Photograph and video by Adam Lee
Reviewed by Nadia Grutter
Maryse Bernard, former vocalist of the Victoria-based band Woodsmen, recently returned to the Victoria music scene with a lively performance at the 17th annual Victoria French Festival in Centennial Square. The 22-year-old vocalist, who flew in from Quebec to perform, brightened the rainy day with her strong stage presence and killer vocals. By the end of her set, people were quite literally dancing in the rain.
Bernard performed a bilingual French/English set with a dynamic array of songs, genres and accompanying musicians. She was joined by bassist Steve Kalkman, who plays for Abbotsford-based funk band Doja; drummer Michael Luis of local Victoria bands Blackwood Kings and SweetLeaf; Solomon Krause-Milaca and Jake Gambling (both former members of Woodsmen) on lead and rhythm guitar respectively; and pianist/saxophonist Julia Kimberley, who studies music at The University of Victoria. Despite the rain and challenging outdoor acoustic set-up, the group performed an enjoyable, unified show with clean transitions and genuine energy.
One of Bernard’s first songs included a catchy re-imagination of Britney Spears’ 2003 pop hit “Toxic,” followed by several R ‘n’ B influenced original songs, which showed off her impressive range. Halfway through the set, Bernard’s microphone gave out, which she gracefully handled by dancing her way to another microphone as if nothing had happened. And, once she sang “La Vie En Rose,” the audience seemed to forget about the tech hiccup altogether. Bernard’s vocals attracted a larger crowd of passersby, who happily swayed along.
“That was beautiful,” commented three onlookers at the end of the song. Indeed, it was, and can be watched here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ftNpg4Y-m9k.
Bernard ended her set with a cover of “Locked Out of Heaven” by Bruno Mars, at which point most people discarded their umbrellas to dance at the foot of the stage.
Bernard, a recent graduate from the UVic Writing Program, now works as a language teaching assistant in Quebec. She is channeling most of her creative energy into an electronic/R ‘n’ B influenced EP to be released this summer. She has previously collaborated with local Victoria artists Ciele and The Raven. She has performed at local venues all over Victoria and with Woodsmen at Rock of the Woods in 2013.
During the show Bernard graciously thanked her parents for bringing her up in a bilingual household. Indeed, she is an inspirational young figure for French and English Canadians alike. Merci, mademoiselle!
Nadia Gutter is the Managing Editor at the Coastal Spectator and a student at the University of Victoria.