Yer Favourites: Reflections on The Tragically Hip

Trying to sort through a fraction of what I’m feeling before I start to cry again.

There is a consensus among us all. A communal sorrow of Canadians coast to coast. I have been taking comfort in reading the words of others and reliving our shared memories. Their experiences are so similar to mine, we could have all been there together, and my heart aches, and it’s not fair. Terminal. That means the end. That means there will be no more.

Each profile I read, every time a band covers a song, when I stop and think too long, I get choked up. Last night at WayHome, the Arkells played Music at Work and I lost it. And I’m not the only one who feels this way. I don’t know how to describe this collective grief.

These songs, the soundtrack of my life, each one a different chapter in my history. Some transport you back like a time machine, some you just can’t bear to listen to again. The words are weighty and each line is loaded and they mean something to me. A deep something, something different each time I hear it. It means something to you as well. Some of the most significant moments of my life feature The Tragically Hip. My happiest memories. I just sit and think and reflect and then I feel sad again. I’m mourning something that hasn’t happened yet, something that will never happen again.

– – –

We’re sitting around that glass-top patio table in the backyard, hashing it out for hours and someone keeps grabbing refills. You think you know this song. As you tip your head back, you think you see a shooting star, but it was gone too fast to catch it.

A bonfire on a summer night and you can’t tell which is warmer, your toes as they move closer to the flame or the dying day pressing in around you from all sides. Your whole body smells like fire and will take days to wash out. The smoke burns your eyes but you don’t move away, because you know in a few seconds, the wind will change directions and you’ll be okay. Someone pulls out a guitar, there’s always a guitar nearby, and they play you a little something they’ve been practicing. And everyone sings along, some loud and some soft, but all together at once and it is the most beautiful thing you’ve ever heard.

The screen door snaps shut behind you as you head to the water and the music fades away as you get closer. It disappears as you jump in.

The gravel, kicking up and hitting the sides of the car, keeps time as you head out, or home, and there is comfortable silence between you as you all look out your own window. Everyone is too tired and sore to speak, but the radio plays on.

Trying to fall asleep on someone else’s dorm room floor but every time you doze off, those punching chords rouse you. The playlist is looping and after seven times, you know all the words. That night in Toronto, it could be every night.

A warm coffee in your hands as you bob your head along, steeling yourself before another long day of hard work.

Slow dancing in front of a cast iron stove as the music trickles in from the floor above. It’s snowing outside and you can’t see the lake anymore at this time of night. As you whisper the words in your heart, you know Gord was right, that it was worth the wait.

It’s Canada Day, in an open field, surrounded by friends who used to be strangers. Everyone screaming that we also come from downtown and we were born ready for you. For what? For whom? For life? Love? A challenge? A triumph? Armed with will and determination and grace, too, above all to see us though.

The sadness of watching your Jays hat fly off your head when the wind tipped it as you race across the lake. Mourning your own 50 mission cap that had been your most loyal travel companion.

A car passing by with the windows down and you wish they had a red light so you could listen a little longer.

Fireworks. Always fireworks in our hearts. Sparklers too, if you’re lucky.

A laugh so loud you think your brain or chest or both will explode and you wonder if anyone else has ever heard anything nearly as funny as this in the history of the world. You’re lucky to have such funny friends. You want to bottle this moment forever. Someone should write this down before we forget.

We need to talk about Yukon Blonde.

Canadian rocknroll is alive and well.

You know that feeling when you see a band you love, and they play the perfect mix of old and new, and you know all the words, and everyone around you is having just as much fun as you are, and everything just works? I’ve been to a lot of concerts, and it doesn’t always happen. Last night it happened.

Yukon Blonde

Yukon Blonde played two sold-out shows at Lee’s Palace this week. Last night, my friend Al and I managed to find two solo tickets from Kijiji (the battlefield) to what seemed like the most coveted show in Toronto in a while. For the longest time, it felt like I was the only person who knew or liked this band and then out of nowhere they’re playing two sold-out shows in Toronto? And I didn’t get a ticket? How did this happen?

I’ve had a long love affair with Yukon Blonde. Many many years ago, around 2011 to be exact, I lined up for ages at the Horseshoe for a NXNE show. There was a special guest going on at midnight or so, and I was so young and eager I lined up and waited even though I didn’t know who would be playing. The line moved slow, and after an hour, I was finally first… but by that time, I was tired and cold and I just wanted to go home. I decided to bail. The guy behind me was in disbelief: “Are you serious? You have to stay! The special guest is Yukon Blonde!” I didn’t know them. I had never heard of them! So… I peaced.

Flash forward one year. The Lumineers (of Ho, Hey! fame) were the headliners at a NXNE show at the Horseshoe. Yukon Blonde was their opener. After an amazing day at a Jays game, we managed to get into the Horseshoe in good time and saw them both. My wheel had come full circle. I was surprised at how many songs I knew and they put on a great show. I was struck by their awesome grungey rock style, their harmonies, and their boundless energy.

Yukon Blonde at the Horseshow in 2012(Yukon Blonde at the Horseshoe Tavern in 2012. Notice their long hair and grunge tank tops.)

And that was that for the next four years. They had been pretty quiet since releasing Tiger Talk in 2012 and they dropped off my radar. They felt like a little secret I had. This little indie band that I saw in the hot, dark abyss of the Horseshoe.

And then one day Yukon Blonde came back into my life in a big way.

At work I alternate listening to Hype Machine (for my obscure favourite songs), Q107 (for the classics), and the Edge (for the new stuff). I have a major first world problem because after an intense few years of seeing 1-2 live shows every week (!!!) I have seen all the bands I want to see. Every single one! And now I am faced with a mild disappointment because I have already seen 50-75% of all the bands in the festival circuit for the past few years so I haven’t been impressed with a lineup in a while. I know – what a struggle. And then the aftershock. After listening to a very focused, curated playlist for the past few years, one day I turned on the radio and realized that I didn’t know any top 40 or commercial radio music. For my own good I had to find some new music. There had to be some new bands out there to listen to. There are some good bands on the Edge. Sometimes I write down the names of the bands or songs I like, and research them later. Slowly but surely, I am building up that list of New Bands I Want to See.

And then it hit me. A song, that song! A song that sounds like something very old and familiar, but something brand new at the same time. A song I had never heard before but felt like I knew somewhere deep down in my soul.


(I didn’t see this video until just now but they are Canadian rock stars so just go with it.)

A new album, On Blonde, a new sound, and a new girl in the band!? I don’t remember seeing a girl on the keyboard last time I saw them but hey I’ll take it. On Blonde is a step forward for their sound. It reminds me a little of when the Arctic Monkeys released AM and everyone either loved or hated it because it was SO different from their old stuff. Like take a left turn and drive off a cliff different in a good way. The opposite of when Band of Horses released Mirage Rock which felt like a step backwards for them.

Some of the best qualities of Yukon Blonde is their strong guitar riffs and their vocal harmonies which really sounded original and unique in a sea of synth machines and auto-tune. So, naturally, a lot of fans were hesitant to embrace the dreaded synth machine which features heavily on On Blonde. But, Yukon Blonde kills it on their new album because they keep their foundation and build upon it using new equipment and new arrangements.

Last night, they rocked, synth and all – they were amazing. They looked and sounded like pros. It felt like we were witnessing a band who had found the sound that would take them from indie rock band to rock stars.

Yukon Blonde at Lee's Palace February 26, 2016 | Paper Clips by Maggie de Barra

 (Yukon Blonde at Lee’s Palace on February 26, 2016. Notice their fancy back drop, brand new synth machine, and rock star jackets. Long hair still present.)

Yes, they played the best mix of old and new. You can’t rest on your laurels, but you can’t forget about them either. There has been a lot of heat on message boards and comment sections about how they abandoned their roots and sold out and sold their souls to buy that damn synth machine. But honestly, each song sounded like a little chapter in a greater anthology. And, if you weren’t a long-time fan I don’t think you could tell which was an old song and which was new because even though their albums sound different, they fit together. Yukon Blonde grew up and so did I and so did we all.

I am still on cloud nine and sorting though the myriad of feelings I have from last night. Please do yourself a favour and listen to On Blonde in its entirety. Spin is streaming it here via soundcloud. And then go and buy yourself a ticket to see Yukon Blonde live so you can get a taste of what I am feeling right now. You will not regret it.

Toronto Fall Concert Series

August was on the brink of September.

September is a blank page. Summer is winding down and as I am always looking forward, all I can see is Fall. And with it, the start of my favourite season. Packed with lots of birthdays, the greatest weather, the best holidays and a lead up to my ultimate favourite holdiay season-Christmas, and the best cold weather activity – concerts!

Toronto has a few really great shows coming up. Below are a few of my faves on the way.

Ratatat @ Sound Academy – September 2

The Fratellis @ Danforth Music Hall – September 16

Chvrches @ Danforth Music Hall – October 4 and 5 -> Apparently sold out but I’m looking into it.

Coeur De Pirate @ Phoenix – October 7

Blitzen Trapper @ Horseshoe – October 9

Andrew McMahon In The Wilderness @ Danforth Music Hall – November 15

I’ll update the list as new shows are added. Get your tickets early and often. My two favourite ticket vendors: Soundscapes and Rotate This. Both are cash only, so hit the ATM beforehand. I guarantee there’s something for everyone.

Show Me the WayHome

#BonnarooNorth aka WayHome Festival releases lineup and ticket info.

WayHome

Here we have it! A few weeks ago I was speculating about the lineup for the Bonnaroo expansion to our neck of the woods. We have an official name, WayHome. An interesting choice, as it was rumoured to be called HomeAway, which I think I prefer.

Why not something about Pablum, Crokinole, Poutine or another Canadian invention with an interesting name to compete with Coachella, Lollapalooza, Osheaga, and Bonnaroo. I think I even prefer Boots & Hearts because at least it gets straight to the point. Maybe just Medonte to keep in line with the trend of a strange word ending in a vowel.

WayHome

I’ve seen a bunch of these bands already: Kendrick Lamar, alt-j, Passion Pit (a new album coming out?), Girl Talk (new mashups??), Yukon Blonde (yay Canada), and Evening Hymns (Ottawa represent). They are all great in their own way and I would go see them again. I’m also really excited to see Modest Mouse, I’ve loved them since high school.

There are also a lot of fad bands on this list: Sam Smith, Hozier, Vance Joy etc. I would trade all of these for another big name. And no Drake or the Weeknd! I guess Drake will be busy with his OVO fest and won’t want to compete.

I like it but I don’t love it – yet. Tickets right now will go for $209.99 – a nice deal for three days of music and camping included.

It sure doesn’t feel like it, but summer is just around the corner and it’s time to start planning your weekends now. WayHome runs from July 24-26.

Bonnaroo Expansion Heads North!

Canadian music fans won’t have to travel too far this summer to get a piece of the festival circuit.

Update 14/02/2015: For more information on WayHome and the lineup, click here.

Lolla

Summer is made for cottages, road trips, baseball, patios, and concerts! The National Post is reporting that Bonnaroo has confirmed a Canadian expansion of their popular music festival! I’ve been following these rumours for a while now, and I’ve been hoping for a Toronto/Ontario music festival for ages!

I’m a two-time Lollapalooza alum, and it would take a lot to get me out there again. It’s about a 12 hour drive from Toronto, plus tickets + accommodations + food. It’s hard on your vacation time and your wallet.

The US has Coachella, Bonnaroo, Lollapalooza, and more in the summer. Up here we really only have Boots & Hearts (all country music-not really my thing) and Osheaga in Montreal. I’ve never been to Osheaga because both Osh and Lolla usually fall on the same Civic Holiday Weekend each year.

This festival will take place one week earlier – clever – and will run from July 24 – 26, 2015 at the Burl’s Creek Event Grounds (home of Boots & Hearts) near Orillia, about an hour north of Toronto.

Coachella just released their lineup today, so we can bet most of these bands will be playing the summer festival circuit. Some good ones on the list: AC/DC, Tame Impala, Jack White, the Weeknd, alt-j, Ratatat, Father John Misty, Drake (headlining!), Florence and the Machine, David Guetta, Brand New (high school nostalgia), and more.

Looks like a good mix of genres and popular/indie bands. Happy to see Toronto represented by two major players- the Weeknd and Drake. Interesting that Drake is closing Sunday. He started from the bottom and now he is at the top of the headliners for Coachella. We’ll probably see a lot of overlap at Osheaga, Lollapalooza, Bonnaroo, and Bonnaroo North or whatever they decide to call this new festival. More to come!

Update 14/01/2015: Bonnaroo has released their lineup here. No word yet on #BonnarooNorth.

Toronto Patrons of the Arts

Starting the year off on the right foot. 

tickets

The Nutcracker was fantastic, as was expected. I always get chills during the Waltz of the Snowflakes. Toronto has been having a non-stop waltz of snowflakes recently, and I’m just about ready for a waltz of sunshine.

Les Miserables was extremely well done, from the set and production design to one of the most talented casts I’ve ever seen. Every single actor was at the top of their game. Each song was so powerful, and filled with so much passion. The run is over now, but if it does make a return, I highly recommend it.

This year I’d like to see the Lion King again, that last time I saw it was way back in elementary school, and the Book of Mormon because I didn’t get a chance the first time it came around. Stratford has King Lear, and Antony & Cleopatra in their lineup.

Jay-Z was the exact opposite of Kanye West. He had no back up dancers, no elaborate mountains, or monsters skulking around. He just showed up, and gave us an energetic performance filled with a mix of old and new. It was exactly what I hoped for, and he delivered.

The takeaway here is that money, time, and energy are better spent on experiences and people rather than things. One day more, friends. Another day, another destiny.

2013: A Year in Review

There are no walls but those we build ourselves.

2013 was a year of great personal growth and change. I feel that I have become a better person along the way, and I recognize that I have a long way to go.

Re: last year’s resolutions: I pushed my long run to 13 miles, just about the distance of a half marathon…; I did not get my driver’s licence…; I managed to make two trips to visit friends in other cities; I took many photos, read a decent number of books, and saw all the movies I wanted to see. I like to think of the resolutions as suggestions, and not rules.

Music

Freelance Whales, The Knocks, Passion Pit, Tame Impala, Alt-J,Whitebrow’s CD release party+ Church show, He’s my Brother, She’s my Sister, Vampire Weekend, the Arkells, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis, Girl Talk, Hot Chip, Phoenix, Beyonce, and Kanye West.

I didn’t see as many concerts as some past years, but, I consider myself lucky that I have seen just about every band that I could possibly imagine. I already have Jay-Z and Arcade Fire lined up for next year. Arcade Fire is really the last big band that I want to see, but have not yet had the chance to do so.

Passion Pit

I saw Passion Pit at Lollapalooza in 2012. Their show was in the early evening. It was their first show back since their brief hiatus. It was a lovely summer show. In February, I was lucky enough to see Passion Pit again in all their glory at the Kool Haus during the middle of a spectacular snow storm. Their show is made to be experienced indoors, with all of the lights and trappings.

Beyonce

All my dreams came true when I finally saw Beyonce live. We were the first show since the surprise release of her new album. Her voice was powerful, her dancing was sharp and energetic, and the girl power in the room was off the charts. I paid homage to her earlier in the year when I dressed as Beyonce in her single ladies video for Halloween. The costume did not go to waste, as I wore it again for the concert. We were the only people in the 300s to dress up. I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Kanye WestKanye

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Let me preface this next part by saying that I am Kanye West’s biggest fan. After postponing our show just over a month due to unforeseen technical difficulties, my sister and I were able to catch the last show of the Yeezus tour on December 23rd. We had amazing seats in the 100s, and it will be hard to enjoy a concert from any other seat going forward. His latest album was experimental, and while there were a few good songs, I felt it was mostly wanting.

Kanye punctuated his energetic, oldie but goodie songs with show stopping new songs. I mean literally show stopping, as he would cut all the music and talk for minutes at either end. His performance seemed lackluster to me, but I probably just didn’t get what he was going for. He seemed in disbelief at our response at times, as if we weren’t giving him enough energy, or singing along to the level he wanted. I feel like you should expect to receive the energy you give out, and seeing how he sang 3+ songs lying on the floor and talked for longer than he sang (including a 20+ minute rant about the Grammy’s), I left the ACC feeling really let down. He did bring out Drake for a few songs, which was awesome, and I think the crowd loved that more than the rest of the show.

I was hoping for an energetic performance like Eminem at Lolla in 2011, or the last two times I’ve seen Macklemore. Maybe Kanye thinks that he is already at the top of his game, so he doesn’t have to work for it anymore. Macklemore on the other hand is hungry, and as I was sitting in the ACC, I was wishing I was back at Echo Beach with Macklemore and crew as they shocked all of our senses with their magnificent show. Things to consider for the future…

Theatre

I was able to take in one musical and three plays this year. Cats at the Panasonic Theatre, and three shows in Stratford: Romeo and Juliet, the 3 Musketeers, and Othello.

Romeo and Juliet was exactly what you’d expect. The 3 Musketeers was swashbuckling and funny. My favourite has got to be Othello. The set design was innovative and all the actors were on point. The tension during the last scene was so powerful it gave me chills. I am really looking forward to next year’s season.

Sports

4 Jays games, 2 Leafs games, and 1 Rock game.

Halifax

I spent four days in Halifax in March. We celebrated St. Patrick’s Day at the Split Crow and I cooked my first Lobster.

Halifax

Ottawa

I celebrated the May24 weekend in Ottawa with a kayak and a hike.

Dow's Lake

Parliament

Tobermory

In June, we visited Georgian Bay and went cliff jumping in the Grotto. The water was freezing, but it was one of the coolest things I’ve ever done.

Grotto

The O Course

My coworkers and I were crazy to sign up for the O Course. After a little training, we tackled a 45 minute boot camp work out, a ~7k run, and a ~2hr obstacle course. It was the most physically exhausting feats I’ve accomplished to date. In the first half of the course, during the run, I was in 5th place out of the women. By the time I reached the second half of the course with the major obstacles, I fell to 77th place! This race is no joke. I thought I was in decent shape but I was put in my place. I’d like everyone to experience this just once so that they can take themselves to their limit, and break through it.

Miscellaneous Adventures

Friday Night Live @ the Rom – The Mesopotamia Exhibit @ the ROM – The AGO – Parkinsons Super Walk – Canada Day at Turtle Castle and Burrits Rapids

Toronto Fashion Week

Fashion Week

Boat Cruisin (count the cranes!) + Winning a Limbo contest

Toronto

Birthday

Birthday Card

I am 25 years old. I am officially older than all of my favourite literary characters.

Ice Storm 2013

Ice Storm

On December 22, we woke up with no power and no heat. The whole city was covered in ice. I sent a tweet to Toronto Hydro late on the 23rd, and on the morning of Christmas Eve, we were shocked and surprised to hear the buzz of the power turning back on. I’ve never been so happy for a hot cup of tea before in my life.

That being said, it was nice to spend some unplugged time with my family. We played board games by candlelight for eight hours straight. We learned that our candlesticks burn for five hours.

Blackout

New Year’s Resolutions:

To continue in my transcendentalist spirit of self-reflection and self-improvement:

Read one book per month, plus whatever is on the docket for my book clubs.

See more movies and more live shows. I think I’d like to head to Osheaga this summer.

Visit one Toronto attraction/museum/exhibit per month.

Go to a Toronto FC game.

Run a Half Marathon!!! So ambitious, but it would be nice to say I’ve done it at least once.

G1? Maybe…

Delete Facebook. I have been trying to wean myself off Facebook for some time now. I think it is a waste of time and energy. I think now is the opportune time, before any more engagement rings or babies start showing up in my news feed.

And with that, I will give a fond farewell to 2013, and a hearty hello to 2014.

2011: A Year in Review

Cities– Waterloo, Kingston, Ottawa, Arthur, Chicago

Books– Getting to Yes, A Game of Thrones, A Clash of Kings, A Storm of Swords, A Feast for Crows, A Dance With Dragons, World War Z, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, Mockingjay

Discoveries– Trivia at the Drake on Wednesday night, 8tracks, cows, iPhones, instagram

Concerts– Whitebrow, Said the Whale, Broken Social Scene, Weezer, The Tragically Hip, Fleet Foxes, Bon Iver, Lights, Wye Oak, Tennis, Young the Giant, The Naked and Famous, Foster the People, Two Door Cinema Club, The Bloody Beetroots Deathcrew 77, Skrillex, Ok Go, Coldplay, Grouplove, An Horse, Maps & Atlases, Super Mash Bros., Local Natives, Cee Lo, Eminem, The Joy Formidable, Fences, Little Hurricane, Noah & the Whale, City and Colour, Flogging Molly, Boy & Bear, Best Coast, Damian Marley & Nas, Foo Fighters, Kings of Leon, Library Voices, Kanye West and Jay-Z, Born Ruffians, Tokyo Police Club

Fantastic Holiday Weekends– May24 + Canada Day + Thanksgiving

Raptures– None

Lollapalooza– One Amazing Weekend

Steamwhistle Tours– One

Birthdays– 23!!

Oktoberfest– Prosit

Wrapping Up– 2011 was magnificient!! I read some great books, visited a few new places, saw an outrageous number of concerts and spent a lot of quality time with friends and family.

New Years Resolutions– learn how to walk in high heels, see as many or more live shows as this past year, head to Lollapalooza again and maybe Osheaga as well, keep reading great books, take more pictures, win one of these trivia nights at least once, spend as much time with friends and family as possible, get straight A’s, and just try and be a better person.

Cheers to 2012!!!