Why Bernice Rules by Natalie Amber (2017)
I’ve been a worshipper at the shrine of Bernice for many years now, after being introduced to their music through an acquaintance and one of their band mates, Colin Fisher (that musical genius of a man with a laugh to make even the most melancholic crossed-armed Toronto music-goer smile). I use this religious language because, when given the chance, I rave about them to anyone who will listen with a near-evangelical fervour, a tone I usually only use when talking about my other true passions: fashionable old women, artisanal doughnuts, and the political implementation of basic annual income (what can I say, I’m a woman of varied interests). What might you hear in one of my Bernice rants, you wonder? Well, let me try to capture the sentiments here:
Bernice makes me want to move and be still all at the same time. I want to close my eyes and float in the ephemeral world of harmonic sound all around me, yet I want to keep my eyes wide open, watching the subtle but captivating movements and gestures of Robin Dann, the lead singer. It’s not that she’s dancing. It’s as if she’s actually embodying the music as it flows through her, something I have never see in such an effortlessly confident way. When I watch Robin, I can’t help but want to hold my body differently, I want to float as she floats. So at a Bernice concert, I find myself not only audibly blissed-out by the impossible melodies they’ve mastered, but my entire body is responding, is aware of itself, is tuned in.
Another thing I love about Bernice is their kinship, their unpretentious enjoyment of each other’s company and of performing. Nothing feels forced or put-on, no one’s ego is overshadowing anyone else, everyone has a chance to shine. It’s as democratic a situation as one is likely to find these days (we’re certainly not seeing democracy elsewhere at the moment!) In fact, at a show several years ago on Toronto Island for Imbolc, I felt their friendship energy so strongly that after their set, I walked up to Robin and flat out said “I want to be friends!” To which she replied “well now we are friends!” And so it was. I call that “How to make friends as an adult 101”; it’s just that easy folks.
Fun/Embarrassing fact: I’ve fantasized about Bernice playing at my hypothetical wedding! I picture dancing down the isle after the ceremony to their song “St Lucia”, while everyone sings out “Livin it up cuz we need it!” Who knows, maybe fantasy will be reality someday. In the meantime, don’t steal my idea, k? And if you feel the need to gush about this band after the show like a star-struck teenager, come find me, I’m always ready to sing in the chorus line of their praises.
Natalie Amber is the co-owner of Take Time, a vintage clothing store, art gallery, and event space in downtown Guelph. She also runs the cozy, well-loved house show venue Cinnamon Cinema in the Ward neighbourhood. She splits her time between Toronto and Guelph and loves that the bulk barn now lets you bring reusable containers.