Briar Rabbit at NXNE

BriarRabbit-NXNEIn what was his first ever appearance in Toronto, Chicago singer Briar Rabbit showcased his thought-pop sound during the penultimate night of the North by Northeast festival.

Thought-pop, a phrase coined by Briar Rabbit to describe his music, is the combination of socially conscious lyrics amidst a more pop-sounding backing. It’s comparable to a male acoustic-guitar-playing Lauryn Hill – the big distinction being one of them actually pays their taxes.

During Briar Rabbit’s set at Czehoski, a bar located on Queen Street in Toronto, he performed songs inspired by a doubting producer, advice given to him by his dad, and heartbreak. He also performed ‘Coon’, from his album The Great Routine! A song about the struggles of African-American performers and the racial attitudes towards these performers, it was inspired by the musician’s research into American history and how these African-American men and women were treated before civil rights equality.

Although ‘Coon’ was one of several songs dealing with darker subject matter during Briar Rabbit’s 40 minute set, what prevented the performance from sounding bleak was Briar Rabbit’s voice. With a softer pitch and a general upbeat quality to it, his ability as a singer prevented his heavier subject matter from sinking his set into a bleak abyss. It’s as if the characteristics of his voice gave his songs a feeling of perseverance, ‘Coon’ being a prime example.

When the songs became more upbeat, that’s when his warm voice was really emphasized, helping him to deliver some of the best moments of his set.

During the set, Briar Rabbit also showed a personal notebook to the audience, which he carries with him on tour. He writes in it when he’s alone, which, according to him, is “often”. He allowed the audience to pass it around the tables at Czehoski, giving them the ability to write whatever they chose in his personal notebook.

Briar Rabbit’s warm personality was exemplified by this act, and was a main reason why the Canadian debut of thought-pop was a success at NXNE.

For more on Briar Rabbit, visit

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