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Roll Call: Bruce Peninsula @ Mavericks (Ott.) tonight


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Any guess on set times? I may head down after the hockey game.

I'm not sure. The doors are at 9pm (first band at 10pm?), and there are three acts on before Bruce Peninsula, so I wouldn't expect them to start that early. (That said, the two times I've seen them, they played for about an hour, so if the show gets going early, it might end fairly early.)



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Bruce Peninsula is a Toronto-based musical anomaly. Boasting a fluctuating lineup of up to 11 members helps this young band stand out. But what really sets Bruce Peninsula apart from an indie scene that constantly strives for singularity is their utter success at just that – these guys weave clever songs into unique and interesting arrangements that you just aren't going to hear on your average night out. Certainly, having a choir at your disposal doesn't hurt.

"We believe that songs have to be sort of amorphous entities; they can be anything. Once the song exists you can play it loud and big with all 22 hands or you can play it with just a couple of people sitting on the couch," says vocalist and guitarist Neil Haverty, though he admits the arrangements are often self-dictating. "[The songs are] going to present themselves a certain way and aesthetic choice is going to present itself." While the size and scope of the group affords the band unique timbral opportunities, it does present some challenges. With such an unwieldy number of fingers in the pie the group finds the most effective way to work up new material is to split up rehearsals: the instrumentalists and the choir practice separately, with full-on band rehearsals coming after the fact.

Touring can also be difficult, so the band has learned to accept the fluctuating availability of its members. Bruce Peninsula contains a core group of five people, explains Haverty. "Five of us steer the ship and we can play shows as long as we have those five people . . . It's tough to organize this band and therefore we have to be malleable . . . you never know what you're gonna get."

While sometimes stressful, this indeterminacy leads to an unavoidable variety in live performance possibilities, which the band has come to embrace. "For a while we tried to define ourselves as an 11-person band, but the way it works is more like a club that when you can attend, you attend, you know?" Haverty states.

Having just completed a provincial tour through Ontario, Bruce Peninsula are resting up for a more substantial tour in support of their debut release, A Mountain Is A Mouth. Recorded in over a half-dozen rooms in and around Toronto (including vocal sessions at St. George the Martyr Anglican Church), the band soon found their recording budget being eaten up by studio rental fees with little left over to pay recording engineer Leon Taheny. So, they decided the best route was to trade in their mixing boards for drywall and two-by-fours and help Taheny build his own recording space. Two months later the studio was done, they resumed recording, and were able to direct their studio expenses straight to Taheny. The entire project took 18 months and helped foster a new relationship. "We didn't know Leon before we started recording with him, now he's one of our best friends," says Haverty.

The relationship seems to have worked well. Sampling select cuts from the release affords the listener a series of contemporary soundscapes that easily blend creativity with accessibility. While the band has variously described their music as folk or gospel, the album shows they are difficult to pin down, falling somewhere between Tom Waits and The Polyphonic Spree, though neither as gruff as the former nor as cultish as the latter. In their lament, "Shutters", the lead vocals play off the repeated line "Water from a whale's spout" antiphonally with the choral backing vocals, creating an onomatopoeic effect that puts the audience inside the belly of the beast. Yet the lead-off track, "Inside/Outside", is an almost prog-rock exercise in sparsity.

"Probably it really is rock music on a base level. The thing is, the ideals that we are adhering to, the traditions we are trying to uphold, come from gospel and folk music," says Haverty, though he is quick to point out that it is specifically the concepts behind these genres that the band is influenced by, and not the sound. "We don't try and make a certain kind of music, we try to make the music that is best suited to us . . . For us the major point is exploration of songs. There are no restrictions that we've applied."

And don't expect the album to be the final word on the music either. Taking the folk ideal to the source, Haverty explains how Bruce Peninsula gravitates towards the work of famed field recorder Alan Lomax. "‘Just sing me any song you know,' he'd say and they'd sing something and they'd kind of half-remember it and they would make up a part and it would be like a continuing rumor. Songs are just a continuing rumour. So our songs should be treated with the same template. They can change – they will change inevitably."


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Made me wonder if it just them or they usually have a full band.

They usually have a full band; from


Band Members

Matthew Chaffey - Vocals, Rhythm Guitar

Curtis Chaffey - Lead guitar, Vocals

Adam Puddington - Guitar, Vocals

Dave Macdonald - Bass

Nick Diak - Drums

I've also seen Brothers Chaffey shows with guests sitting in, like Kelly Prescott on vocals, or Steve Marriner on guitar and vocals.

Maybe it's because I'm so used to seeing the full band, but I found the duo kind of lacked something, like the drive of the drums; with just the guitars, the rockin' numbers (like their cover of the Ron Wood / Bo Diddley tune, "They Don't Make Outlaws Like They Used To Anymore") just didn't hit hard enough for me. Add to that the problems that Curtis Chaffey was having with his gear, and their set (IMnsHO) wasn't nearly as good as I know they're capable of.

The Allrights blew me away: heavy-duty, slightly sloppy, rawk and roll, with the fun of a garage punk show, but with intensity (or the sharpness of the intensity) dialed back a little from punk, and with none of its violence of nihlism. The best part of their set was the bass playing. John, their drummer, told me that they had recently had a line-up change which ended up with one of their guitar players switching to bass. He broke a string early in the set, and asked if any of the other bands had a bass he could borrow; unfortunately, both Right By Midnight and Brothers Chaffey are two-guitar / no-bass duos, and Bruce Pensinula, who have a bass player, hadn't arrived yet. But he soldiered on, and rocked the 75% of the bass he had available, and rocked it hard. The set of fans they brought out (I think there were more Allrights fans there than Bruce Peninsula fans) did a great job on the dance floor and, to their credit, stuck around for the rest of the night.

Bruce Peninsula floored me. They came out of the gate harder and heavier than I'd seen them, and kept at it the whole set. A personal highlight for me was the praise and props that Matt dropped on flipzoso and myself (we had given him a DVD of their Burnstown show last week, along with four CDs of BP shows), and their dedication of their cover of Louden Wainwrights "Swimming Song" to us, because that was exactly the song I wanted to hear them play. Their cover of Fleetwood Mac's "The Chain" was a great encore.

Right By Midnight was pretty good, with well-written songs, good musicianship, and great singing from Kris Ward. I think they could use more of a band (bass and drums, especially, along with some background vocals), but I liked what they did.



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Indeed the shout-out was nice and I was mid-sentence talking to my friend in between songs and he stops me and says "he's talking about you" haha.

You know brad its funny, I actually thought...well I guess technically speaking, this was a weaker show of the ones i've seen. There were quite a few mess ups and sloppyness around the edges mostly because of the 15 hour drive and 4 hours sleep they were on. Add to the fact that two choir members were missing, I didn't enjoy it as much as most BP shows. That being said it seems they tried to counter that by upping the "fun" level and just hitting and playing harder as a last stomp to the end of the tour, which was cool to see.

Edited by Guest
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