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Music

If I was in Montreal #3 - Bruce Peninsula

Posted by Greg / July 16, 2009

20090716-BrucePeninsula.jpgMidnight Poutine writer and concert addict Greg Bouchard will be living on the East Coast for the remainder of the summer, painfully far away from Montreal's music scene. In this series, he will pick one show per week that he would attend if he was in town, and then invite readers to comment with their own reviews. Let him live vicariously through you.

I first saw Bruce Peninsula live in March of 2007, shortly after their formation, at Toronto's tiny Sneaky Dee's. For the first few minutes they struck me as a haphazardly put together experimental jam project, the yowling vocals and unconventional instrumentation providing interesting textures but lacking direction and tightness. This was until the drums kicked in and the songs took off. The next forty-five minutes did nothing less than transform my standards for heaviness in live musical performance. There wasn't distorted guitar or screaming, just an overwhelming, all-consuming wall of singing and drumming that was bigger and more intense than any recording could ever capture. I walked away with a new definition of rock n' roll: it's when the floor shakes beneath your feet and you worry that it might not hold out.

At that point they hadn't written many originals and almost exclusively played covers of traditional folk and gospel songs. Their interpretation of these old musical styles was absolutely spellbinding to a point where I was upset I hadn't thought of doing it first. It was timeless music, but so much so that I worried Bruce Peninsula would lose their identity as a band under the weight of the material they played - in other words, I worried they would always be interpreters rather than artists. This didn't diminish my own appreciation for what they did, but I thought it would prevent them from achieving the wider recognition they deserved.

It has been a pleasure seeing them gain fame across Canada and the rest of the indie-rock world. I can recall two particular moments when I knew they had arrived. One was when I woke up to the sound of my former roommate blasting their full length album, A Mountain is a Mouth, and realizing they had produced a vast amount of original material that matched the style and intensity of their covers. The other was when I saw them on the Polaris long list (even though they were outrageously omitted from the short list). It's so pleasing knowing that so many other listeners see the same special qualities in this band that I do.

When they play in Montreal on Tuesday, I hope the fans come out and show their appreciation, and more importantly, I hope they bring a lot of uninitiated friends along. To see Bruce Peninsula live is to see a rare and wonderful side of music that seldom exists anymore.

Let me know how it goes.

Bruce Peninsula play July 21 at Il Motore
Tickets cost $10, which is pretty good considering the experience will be priceless

Photo via the band's website

Discussion

7 Comments

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