Home Read Albums Of The Week: Lowest of the Low | Taverns And Palaces

Albums Of The Week: Lowest of the Low | Taverns And Palaces

Spend two nights at the bar with the beloved Canadian alt-rockers as they rip through their back catalogue — plus a couple of cool covers for good measure.

THE EDITED PRESS RELEASE:Lowest of the Low’s Taverns And Palaces is an immaculately recorded double live album that contains two 11-song sets that span the entire catalogue of the influential Canadian alt-rock band’s 30-year career. True to its title, their first live set in 20 years was recorded live in 2019 at Lee’s Palace and The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern — two Toronto venues that have been the site of countless Lowest of the Low shows.

The veteran band have always been known for their kinetic, unpredictable live shows. The band thrives on the energy and feedback from their audience — and when that circle is closed and members Ron Hawkins, Lawrence Nichols, Michael McKenzie, Greg Smith and David Alexander are all raging in the present moment, it can be intoxicating. This is the prime force that has driven the band for 30 years and counting. With two nights in December 2019 booked — and with fellow musicians and soulmates the Skye Wallace Band in tow — the band knew the shows would be events worth preserving.

Photo by Bob Ciofli.

One of the most lauded independent Canadian bands of all time, Lowest of the Low can be traced back to 1983, when principal songwriter, singer and guitarist Hawkins and drummer Alexander played together as teenagers in a heavily politicized straight-edge band called Social Insecurity. In the late ’80s, the two were joined by guitarist Stephen Stanley in their second band Popular Front, which evolved into Lowest of the Low. While the music was a little slicker than their punk days and contained Afro-Caribbean flourishes, the focus on socially conscious lyrical content remained.

After a few years of gigging, the trio felt restless with both their sound and scene. They began jamming at acoustic open-mic nights with a clutch of new songs that were stripped down yet infectious. The romantic-but-realistic lyrics, assembled from character sketches and journal entries in Ron’s everpresent notebook as he wandered the streets of Toronto, were always front and centre. LOTL built a faithful following and a very full dance card on the strength of their joyous live shows, where they perfected their mix of clever wordplay, razor-sharp hooks and airtight harmonies. Their 1991 landmark debut  Shakespeare My Butt became one of the Top 100 Canadian Albums of All Time, and the best-selling independent release in Canadian history. In 2008, Lowest of the Low were inducted into the Canadian Indie Rock Hall of Fame.”