance, a small, seated crowd at the Pour House's back deck looked around at each other late Monday evening. "Is that thunder?" asked singer/guitarist Cary Ann Hearst from her stool on stage. "It's fireworks," someone yelled back. "Fireworks? For what? Labor Day?" Hearst responded. "Oh yeah, it's Labor Day ... if you're lucky enough to have a job."

This was one of several witty exchanges between Hearst and her audience during her lengthy set with singer/guitarist (and new husband) Michael Trent. They usually do this duo thing at the deck once a week, and the tail-end of this week's show included some brand-new original ballads, a double-shot of antiquated cocaine blues songs ("Here's another PSA for ya," Hearst quipped), and a Patsy Cline medley with bits of "Walkin' After Midnight" and "I Fall to Pieces." Trent's high-toned harmonies and twangy guitar licks fit Hearst's voice and acoustic guitar chords perfectly.

The casual Labor Day scene revved up a bit around 9:30 p.m. as Toronto-based quintet Enter the Haggis took the main stage inside. Visiting the Pour House once again behind their seventh album, Gutter Anthems (United For Opportunity), the band donned smart threads, spiked hair, and big grins. Despite a rather low turnout, they looked and sounded cheerful and gracious. Their good mood complemented the upbeat musical style of the first few songs.

While Enter the Haggis tours under the general tag of "Celtic rock band," it wasn't just reels and jigs providing a thumpy backdrop throughout the night; some of the most boisterous songs were either metallic grunge-style anthems with highly-distorted guitar tones and beefy riffs (thanks mostly to guitarist Trevor Lewington and bassist Mark Abraham) or funkier rockers with Stevie Wonder rhythms and additional bagpipe or fiddle. The odd mix of styles seemed a little schizo at times.

Actually, the most impressive and fluid moments of Haggis' set were the most "Celtic." The whole band was quite polite about it, too. If notorious Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan — one of the biggest stars on the punkier/boozier side of the Celtic/rock hybrid — was a buccaneerish singer with a scary sneer, Enter the Haggis' co-lead singer Brian Buchanan was more of a choir boy with barely a chip on his shoulder. As a fiddler, he demonstrated a load of skill on the bow and strings.

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