I should move. I’ve been hanging out in the same spot all night, and it isn’t totally working out for me. Two-steppers are bumping me into the wall. And I had an embarrassing moment blocking Will Ardell’s access to his guitars. Oops! Sorry! In my defence, I’m usually behind the camera. But man, the energy up here is amazing. Nice and close to the action. You can feel the magic in here.
Where am I? I’m on the dancefloor in a unique little hole-in-the-wall of a place called the Harris Hotel Bar & Grill. Everywhere you turn, there’s something interesting to see. Bottle-cap borders, vintage posters, and antique license plates to name a few. A friendly server with a big smile greets me almost as soon as I arrive and treats me like an old friend. This is the kind of place where memories are made.
Why am I here on a cold December 23 night 2.5 hours from home? I couldn’t miss the opportunity to write about this band. Who is playing a sold-out concert in this small town? Local band Seven Mile Sun! As the drummer, Kimberly Stevens, tells me, it’s been nearly 9 years since they got to play in their hometown. “A lot of these guys come to [support] us but it’s different playing at home.” I can feel what she means. It feels less like a concert and more like an awesome party with excellent music.
The “opener of all openers” as she calls herself, Bailey Imlach, eases the crowd into the night with her beautiful voice and her great sense of humour. She sets the scene with “Hotel of Harris”, her version of “Hotel California”. She recognizes herself as a “morose, sad singer” and engages the crowd with “The Thunder Rolls”. Bailey displays impeccable talent and awesome range.
Next on the homemade stage (they dragged platforms from the local arena over), is Will who’s been strumming along with Bailey from his table, Pilsner at hand. He came to “do some originals and butcher some covers.” Let me tell you, he didn’t butcher a damn thing. Will entrances the crowd with “Songs of the Dark” and “10,000 Candles”, noting that “you fuckers are amazing!” Then he fires up the dancefloor with some Steve Earl and John Anderson. Ladies, with Christmas lights strewn about their necks, dance with their partners. After mentioning “sociables”, Seven Mile Sun’s lead singer and guitarist, Kevin Stevens, yells from the crowd “Get Will Ardell a whiskey, STAT!” I must confess that Will stole this little metalhead’s heart with his powerful rendition of Johnny Cash’s version of Nine Inch Nail’s “Hurt”.
I’m not kidding when I say that the night is just beginning. Splitting the rest of the night into two sessions, Seven Mile Sun came to entertain. Dancers are trickling back as this fine trio starts us off with “Love Sails.” If you haven’t seen it yet, they released a deadly music video for it a few months ago. I’m digging that Kevin and the bassist, Joanne Genest, are wearing red shoes. Don’t ask me why, it’s pretty Rock N Roll. I’m so lost in “Bad Habits” I forget I’m supposed to be taking notes. The way they layer their vocals in this song is incredible. I can’t wait for them to release it so I can add it to my playlist.
I could wax poetic about every song in this set. Let me say that they treated us to an epic collection of original material. I’m stoked to hear my personal favourite, “Trigger Man” live. I’m not disappointed. Not disappointed at all! Be on the lookout for new songs “So Tied Up”, “Moonlight” and Kim’s ode to the ladies, “Boy and The Queen.” Tell these guys to release IT ALL! There's a reason we named them 2021's Group of the Year. Stop hiding all the good stuff!
We’re approaching midnight now and the fun is far from over. Despite Seven Mile Sun taking a break, the good times aren’t done! Turns out Christmas Eve is Kevin’s birthday. After the entire bar sings “Happy Birthday” to him, there’s cake for everyone! How cool is that? During this lull, I get a chance to chat briefly with Kim and Kevin. Seriously nice people. Kim regales me with tales of some dive hotels they've stayed in and says that Kevin told her the rooms here are really nice. It was nice to hear that they are grateful to be part of the NSMZ family. We’re so happy you are too!
Closing out the night with a collection of covers, the energy in this place is still going strong! I know I’m getting a bit long-winded here but the night has been freaking incredible. So, let me share a few last moments that stood out to me. Did you know that every member of Seven Mile Sun is a talented singer? I didn’t. Joanne did a wonderful job on “Seven Nation Army” and Janis Joplin would love Kim’s “Me and Bobby McGee.” I’ll never forget Kevin jamming in the middle of the dancefloor during “Whole Lotta Love.” I don’t think the crowd will either.
Don’t tell the older crowd that it is past midnight because they are showing the young ones how it’s done. The bald man in the ugly Christmas sweater jumping for all he’s worth to “Teenage Dirtbag” is the highlight of my night. Age is only a number, right? I guess I was right about this place being somewhere memories are made. We made a lot of them tonight.
What matters most to me, though, is the absolute joy these guys have for playing together and for engaging with the crowd. Always smiling at each other, treating everyone as friends, and laughing at themselves. Because they aren’t just talented musicians, they are damn good human beings. Cheers!