A Year Of Music 2018: One Concert A Month

What a year 2018 has been. I rode a roller coaster of hope and despair, as I kept my eyes on ears on the world. It would have been so easy to fall heavily into despair, and sometimes I did. But I’ve done my best to stay upright and focussed on the horizon. Music has always been such a comfort and a way to ease tension and release my emotions.

Our one-concert-a-month mission (in year five now!) became a lifeline for me in so many ways this past year. Being in a room filled with strangers that are drawn to the same songs as me, always helps to remedy any feelings I might have that we’re becoming too disconnected. I always come away feeling renewed and flush with optimism that there is a collective good—even when we have to go looking for it.

one-concert-a-month-2018

Each year, when I put together my annual playlist of the artists we were so fortunate to see, I imagine my overseas and American friends (who tell me they look forward to this round-up each year). They are seeking new Canadian talent to explore, and I’m happy to share our abundance with them. To make things easier, I’ve highlighted the Canadian artists in my playlist.

My favourite shows this year were: First Aid Kit, Glen Hansard, Whitehorse, Massey Hall 125th Celebration (Whitehorse, Joel Plaskett, Jim Cuddy, Sam Roberts, Sarah Harmer, Buffy Sainte-Marie, July Talk), and Rufus Wainwright. My husband’s favourites were: Interpol and the Massey Hall show.

I also saw some amazing shows with friends, including Glen Hansard, Justin Timberlake, Pentatonix, and Mumford and Sons. Those are experiences that bring their own form of magic, and I’m so glad I have friends with whom I can dance and sing to music that falls outside the scope of what my monthly concert companion is keen to see. I hope this music moves you as much as it does me.

1) First Aid Kit * Nothing Has To Be True; 2) Whitehorse * Die Alone; 3) Nathaniel Rateliff * You Worry Me; 4) Yeah Yeah Yeahs * Maps; 5) Alvvays * Dreams Tonite; 6) Joel Plaskett * I Love This Town; 7) Jim Cuddy * Skyscraper Soul; 8) Sarah Harmer * Goin’ Out; 9) Buffy Sainte-Marie * The War Racket; 10) Sam Roberts * Hard Road; 11) July Talk * Beck + Call; 12) Beck * Lost Cause; 13) Interpol * NYC; 14) Ray Lamontagne * Let’s Make It Last; 15) Bahamas * No Wrong; 16) Andy Shauf * My Dear Helen; 17) Rufus Wainwright * The Tower Of Learning; 18) Hawksley Workman * Ice Age





A Year Of Music 2017: One Concert A Month

Mac Demarco at Danforth Music Hall (photo credit: Louise Gleeson) 

Mac Demarco at Danforth Music Hall (photo credit: Louise Gleeson) 

As we head into a new year of music, I'm so happy to share my personal playlist of favouirte tracks from last year's one-concert-a-month artists. 2017 brought a lot of nostalgia and reflection about our <ahem> age, even though we do our best to ignore rules about what music we should be listening to...but more about that later.

Like I was saying, 2017 was a fantastic throwback year for us. We kicked it off with Matthew Good's Beautiful Midnight album from 1999. The show was a run through of the album and we enjoyed his soaring vocals and witty candour about taking his kids to Disneyworld — because oh-my-god-you-guys he's doing that kind of thing now, too. 

Feist (FINALLY!) returned to the stage with a show at Massey Hall and it was incredible: goosebumps, tears and laughter. Her newest album has been playing on repeat here, and the song I included on my playlist is my new personal anthem (the video I snuck because we had amazing front row balcony seats is below). Actually, all of the songs on her new album, Pleasureare relatable (seriously, if we're of a similar age grouping, go listen to Any Party right now and just try to keep yourself from nodding in agreement). 

Feist, Baby Be Simple, at Massey Hall, Toronto, 2017

Massey Hall was the venue of the year (which is what will make 2017 one of our most memorable). We saw Alt-J (from amazing seats in the gallery), Grizzly Bear (my ears were ringing for two days afterwards), Jenn Grant (another Canadian songbird), Joan Baez & The Indigo Girls (please let me be half that amazing when I'm in my 70s), Wilco (so many guitars), and glorious, glorious PJ Harvey (another gobsmackingly nostalgic show for us). 

Jenn Grant at Massey hall (PHoto credit: louise gleeson)

Jenn Grant at Massey hall (PHoto credit: louise gleeson)

Shows like Charlotte Day Wilson, Alvvays, and Mac DeMarco were great for people watching, since we're pretty close to being old enough to parent most of the kids that were in the crowd (kids! put those lighters away! fire is dangerous!). Sidebar: I'm so lucky to be on this concert tour with a partner who treats music with so much care and reverence. He's always looking for and reading about new bands. And neither of us worry about being too old to be at these shows. Maybe the kids think we're important music journalists, who knows

Another highlight moment for me was being invited, as one of her long-time fans, into Canadian songbird and über-talent Sarah Slean's home for her new album launch (read about my other-worldly experience here). I was so nervous, I had to call three friends from my car for pep talks before I could muster the courage to go into the party. Her album Metaphysics makes me cry (just like all the albums before) and it was lovely to be able to end 2017 with another full scale concert in December. Sarah's talent is extraordinary, and we are so lucky to call her ours. 

Canadian songbird Sarah Slean (+ me!)

Canadian songbird Sarah Slean (+ me!)

We also had tickets to see The Cranberries in September, but the show was cancelled due to Dolores O'Riordan's health problems at the time. It was devastating to learn of her death earlier this month. The music she created is such a part of my history and coming of age — I've included one of my favourite tracks in this playlist to express my deep respect for her talent. 

This past year also gifted us with a lot of time spent with our siblings at various shows. All of them were memorable, but Wolf Parade and my first listen of I'll Believe in Anything were a highlight for me. I was going through a stressful time and the band's poetic lyrics and beautiful harmonies surprised me. Make sure to give that track your ear.

Here it is: 2017 in a personalized playlist. There were big venues and small bars; full bands and string quartets, old bands and new ones, and so much incredible Canadian talent (k d Lang left us speechless).

I hope you find a song that speaks to your heart, too. 

1) Matthew Good + Strange Days; 2) Wilco + Misunderstood; 3) Sarah Slean + Book Smart, Street Stupid; 4) Constantines + Young Lions; 5) Weaves + Scream (feat. Tanya Tagaq); 6) PJ Harvey + To Bring You My Love; 7) Charlotte Day Wilson + Work; 8) Mac DeMarco + Watching Him Fade Away; 9) Timber Timbre +  Hot Dreams; 10) Hannah Georgas + Don't Go; 11) Joan Baez + Carry It On; 12) Indigo Girls + Everything In Its Own Time; 13) The Cranberries + No Need To Argue; 14) Jenn Grant + Lion With Me; 15) The National + Vanderlyle Crybaby Geeks; 16) Grizzly Bear + Knife; 17) Angus and Julia Stone + A Heartbreak; 18) Alvvays + Forget About Life; 19) Alt-J + Every Other Freckle; 20) Wolf Parade + I'll Believe In Anything; 21) Feist + Baby, Be Simple; 22) k d Lang + Wash Me Clean; 23) Skydiggers + Pull Me Down

 

Repeater: Bird Of Sorrow

glen-hansard

Grief came first like an earthquake. Shaking and tossing everything we knew and leaving us shattered. But we did the work you are supposed to when things are broken. We picked up the debris and did our best to put everything back in place

But grief hides and waits. And it came back. First with aftershocks that we walked over and around until the tsunami swept over us and left devastation, despair and a landscape that was unrecognizable. 

We stood in the place we once held sacred and strained our eyes trying to find familiarity. We watched helplessly as bold and dark brushstrokes crisscrossed the painting we wanted to fill with light. But we keep painting anyway, each of us taking turns at the easel. Until finally, finally we stood back and saw the final masterpiece was no less beautiful. 

+ + + + + +

This song helped me. 

It played on repeat while I stood in place.

It played on repeat while I kept painting the landscape of our life together. 

It played on repeat while I loved and loved even when I was scared. 

It plays now and reminds me of sorrow.

It plays now and reminds me of vulnerability.

It plays now and reminds me of us. 

+ + + + + + 

Even if a day feels too long
You feel like you can't wait another one
You're slowly giving up on everything
Love is gonna find you again

Love is gonna find you, you better be ready then

You've been kneeling in the dark for far too long
You've been waiting for that spark, but it hasn't come
Well I'm calling to you, please, get off the floor
A good heart will find you again

A good heart will find you, just be ready then

Tethered to a bird of sorrow
A voice that's buried in the hollow
You've given over to self-deceiving
You're prostrate, bowed, but not believing.
You've squandered more than you could borrow
You've bet your joys on all tomorrows
For the hope of some returning
While everything around you is burning

Come on, we gotta get out, get out of this mess we made
And still for all our talk, we're both so afraid
Will we leave this up to chance, like we do everything?
Love is gonna find us again

Love is gonna find us, we gotta be ready then

Tethered to a bird of sorrow
A voice that's buried in the hollow
You've given over to self-deceiving
Your prostrate bowed would not be leaving
You've squandered more than you could borrow
You've bet your joys on all tomorrows
For the hope of some returning
While everything around you's burning

But I'm not leaving you
I'm not leaving you
I'm not leaving
I'm not leaving, yeah, yeah
I'm not leaving
I'm not leaving, yeah, yeah
I'm hanging on
Hanging on
What's gonna come?
I'm hanging on now
Hanging on, hanging on, hanging on
Hanging on, hanging on, hanging on

With the faithful
With the faithful
I'm hanging on
What's gonna come?
What's gonna come?
Hanging on
Hanging on

~Glen Hansard "Bird of Sorrow"

A Year Of Music 2015: One Concert A Month

Glen Hansard - Beacon Theatre, NYC, 2015

Glen Hansard - Beacon Theatre, NYC, 2015

End of year celebrations always mean music for me. Whether it was the smoke-filled rec rooms of the '70s, where my parents played records and clinked glasses with the neighbours, or the teeny-bopper top 40 countdowns with friends and bottomless bowls of chips in the '90s—music has always been a way to highlight a year.

And what a year it has been. Another soul-filling and heart-lifting one-concert-a-month bonanza that saw us doing something very different with a three-day outdoor musical festival that took me back in time, while also reminding me how firmly planted I am in my 40s (and that's okay). One of my photos from that weekend was featured on blogTO

I also got on a plane and travelled to New York City to see a musician I adore and revel in being a reckless groupie. It was one of the most moving shows I saw this year, especially because I shared it with a good friend. We also had front rows seats to a historic filming of the Bahamas with our siblings at my favourite venue, Massey Hall. 

Speaking of planes, I travelled all the way to the ocean for a weekend retreat that included a creek-side, under-the-stars performance by three talented east coast musicians. I'll never forget the feeling of the music, the night sky and new friends squishing me on every side with joy and gratitude—at a time when I needed it most. 

Finally, but not least of all, I was gifted a once-in-a-lifetime experience with an up-close-and-personal sit down and intimate performance with The Indigo Girls (who absolutely define my coming of age) and was able to write about it and see it shared with a bigger audience in the Huffington Post.  Their performance with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra the following night, touched me deeply, and it was perfect that I shared it with my sister, while sitting beside good friends. 

Thank you to each of you who have delighted in my musical adventures. I hope I've brought new songs to your ears and filled your hearts with inspiration for getting back to something you love.

Here is my Spotify playlist for some of the artists we had the privilege of seeing in 2015. I can't wait to fill another one in 2016. 

CLICK HERE TO LISTEN