With the winter months comes fewer opportunities to head north, and thus quite often some longer (than we are comfortable with) periods between live music shows. Having gone through most of January with no concert-going adventures, Team GDW were happy to make a short drive to Lancaster, PA on the final Wednesday of January to catch our first, and highly anticipated, show of the year. It may have been a balmy 6 degrees Fahrenheit on this given evening, but thanks to both the always-warm hospitality from our friends at Chestnut House, and the musical talents of Quinn Bachand’s Brishen, ‘Old Man Winter’ outside was quickly forgotten.
It is hard to believe that we first encountered the music of Quinn Bachand just 18 months ago, during his visit to a PA festival as part of a duo with his sister Qristina. Chatting with Quinn after one of his performances, he was kind enough to gift us a copy of his most recent ‘Brishen’ album, “Blue Verdun,” which we found to be an absolute gem (and one of our favorite albums of 2017). Fast forward to the present day, and upon seeing the announcement that Quinn was bringing Brishen to our neck of the woods, reservations for the show were very quickly made to guarantee that we could finally experience this for ourselves.
Part European ‘gypsy’ jazz, and part Western swing, the music of Brishen combines some unique original compositions and the often compelling interpretations of standards and popular music hits. Performing at Chestnut House as a quartet, Quinn (guitar/violin/vocals) was joined by Reuben Wier (guitar/vocals), Alan Mackie (upright bass) and Eric Vanderbilt-Mathews (saxophone/clarinet), collectively delivering a phenomenal evening of their distinct music over the course of two sets. And while they easily dazzled with their musical skills, it would be their defiance of typical concert-performance etiquette that really endeared them all to the room, throwing out the concert rule book with some ad hoc and often comical antics.
Opening with a beautiful flamenco interpretation of “O Canada,” the quartet would quickly transition into a cover of the Ray Charles classic, “Georgia On My Mind,” complete with lead vocals handled by Quinn. The first set would focus on music from their first two albums, with some great renditions of both “Cheyenne (Quit Your Talkin’)” and “Estrellita” from “Blue Verdun.” We would also enjoy “Annie’s Waltz” from their self-titled debut album; along with a wonderful uninterrupted medley of “Blue Drag,” “Betsy’s Theme,” and “Coragheasca,” to close the first set (and with lead vocals handled by Reuben during “Blue Drag”).
Following a brief intermission, Brishen would return and announce that they have just completed their third studio album, “Tunes In A Hotel,” and were naturally willing to share some of these new compositions. “This second set is very exciting, you’re going to hear all of us play musical instruments,” explained Quinn. “We’ll play some traditional Canadian music for you, and some swing music too.” Launching into a new and fantastic cover of Jimmie Lunceford’s “Dream of You,” the quartet would follow immediately with the 1930 Jimmy McHugh/Dorothy Fields track “Exactly Like You,” popularized by the likes of Django Reinhardt, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra.
As for the aforementioned antics, well, there were plenty of these moments. After a brief pause during the first set, where Alan mock wiped some sweat from the forehead of Eric prior to a solo (and fixed his hair in the process too), it would be during their interpretation of a traditional Alberta number titled “Hummingbird Waltz” when the shenanigans would truly commence. As promised, each band member would rotate to play that of another, leaving bassist Alan handling the saxophone one moment, while Eric took his turn attempting the violin. And of course, to convince the room that they were having just as much fun as those of us witnessing their performance, Alan and Eric would insert an incredibly out of tune version of “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” during their turn in the spotlight. As the crowd laughed and cheered, each musician rapidly returned to their spots with correct instruments in hand, and closed out the set with a flawless (and serious) finale that more than earned their standing ovation from the room.
The audience were not quite ready to call it a night, and made enough noise to earn an encore performance from Brishen. Little did we know that those shenanigans would form part of the encore too. Quinn would announce that the closing number, “Minor Swing,” was ‘not’ on the brand new album that was for sale at the back of the room (nice shameless plug), with the quartet launching quickly into this final number. And as the music progressed, so did the antics. With a mock disdain during a lengthier solo by Eric, all three remaining musicians would put down their instruments and leave the house via the adjacent front door, returning via the back entrance a few moments later in turn. Eric continued to play, unruffled by the actions around him, which included Alan taking a seat and reading aloud from a book into the microphone. Quinn would raise the stakes too, succumbing to the temptation of some ‘house’ display instruments adorning the wall beside him, and attempting to complete the encore with an out-of-tune banjo, a mandolin with a broken string, and the retrieval of his own violin. With visual jokes and laughs aplenty, the show drew to a close, and everybody in the room knew that they had witnessed something incredibly special and spontaneous.
We enjoyed a wonderful evening of live music from some very talented young musicians. Quinn Bachand’s Brishen not only entertained, but educated the casual listener with their unbridled passion for nostalgia, and modern twist on music from the 1920s through to the 1960s. Eighteen months ago we had the pleasure to meet a quiet and humble Quinn Bachand, who appeared comfortable in the shadow of his sister during their time in PA. This week, we witnessed a naturally charismatic Quinn Bachand; still humble, yet incredibly mature and confident in his role as the front man of this exciting and diverse project. If Brishen happen to be playing at a venue near you, we absolutely insist that you do not miss out on the opportunity to experience this very entertaining event for yourselves.
- Oh Canada
- Georgia On My Mind
- Annie’s Waltz
- Cheyenne (Quit Your Talkin’)
- Blue Drag
- Betsy’s Theme
- Dream of You
- Exactly Like You
- Begging You To Stay
- Hummingbird Waltz (Trad. Alberta)
- Lonely Star
- Music From A Found Harmonium
- Minor Swing
Photo Credit: Tim Lehman