Jimmy Swift Band :: 7.23.05 :: Brew Brothers Taproom :: Calgary, AB
By Shain Shapiro
All you crazy Americans should pay more attention to the burgeoning independent music community in Canada. I know there is an abundance of choice down south, but numerous inventive musical schemas have been unearthed as of late in the Great White North. The Arcade Fire, along with Stars and Broken Social Scene, have become mainstream's recent indie darlings, while artists like Joel Plaskett, Matt Mays, and Kathleen Edwards continue to push the boundaries of Americana through honest, Canadian songwriting. While those names may infer recollection with the explorative music buff, the Jimmy Swift Band unfortunately, does not. The Halifax four-piece band began over a decade ago and has since become one of the leaders in Eastern Canada's improvisational scene. Mixing potent, verse-chorus-verse alternative rock with extended, 80s-influenced experimental trance, the Jimmy Swift Band is essentially two bands in one. The song structures are independent of one another - one set could feature ferocious rock and roll while the other could be one long, unmitigated exercise in improvisation. A contemporary Depeche Mode that jams, battered in 311 and served with a side of Particle for good measure.
Jimmy Swift Band by Scott McGuigan
Calgary is a fairly new market for the Jimmy Swift Band. Despite extensive popularity already established in Eastern Canada (including Ontario), the West is fresh terrain because of the distance bands have to travel when crossing the humdrum Prairie Provinces. Armed with an arsenal of new material and excitement from the Calgary Folk Festival happening just down the street, The Jimmy Swift Band reintroduced themselves to a packed Brew Brothers Taproom and proceeded to work through an hour of spontaneous trance and structured 80s rock, further exemplifying the talent rooted in Canada's independent music community.
Craig Mercer - JSB by Scott McGuigan
Arriving late because of the Folk Festivities, guitarist/vocalist Craig Mercer signaled the beginning of the second set as I walked in. This band means business, as I was immediately taken aback by a strong, 80s-influenced rock number, cleverly accented by keyboardist Aaron Collier's capricious synth. A tribute to 1980s synth-rock followed, as each original was tinged with retro panache, performed within a fiery, contemporary context. Mercer sang like a rock-star- shamelessly in the spotlight, intense, and gleefully over-the-top. While the melody followed the path wrought by New Order and Depeche Mode by letting the synth take precedent, Mercer's voice powerfully ran alongside, epitomizing the intensity that notarizes the quartet.
After the forty-five minute trip back to the 80s, the other side of the Jimmy Swift Band appeared, reversed the time machine, and expunged an hour of intense, climactic trance. Only two songs were played - the off-beat "80s Runway Model" and the lengthy, improvisational "Now They Will Know We Were Here." The former is a 7/4, highly experimental gem that bares no resemblance to anything created in the 80s, and the latter is the quartet's magnum opus - several parts long, ranging from deep, bass-driven funk to four-on-the-floor, dance-infused techno. An opportunity to explore any possible angle inherent within their sound, "Now They Will Know We Were Here" is an exhaustive improvisational research project. Cunningly picking apart trance without fumbling towards monotony, the Mercer-led signature is Jimmy Swift Band's central nervous system, a tune that expands their entire repertoire by its own inner development.
Jimmy Swift Band by Scott McGuigan
As the last notes of "Now They Will Know We Were Here" sputtered, the message became apparently clear. Calgary is now in tune with the fire that Halifax's most prized improvisational export expels. This is a band confident enough in their craft to disperse melodic rigidity within an unbound ideology, all while intrinsically aware of the limits embedded in their sound's limitless possibilities - a paradox in its finest form. Soon, folks south of the 49th parallel will know they are here as well.
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