It’s been two years since Regina’s The Dead South last graced Edmonton with its high-energy outlaw string melodies and whisky soaked vocals. The slow, warm sigh of the cello juxtaposed by a heart-pumping rhythm guitar and banjo, making you want to toss your 10-gallon hat to the floor and stomp your spurs. Or maybe there’s a mandolin or electric guitar—it all depends on the song. Behind Eliza Doyle’s banjo and Danny Kenyon’s cello, the stage is decorated by five acoustic guitars, one electric guitar, and two mandolins, which Scott Pringle and Nate Hilts play interchangeably. This is a band that spends a lot of time on the road and has crafted a real experience out of their live set.
“There are so many bands out there, so many music platforms, so many ways to download music without paying for it. So you gotta go play shows,” Hilts offers up as an explanation for why the band tours so extensively.
However, it is clear to anyone in attendance at a Dead South gig that this is not just a band on tour for the sake of self-promotion, this is a group of people who love to play music and want to see the world. For the Dead South, playing live is about genuinely entertaining and connecting with their audience. There is no universal truth or recipe for what makes a great show and for these musicians, their personal definition of a quality performance involves “dynamics,” “integrity,” “interaction,” and “theatrics.”
Focusing on the sheer enjoyment of it all, free of any formulaic business strategy, develops the quality of authenticity which can be credited for quietly driving this group’s growing success. In the absence of a tactical marketing plan or round-table discussion of branding, its signature look was nothing more than an “organic accident,” as Nate calls it.
“Honestly, at this point, I feel like my goals and dreams as far as what I wanted to accomplish with music have been met and so everything is just another layer of icing. It’s wonderful,” Pringle says.
This wonderful passion translates into its act. From coordinated can-can leg kicks, to the passing around of a bottle of Jameson, the energy pouring off the stage is one of absolute exuberance. It is infectious. Though the venue is seated and the dancefloor absent, a group of dancers spontaneously establishes itself to the side of the stage—just down from the bake-sale table with coconut and caramel rice crispy squares and the concession stand selling perogie plates. The whole evening is an authentic testament to the Canadian prairies.