CMW 2014: Thursday Pt. 2

By Aviva L.

Day two of my CMW adventure brought beautiful sunny weather and a wonderful in-store performance by folk musician Spencer Burton, formerly known as Grey Kingdom. The event, hosted by Dine Alone Records, took place at upscale men’s clothing store Ben Sherman, at their Queen Street location.

When I arrived, 15 minutes after the official starting time, there were few people in the store and the set hadn’t started. I parked myself next to the bowls of pretzels and sesame snaps and chatted with a couple of friends, waiting for the music to start. A makeshift stage with a couple of microphones and a speaker was set up in the centre of the bright store, amongst the racks of colourful t-shirts and jackets.

After a few more people filed in, an announcer from the store called Spencer up to the stage and encouraged everyone to gather in front of him on the “dance floor.” I grabbed a spot up front, eager to take advantage of the rare intimate setting.
Spencer walked up, strapped on his guitar, and with an endearing and mischievous look in his eyes, started joking about everything from being the shortest person in the room to sounding like his trucker-mouthed Aunt Dolly. He kept on kidding around for about 10 minutes, the longest (and funniest!) introduction to a set I’ve ever seen. After jokingly picking on a guy up front for a while, he finally started to sing.

Simply put, Spencer’s voice is beautiful. He sings effortlessly, and has the incredible talent of conveying raw emotion and heartfelt sincerity in his voice. His songs are mostly down tempo and, true to the folk genre, tell stories of love, heartache and personal revelation. Spencer played an acoustic guitar with a warm sound, skillfully strumming and finger-picking to support his voice.

The rest of the hour-long set whizzed by, the entire audience enraptured by Spencer’s gorgeous music and his kooky and hilarious commentary. As I told him after the show, all that audience giggling was far from the pity laughter that stage banter sometimes receives! He was genuinely funny, and had unassuming yet commanding stage presence.

While it was a shame that more people didn’t attend the in-store performance (it was a Thursday afternoon in a clothing store venue, after all), those in attendance really lucked out. Spencer is an extraordinary musician and performer, and, as he repeatedly assured the audience, a really nice guy.

Do yourself a favour and get to a Spencer Burton show next time he comes into town! His music can be found at: http://greykingdom.bandcamp.com/

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