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The line, “advertise your virtue like nothing’s ever hurt you” from Cory Mercer’s song, “Manifest” is the perfect metaphor to describe being a musician full-time in Brantford. Music is a talent, and it requires an openness to new opportunity, and a willingness to work to achieve, even if there are some setbacks.
On Saturday, January 23, musicians Cory Mercer and Chris Strei performed an acoustic show live at The Starving Artist Café in downtown Brantford. The show started at half past eight, and made for a choice way to spend a Saturday night.
The Starving Artist opened just six months ago, and provided the perfect, artsy and low-key feeling for an acoustic show, with a solid sound set up around the restaurant, and, according to my brother, stellar crêpes.
Mercer was the first to play. His set was predominantly heartfelt and melodic ballads, playing original songs conveying feelings of love, hope and moving on, specifically moving out of his house. A highlight of his set was the song “Manifest”, and the heartwarming vibe of “Rocket”. In between songs, Mercer even mentioned that he wrote his song, “Take Me Back” while packing up boxes in the middle of moving.
Strei’s set, closing off the night, was a little darker and faster. As he said himself, “I like to sound experienced. I hate sounding like the new guy on the scene.” This shone through in his music and in between songs, with a certain charm to his banter, and notable expertise when watching him play.
His set was a solid mix of original pieces and covers, including songs from Vance Joy and Bon Jovi. As for Strei’s original tunes, they covered thoughts on love, sex and some bad times. Personal highlights of Strei’s set included his opening song “Freezing Fire” and “Wrong”. At the end of the night, it was a difficult decision to buy. The album Faces from Strei’s band Minus Everything (which was being sold at the venue), is absolutely worth a listen.
Before the show, Mercer discussed his inspirations, achievements and future in music. Among these achievements are putting out an album with an eight piece reggae band called the BIGUPS, and playing a show with Canadian rock band, the Sheepdogs. In the near future, expect to hear an even wider arrangement of music from Mercer, as he’s putting out another album. When asked about upcoming projects, Mercer said, “I’m working on a full-length album of all original material. It’s about 50 per cent done.”
As for Strei, after releasing the aforementioned full-length album, Faces, in August 2014, Strei has been working on a solo album, which, as he describes, “is more folk than it is rock, but it still has that alt rock element to it.” After seeing his set on Saturday, there is no doubt it will be incredible.
For more on these two talents, check out Chris Strei at reverbenation.com/chrisstrei, and Cory Mercer at corymercermusic.bandcamp.com.

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