The Grist Mill is one of the more unique venues in Waterloo. With a maximum capacity of not much more than 50 people, and no lighting or equipment other than what you bring yourself, in the right hands it makes for an extremely intimite venue. Last sunday it was dressed up with all manner of fairy lights, streamers, bells and candles to celebrate the releases of Bruce Peninsula’s new record Open Flames.
Since I moved to Canada (for the first time) in 2009, Bruce Peninsula have been one of my little Canadian music gems. Their larger than life fusion of indie-folk and old time gossipel music is like no other band I’ve listened too, and I’m always a sucker for a singer whose voice sounds like it’s been tempered with a steady diet of gravel and whisky. Needles to say I was quite excited to get the change to see them in my home town, and I couldn’t think of a more appropriate band to play at the Grist Mill.
The night started early with Esther Grey playing their first ever live gig. This drum and guitar two piece hails form Guelph and is composed of members of Tyson and the Trepids. They put on a good show and you’d be hard pressed to tell this was their first gig, but I guess that comes from the members having played in several other bands together over many years. Check out some videos of their set here.
Toronto’s Snowblink was up second. While they were setting up evening crept over and transformed the mill into a moody old building lit only by the row of fairy lights running along the floor. Their set started with soothing vocals leading into a percussive guitar which built to a ethereal climax of ringing bells which were handed out before the set started. This was the first time I’d heard them and I liked it. It brought to mind a stripped back, less melancholic Nick Drake. The Antlers on the singers guitar were a nice touch too.
Last up was the band of the hour, Bruce Peninsula, who started off with the chain-gang chant Bitty Baby. They played a healthy amount of material from their new record Open Flames, which I haven’t managed to buy a copy of yet, but if the live songs are anything to go by it will definitely be worth getting when it’s released. Three songs in they played a favourite of mine, the opening two numbers of A Mountain Is A Mouth; Inside, Outside and Steamroller. After the slower first two songs this double up kicked the energy of the room up a few notches and got the crowd to their feet.
A highlight of their set was the crowd requested Crabapples, which felt like a scene from a movie as the band got out amongst the crowd for the rowdy gossipel style drum and vocal number. Their upbeat music does a good job of obscuring the darker subject matter of their lyrics, but that’s all part of their appeal. Make sure you catch these guys while they are currently on tour. If you need anymore incentive check out some of the videos form their set on my YouTube Channel.