Jim Bryson @ Horseshoe Tavern

. : : October 19th, 2010 : : .

I mostly know Jim Bryson for his role in Kathleen Edwards‘ touring band.

Sure, I saw Jim perform some of his songs on the night of the NXNE festival that first introduced me to Kathleen Edwards, but I was so enchanted by Kathleen that I was still processing the awesomeness and any memory of Jim’s set has since become a distant blur. Jim’s professional relationship with Kathleen kept him at the forefront of my “To Check Out (Soon Maybe Someday Possibly When I Get Around To It)” list, which I think we all have, but various distractions have always kept me from giving him a fair shake.

At the encouragement of penpal and frequent blog commenter @ricker (Twitter handle), I finally gave the man an admittedly half-assed shot. I’ve found it increasingly difficult to find time to really sit down and actively listen to a new artist for sometime. So, I’m sure when I finally gave some Jim Bryson records a spin, I did it while writing on the blog, traveling on the bus, reading online articles, or otherwise only half paying attention. That can be the only reason why I can imagine I wasn’t more excited to see Jim Bryson play a free show at the Horseshoe Tavern (with The Weakerthans — a band he often tours as a member of returning the favour and backing up Bryson) on the release date of his latest album, Falcon Lake Incident. The show came at the tail end of a stretch of back-to-back-to-back-to-back concerts that, combined with an equally frequent and taxing work schedule, was exhausting. Also working against me: I was scheduled to work until 9:15, and Jim’s set at the Horseshoe Tavern was scheduled for 10pm sharp. I live and work in Scarborough, a suburb of Toronto that’s 45-minutes away if you’re lucky and all transit transfers line up JUST SO.

I didn’t think I had much of a chance of making it, which, coupled with the exhaustion, made me really weary to even attempt it. I was strongly contemplating skipping out, but I knew Rick was excited to hear a live recording of Jim Bryson songs, and I didn’t want to let him down. After complaining outloud, a co-worker offered to drive me downtown (cutting the traveling time by almost two-thirds) for the low-low price of a KFC dinner. It was costlier than a bus token, but way cheaper than a taxi, and seemed like a more than fair compromise — so I took him up on it. It was the right decision, and alleviated all the mounting stress of the tight travel schedule. We made such fantastic time that I even arrived to catch the artist before him, a gentleman performing with an iPod as his backing band. It’s official: I’ve stepped into the age of the MP3. Call me old fashioned, but I was a bit shocked / put off that a performer can be allotted a slot on such a prominent bill at an established and highly-regarded venue and essentially perform karaoke. < /rant >

It was immediately clear who the respectably large crowd was here to see. The mostly empty dance floor filled almost up almost to the point of discomfort as soon as the clock struck a quarter of 10 and the opener exited stage right. Jim and The Weakerthans took the stage relatively promptly, but it was established quickly that they would not escape the usual trapping of the famous cover-free show: a disproportionate number of the crowd would talk, loudly and consistently, throughout the setlist. Rather than sit / stand at the back of the famous venue, where carrying on a conversation makes the most sense, these conversations will happen in the first 15-to-20 feet of the room, as close to the stage as possible. They will be given sharp glances and whole-faced frowns, but continue the conversation jovially.

Regardless of the annoying and sadly predictable inconvenience, the room was pretty full (at least up front) of fairly attentive and enthusiastic people, and Jim really responded to that. He actually seemed quite nervous addressing the crowd between songs, but his nerves were tempered with respectful humility and gratitude, and all but erased once the music started up again. Being fairly fresh to the music — I’d yet to hear any of the new album, including the single — it took me two or three songs to acclimate myself a bit. Or maybe it took the band that handful of songs to start givin’er on all cylinders? Whichever the case, I caught on hard, and a bit surprised that a couple of the songs sounded familiar to me! A young lady passed out about 2/3rds into the set, prompting a brief delay while the band called a medic over and waited for to be cleared of the dangers of the claustrophobic crowd. Luckily, she was A-OK, which makes me feel a bit better about being fumingly frustrated with her interrupting the already short set usually held to a strict 45-minute limit.

Which was another surprise of the night: Jim Bryson is a rebel! His set time grew perilously close to an end — so much that his bandmates could be heard warning him to wrap things up — but Jim played on regardless, leading the band through a couple extra songs that went on at least a solid 8-minutes past curfew. I couldn’t be happier; I didn’t want the set to end. As it was, I have to keep my fingers crossed that Jim and the Weakerthans will do another, hopefully longer show, in a likewise intimate venue. Consider me converted: I will be amongst the first to pick up tickets.

01. [introduction]
02. Raised All Wrong
03. Wild Folk
04. Fell Off The Dock
05. If By The Bridge
06. Somewhere Else
07. Decidedly
08. [banter]
09. Fire Watch
10. [banter]
11. [banter] > Super Mario Bros. [tease] (?)
12. Pissing On Everything
13. Metal Girls
14. Constellation
15. Up All Night
16. Sleeping In Toronto
17. The Wishes Pile Up

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Metal Girls (Live In Toronto) (Live In Toronto) [MP3 sample]

Thanks to Jim Bryson, Dave Bookman, and the wonderful Horseshoe Tavern.

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