(Box photos by Ted Van Boort)
Your average concert goer would initially be confused by how you can successfully twin a classic rock band like Montreal’s The Box with a Country Rock group like ONE UGLY COWBOY. But as attendees at Hamilton Ontario’s “It’s Your Festival” discovered, their collective ability to entertain a family audience makes such a blend of talent irresistible.
The Box’s set list of classic rock hits like “Closer Together”, “Ordinary People, “Carry On” and their infectious cover of Men Without Hat’s classic “Safety Dance” have created a massive following in Ontario as well as their native Quebec and efforts are being made to expand their scope into Western Canada and the Maritimes in 2024 where local promoters, are bemoaning the lack of “New” classic bands to fulfill annual obligations to their festival audiences.
In band original, Jean Marc Pisapia, The Box boasts the consummate frontman whose connection with his audience is magnetic. Supported by back-up vocalist Isabel Lemay, the guitar/bass duo of Francois Bruneau and Dan Volj, keyboardist Guillame Jodoin and drummer Martin Lapierre, the band have their setlist polished to perfection, launching with a couple of classics (“Must I Always Remember”, “Carry On”) followed by a new track “Rock Star” before Pisapia asks his audience to tune in while the band tackles more progressive material from their ‘John Of Mark’ release. “Hell On Earth”, “So Beautiful” displaying their instrumental chops before The Box delivers a series of hits which include their dramatic masterpiece, “L’affaire Dumoutier” and conclude with the inevitable encore of “Safety Dance” which gets everyone up on their feet dancing.
The teaming of ONE UGLY COWBOY with The Box occurred by accident after OUC were originally set to open for The Road Hammers at Toronto’s El Mocambo New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day 2021. Deposits were paid but both shows were cancelled due to COVID-19 so OUC were scheduled for a makeup date at the EL Mo opening for Honeymoon Suite. Their name was not mentioned in any pre-show advertising, no punters arriving at the sold-out show had any idea who OUC were. But their blend of classic Country Rock drew a standing ovation by the time their 45-minute set concluded.
This led to a further team-up with The Box at Oshawa’s Regent Theatre in October 2022 and continued Monday in Hamilton with the band again delivering a balanced set of originals like “Recipe For Love”, “I Love Whatcha Do”, and “Southern Girl” with Classic Rock interpretations of Queen’s “Another One Bites The Dust”, Lady Gaga’s “Poker Face” and even a surprisingly effective rock cover of Abba’s “Mamma Mia”. And to top it all, their rock cover of Johnny Cash’s “Ring Of Fire” shows why pundits are calling them a Country Rock version of Van Halen.
With the vivacious Jane Sowerby fronting the band, they certainly are not ‘Ugly” and OUC cannot be described as ‘Cowboys’ with guitarist Rick Zwicewicz, bassist Rick Ottenbrite and drummer Mike Mann providing a powerful rock instrumental sound as they did in Hamilton and also during a Canada Day July 1st date at Toronto’s Centennial Park.
The band’s appeal is that they can play to virtually any audience. If it’s a Country Music crowd, they can adjust their setlist accordingly, but if it’s a festival crowd containing all ages, OUC can mix in Janis Joplin’s “Me And Bobby McGee”, and even work in some disco with The Weather Girls’ “It’s Raining Men”
The Box / ONE UGLY COWBOY pairing is set to continue Friday September 29th when both are scheduled to perform a Royal LePage charity gig at Oakville’ Performing Arts Centre.
Watch OUC single RING OF FIRE … (Johnny Cash gone country ROCK)!!!