The Ford Plant is somewhat emblematic of Brantford; signs of former glory, left to the friction of time while still being lived in. A grit and honesty that is coupled with a humility and good humour. It sits across from a seeming ghost town of boarded buildings, but down the street from a vibrant and refurbished side of downtown. Cracked plaster lines the main room, hangs from the light fixture, artwork of iron clad valkyries, framed 300 piece puzzles on the wall above curb-side couches on the periphery. Basement bathrooms with unmarked doors match the splendor of the playing space's green check vinyl floor that transitions toward the stage, accommodating the audio snake that runs to a once-manned sound both, no longer containing it's board. It's cobbled together, unpolished, cliquey, possibly hepatatic, yet comforting... we were back in the low-draw, low-cover all ages venues of high school and I couldn't help but smile and love it.
Two mics faced Hunter Robinson, one for his vocals, one for his guitar. As though we had caught him eyes-closed singing in his bedroom, the 18 year old played (for the most part) straight to his girlfriend (Megan I believe her name was), standing just in front of their two friends. His parents stood to the other side of the stage, myself and two others the only sign of strangers in the room. A small notebook precariously balanced on a music stand, covered at times with loose paper, lyrics passed from the onlooking girlfriend for guidance.
"We are Simon vs. God" started Simon Walton. This was his first show with guitarist/bassist Ryan Phillips. 10 songs were on the slate and all found Walton and Phillips wandering and looking for each other along the fretboard. When they connected, there were inspired moments, but time dragged and the new partnership felt very new.
We stepped out for a few minutes to recollect, and take a break from the long set. We grabbed coffee, and by the time we returned, Innes Wilson and His Opposition were finishing their set. Dual vocals, screams and what sounded like love for Hayden and Chore. It was definitely feeling more like high school, in the best possible way... made me want to see a Kitchens and Bathrooms set again.
This is the second time I've seen By Divine Right this winter. Having toured Mutant Message from Ontario to the east coast, the Ford Plant seemed like a strange tack-on night. "We went bowling and had about 10 hot totties before this" Jose Contreras stated. They seemed tired. Starting with "I Love A Girl," Mutant Message was played track for track most of the way through. Having to bundle to stay warm in the frigid venue, as they moved through the set, layers peeled back and the crowd warmed, possibly a little too late. A wrecking ball ending to "Help Me Find A Place To Land" was to be the punctuation mark on the night. As Contreras's guitar squelched, resting against the amp, Michael Milosh aimed for the inset lighting on the low side stage bulkhead, spearing zealously with the head of his baritone Fender, dropping it to the floor and dancing in a happy presentation of a can of beans that had spectated from his stack for the whole show. The noise cut off, the guy sitting on the stool to our left whined, "Come on.... play one more. Come onnnnnn!" The 20 person crowd was urged into clapping and after a surprisingly brief tuning, "I Will Hook You Up" was the whiner's reward. "You ask us to play one more, we'll do it" Jose responded... and it worked... again. "Titty Shaker" closed the night. Tiny venue, tiny draw, tiny take (20 people @ $7 bucks a piece), low key crowd, and not knowing where to sleep at night could beat you down as a touring musician. But By Divine Right delivered upbeat rock with a fullness a 3 piece rarely achieves. Contreras smiled the whole set, held his guitar high, stank-faced solos and all. As we drove home all we could say was "those guys must fucking love what they do. They must really want it."