Leanne Betasamosake Simpson Silence, Guelph ON, April 5

Leanne Betasamosake Simpson Silence, Guelph ON, April 5
Photo: Matt Forsythe
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Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg artist Leanne Betasamosake Simpson's "story-songs" aren't built for or interested in rowdy bars. Channelling Simpson's literary poetry into hushed verse that mirrors the soft-spoken practices of her elders, they're lush, gentle meditations on the complicated experience of indigeneity and staking out a place for anticolonial being in settler Canada, all unfolding over rich, drifting musical arrangements. They find safer spaces in venues like Guelph experimental haven Silence, where rapt attention is built directly into the name — and that's precisely what they deserve.
 
Playing to a (mostly white) seated audience with a band assembling Cris Derksen, Nick Ferrio (the Burning Hell) and sister Ansley Simpson on guitars and backing vocals, over the course of an hour, Simpson worked through a number of pieces from last fall's f(l)ight. Along the way, she unpacked some of the meaning behind its characters and the sources of inspiration behind each track between songs, detailing complicated encounters with racism and anti-colonial resistance, her whispered words reaching out and building strength in ways shouted ones could never hope to.