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Bitters Concert and Improv Dance Jam

On Friday, May 10th, St. John’s had the pleasure of hosting Bitters for their debut Toronto performance. It was also my personal pleasure to organize the concert and host half the band at my house over the weekend. Bitters is an alternative-folk band from Windsor, Ontario, comprised of Dylan Ianicello, Jeremy Burke, River Bourque, Cavelle Doucet-lefebvre, Tim Maitland, and, of course, my partner Graham Venney - all wonderful, talented, and funny people. Speaking of funny, we also had Bri Clarke open for the band as her first stand up gig.

It was a night of many firsts – the first concert of this scale (with lights and large speakers) that St. John’s had hosted in many years and the first time many people in the audience had stepped foot in St. John’s, let alone a church. Their music – with layered harmonies, lots of guitars, and a featured musical saw – soared through the room as they played a set of over 12 songs, mostly tracks from their most recent album “While You Were Out”, and a few additions, such as “Swimming Lessons” from their first album “Little Death”, and “Ghost Song” – a fan favourite at their live shows. We had over 35 people in attendance, several of whom stayed after the music was over to enjoy some free pizza, chat with the band, and even play a bit of Smash Bros on the church’s Wii console. The space felt so alive that night, and we can’t wait for Bitters to return to St. John’s in the future.


I first met Bitters (before they even had a band name) in 2019, when I was visiting Windsor for the first time. I was enamoured by their sense of humour, and the way they were able to riff off each other (musically) so effortlessly. Bringing them to Toronto was already a challenge, but I especially wanted to provide an opportunity for the band to improvise together for the world to see.

On Saturday, May 11th, Bri Clarke and I hosted another one of our Improv Dance Jams with Bitters as our invited guests to play improvised music alongside us. This was our first improv jam in an afternoon time slot, which allowed families with young kids to participate. Two mothers with their young daughters (who had previously attended our Irish Night in March) came out, as well as the family of Bitters member Cavelle – including their one-year-old cousin. The Improv Dance Jam attracted around 15 attendees – both participants and audience members, who equally enjoyed the free form spirit of the event. The ebb and flow between the band and participants was magical, as both sides collaborated with each other in different ways. This was our most successful improv jam yet, so we are looking to continue these on Saturday afternoons with the possibility of inviting more local musicians to provide live music for us to create to.


 Special thanks to Johnathon Hoskins for lending us his lighting equipment, Za Hughes for assisting with the lighting at the concert, my dad Chris Rutty for driving equipment back and forth, Liam McInnis for running the refreshment table, Michael Taylor for being our doorman, and the folks at AA who graciously allowed us to host a concert that overlapped with their meeting.

Click on the photo below for the gallery

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