She makes you want to shout: Young punker plugging into self confidence
Amid the swirl of sound between open mic sets at the Jasper Legion, a young woman dressed in black leather pants and a skin tight Cramps t-shirt plugs her bass guitar into the amplifier.
Some members of the audience are noticeably curious: who is this rail-thin figure, with her brown coif of hair held in place with a plastic clip, her Fender Squier draped low along her hip and a shock of red tint on her lips?
Moments later they find out. A flurry of bass notes pierce the murmurs and soon “Midnight Grace,” as she’s known (for her tendency to choose the latest time slots at the Legion), is belting out the 1959 Isley Brothers classic, Shout (You Make Me Wanna). She’s a jackhammer on the simple but meaty hook. She belts out the melody, looking down at her finger placement as the tempo slows down for the bridge.
“I said I want you to know right now,” she sings. “You make me want to shout!”
Midnight Grace—Grace Feniak, in regular life—has only recently shouted her music in public, nervously showing up to jam night a year or so ago. The 23-year-old has been playing bass for more than half her life. Before that, she rocked a trombone.
“I’ve been a bit secretive about (playing music) for a really long time,” Feniak said. “I was shy, and you get discouraged, but I just realized that I had to grow up a bit and get over that.”
Not much of a sports kid, Feniak was exposed early on to many different kinds of music. Unlike committing to a single sport, music was limitless, she said. Still, despite all those years of rocking out, Feniak’s knees shook when she finally took her music to The Stand Easy.
“I was really nervous the first time, it sucked,” she laughed. “Actually, the first handful of times were probably terrible.”
Often a one-woman act, Feniak’s song choices are largely based on whether they can be done well solo or not.
“I can’t count on having a drummer there, so I just play what I know I can do without needing a bunch of accompaniment. But I’ll also play a song if it’s something I relate to, or if I think the crowd would like it. As long as someone gets something out of it.”
The Runaways’ “Cherry Bomb,” a favourite of the young punker’s, is one that most of the crowd seems to get something out of. She was getting requests for the song before she even plugged in.
“It’s dead simple to play and people seem to respond to it,” Feniak said. “People seem to be impressed by the fact that I can be really loud.”
At the June 15 Mountains of Relief musical event, which was held at the Legion, a packed bar couldn’t help but stand up and belt out the staccato chorus with her.
“It’s cool when people kind of join in like that. I’m always trying to get them to do it more, like ‘I’m only one person up here, help me out!’”
Though Feniak is known for her punk rock covers, she revealed that she’s recently started writing her first original.
“If I try to rhyme “dance” with “dance” one more time, you can just boo me off stage,” Feniak joked. “I’m sort of writing it to make fun of myself.”
Relentlessly self-deprecating, to other shy young rockers out there, Feniak offers a piece of advice:
“Push your faults. Make your shortcomings the coolest thing about you. You just have to realize that you’re going to suck the first bunch of times and you’ll live, it will be fine.”
For now, Feniak is happy to keep playing her midnight slot at The Stand Easy, however, she does have a project in mind. She hopes to round up all of the “usual suspects” at the open mic nights and have everyone record an original or two for a compilation album.
“It would be sort of like a summary of 2017 at the Legion,” said Feniak. “Most of us at the Legion have written a couple of original songs, but not enough for a whole album. I think it’d be cool for the people who play music in town to have something to show for it.”
If this sounds exciting to you, Feniak is looking for collaborators. Interested rockers can contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.