Show Review: Great Lake Swimmers at the Wilmot Church

By: Eric Hill

Following on the heels of the first frosty night of autumn a bit of Shivering Songs seemed appropriate. Wilmot Church once again provided a warm haven for a rapt, verging on somnolent, crowd looking to wrap itself in a warm blanket of entertainment.

Homecoming sweetheart Julie Doiron opened solo with a modest handful of songs, featuring new material from her upcoming October 23rd release and ninth solo album, So Many Days. Doiron’s songwriting has only gotten better and better over the last few years, retaining the open-hearted honesty of her early post-Eric’s Trip work, but with a worldliness and authority that is both stirring and, at times, melancholic. Julie herself exhibited a balance of playfulness and sobriety with in-between-song banter that ranged from dandruff reducing hair treatments to the of regrets nomadic touring which typically lead to missing her kids. The confessional atmosphere, well suited to the church setting, was tempered by a confident singing and playing style (Julie’s guitar playing doesn’t often get much credit, but should) and the crowd was charmed by both.

After an intermission Ontario’s Great Lake Swimmers drifted onto the stage in their violin / banjo / upright bass accoutrements. Drawing a generous amount of set material from New Wild Everywhere, their fifth album released earlier this year, the band wove a fairly uniform and unremarkable first half hour. Despite a technical mastery of pleasant folk-rock and all of its tropes, each song seemed to overlap then erase the memory of the previous song. Only when drummer Greg Millson came awake and lay down a bit of stomp did the stage liven up. After a stretch of gentle nodding and sleepily regarding our shoes did it finally become apparent that the building did have a ceiling and balcony. Along with the title track, “The Great Exhale,” was a standout in their performance. Singer and principle songwriter Tony Dekker’s soft voice and weightless style was well-matched to the sometimes painfully earnest declarations about the song subjects and other concerns, but still you feared a strong wind might sweep the scene completely clean of everything should the doors suddenly blow open.

And when the doors finally did open onto the chilly night folks stepped outside with the pleasing glow of friends who had shared a warm blanket for a couple of hours.

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