JIM BRYSON & THE OCCASIONALS, at Barcode, June 8. Tickets: $18. Attendance: 130. Rating: NNNN
It's saying something when, 10 minutes into someone's set and two hours into a festival where 400 bands are playing, you wonder how anything else in the fest will top what you're watching now.
The looks on peoples' faces a quarter of the way through Jim Bryson's Barcode gig Thursday night said it all. The Ottawa-based singer/songwriter and former Punchbuggy frontman wasn't exactly the flashiest performer at NXNE, though he did reel off a few good lines about being a long-suffering Expos supporter.
Instead, Bryson kept it delightfully simple, casually rolling his way through 40 minutes of concise and understated roots pop songs while his band the Occasionals, including Starling's Ian Lefeuvre and Peter Von Althen, did their best Crazy Horse.
With a full band behind Bryson, the set was considerably more electrified and Wilco-ish than his self-released The Occasionals disc but never veered anywhere near the familiar alt-country cliches. Bryson has a way of putting words together in a four-minute song that stops you cold, and people paid attention. The usual festival chit-chat that can drown out a less dominating artist was nowhere to be heard.
By the time he slid into the "do do do do do" chorus of One Cigarette, it was game over.