Bernice 42 Jane Street, Guelph ON, July 15
Published Jul 16, 2015More people should listen to Bernice. Comprised of some of Toronto's most innovative (and busy) musicians, they sometimes acknowledge what they're doing as making "small" and "quiet" music, but they pursue it in a maximalist fashion, colouring it with many hands and building textures into dynamic, full soundscapes.
In the restrictions of the house space they performed in for Incline/Decline, unfortunately this also meant that most of the audience had to guess at where those textures were coming from, as the walls creating the doorframe to the room they were playing in also blocked off sightlines from the room the audience could watch from. Singer and project leader Robin Dann tried to improve those conditions by inviting the crowd to sit on the ground as they performed, but only a few complied.
As she usually does, Dann eventually found ways to involve and engage the audience in spite of the space's challenges, though. Before performing a new song, she asked the crowd to close their eyes, to forget about the limitations of the venue's visibility, and to imagine biking down Toronto's Dundas Street West either just before or after a storm has taken place, with a sky filled with dark clouds contrasting against the moon. Later, the band took suggestions for an improv prompt, and when the audience provided a song name ("Falafel") and a genre ("stewed juice") for them to work with, Bernice responded with a sort of mad-gab free-sound painting of dark tones and textures that bucked against their typically delicate sound.
It was all very effective at demonstrating the group's flexibility as a band, but it was still a shame people couldn't watch what was going on.