Generally, when I get a Facebook event invitation, I throw a "Maybe Attending" onto it, and forget all about it. In this case, I figured that I was due for a night out, and headed out to the show.
The venue has three different rooms, this one being the "cellar lounge," next to the bathrooms, with enough room to comfortably seat around 80 people. Most of the space was available for coats or footstools, as the crowd hit its peak at about 30 (including the 7 performers).
The opener, River Wild, is a three-piece group, where each singer also carried an instrument: Jeff McClellan on guitar, Shane Davis on tambourine, and Ian Morris on bongos and shaker. Together, they create rich vocal harmonies, led, and kept in line by the guitar. At times, the strain of the higher voices took away from from the unity of the well-practiced harmonies. It's hard to describe what the band sounds like, it's kind of like Sounds Of Silence-era Simon & Garfunkel meets Renaissance chant, but it works. The choir/band also showed a refinement and control whenever they made musical decisions. At one point, the otherwise chatty crowd was completely transfixed as they guys expertly swelled in volume and intensity to climax one song.
As Bread Envy took the stage, half the room emptied. I worried that I had picked the wrong night to come out of my social hibernation. But, as soon as they started playing, it became clear how they won London's "Break Your Band" contest. Even playing an ammended set, due to the non-presence of guitarist Justin Bisaillon, the band took the stage and simply played good music. Frontman Blair Miskie not only demonstrated natural vocal skill, he took on the task of playing both rhythm and lead guitar; to his credit, I couldn't tell that anything was missing. Adrian Martin, on keys, performed backing vocals, which blended perfectly with Miskie's lead. Bassist James Beaver, and drummer Chris Nicoloff, were absolutely comfortable in their own skin, playing their parts dutifully, and often joking around with each other while doing their thing.
What really struck me about Bread Envy (a name they hope to replace by the time they head to the recording studio in two days's time) was their competence. These are a group of guys who each know exactly what they're doing, and, at this point, are just figuring out the best way to do it. Each member is an unquestionably talented musician, and everything they do on stage seems effortless. Even when performing covers, like The Hives' "Hate To Say I Told You So" or the ballsy move of doing Radiohead's "Karma Police," the result is near-lift recreation. The danger of a band so good at covers is that it can be hard to find a voice for oneself. If the last two songs of the set (originals that will be be released on their upcoming EP) are any indication, this isn't going to be a problem. The band seems to thrive when performing their own work, taking even more enjoyment out of the experience. As with any young band, there's still some refinement to be made, but there's no question that Bread Envy is good. Too good, I'd say, to be playing in front of eight people in a basement.