As we prepare to bid adieu to 2019, it’s time once again to look back at some of the most memorable concert experiences that we enjoyed over these last twelve months. Quite a daunting task, given that we had another healthy dose of attending live shows, and tougher still when restricting the selection to just ten moments. And as always, I have no intention of ranking these in any kind of order. Just like previous years, the list shall be compiled as ten notable moments in chronological order of our live concert dates.
Quinn Bachand’s Brishen: “Minor Swing” Lancaster/January
Not only did we start 2019 off in style, enjoying some gypsy jazz from Brishen here in the PA mid-state, but we witnessed some amazing antics by this incredibly talented quartet. With a mock disdain during a saxophone solo, the three remaining musicians discarded their instruments and headed for the door, returning a few moments later in turn for completely random actions. Quinn Bachand would take note of the decorative instruments found hanging on the walls around him, and attempt to complete this piece with an out-of-tune banjo, a mandolin (complete with broken string), and the retrieval of his own violin. It was quite a spectacle, and a great way to close their show.
Jadea Kelly: “Make Peace With It” Hamilton/May
Touring to promote her “Met While Incarcerated” EP, Jadea invited Kennedy Road (Brian MacMillen & Sheila Carabine) to join her on vocals, huddled around the central microphone. Accompanied musically by Brian’s acoustic guitar, and with Bret Higgins on upright bass, it would be the collective three-part vocal harmonies that did all of the talking here, and was simply stunning. This powerful moment captivated the entire room at Mills Hardware; the crowd silenced and in awe of what was transpiring in front of them. If there had to be an award for the most magical highlight of the year, look no further.
Colter Wall: “Sleeping On The Blacktop” Ardmore/May
I must confess that the track listed here is pretty irrelevant, because I could have selected any of the twenty one tracks performed by Colter Wall on this given night. Making a rare appearance in PA earlier this year, Colter brought his unique interpretation of classic country and western music to the Ardmore Music Hall, and did not disappoint. A solid musician, with an equally impressive group of musicians on stage alongside him, Colter brought the amazing music from his albums to life, giving the genre a whole new lease of life, and providing a sense of nostalgic charm for those old enough to remember those sounds.
Matt Andersen: “Helpless” Vienna/June
It’s not often that we have two Canadian artists performing on the same bill at a smaller US venue, making the show featuring both Matt Andersen and Erin Costelo one that we absolutely refused to miss. Both are favorites of ours, and had seen both perform previously, but when Matt returned for an encore performance and invited Erin to join him for a couple of numbers, we knew that we were about to witness something special. And with a great cover of this Neil Young classic, both artists would not only split the verses, the would both take the opportunity to shine during some instrumental solo’s too.
Devin Cuddy: “Three Thousand Miles” Toronto/July
By simply being in the right place at the right time, we were ecstatic to finally catch at show with Devin Cuddy and his full band at the historic Dakota Tavern. With several family and friends on hand, naturally Devin would be joined for some great jams. Offering the lead vocals to his good friend Dustin Bentall for a handful of tunes, and accompanied by Sam Polley and Trixie Berkel on harmonies, this rousing version of Bentalls’ popular composition was a highly energetic collaboration. Always the great ringleader, Devin was equally at home adding harmonies while his friends and brother were under the spotlight; once again demonstrating his passion for the music and appreciation of the crowd.
The Sheepdogs: “Ramblin’ Man” Niagara on the Lake/July
Sharing the same sentiment as expressed with Colter Wall earlier, any of the tracks performed by the Sheepdogs during their third annual concert series at the Jackson Trigg winery could easily be listed here. But on this occasion, this one cover version of the Allman Brothers hit was delivered as the encore, and truly allowed the band to shine. Lead guitarist Jimmy Bowskill, in particular, would dazzle with his phenomenal solo; one that had the crowd fully engaged, and his bandmates wondering just how long he could keep the display of finger-picking madness going. This is a band best experienced live, and when you have the talented Bowskill front and center, you know it’s going to be special.
Sunday Gospel Workshop: “The River” London/July
This collaboration at the 46th annual Home County Music & Art Festival brought Coco Love Alcorn together with local bands The Pairs and The Heartaches Stringband, for an outstanding Sunday morning set of gospel music. And while each artist would perform their own material in turn, everybody was more than willing to jump in and add harmonies or musicianship, no matter who was performing. Coco’s performance of “The River,” with these added harmonies and a unique impromptu mandolin solo, made this not only an incredibly moving experience, but possibly the most cherished moment from the entire weekend.
Dave Gunning: “A Game Goin’ On” London/July
Headlining the main stage on the final night of the Home County Music & Art Festival, Nova Scotian Dave Gunning brought his A-game to Victoria Park in London, ON. And while the music was certainly headline worthy (as if we expected anything less), it was Dave’s charm and humor that endeared us to him even more. As fans of the Montreal Canadians, we took delight in Dave’s comical tale about the origins of this song, one he wrote for the 2014 CBC Hockey Night in Canada Song Quest Competition. Firing some great unscripted one-liners (at the expense of Maple Leafs fans), Dave had us in stitches when making statements such as, “I thought it would be awesome to see the Leafs get a colored photo with the Stanley Cup,” and “I never mind teasing Leafs fans, they can take it … they are like the golden retrievers of hockey fans.”
Matt Mays: “Chase The Light” Niagara on the Lake/August
Every year we make it a goal to attend one of the shows at the Jackson Triggs summer concert series, and were excited to catch one of the stripped down, semi-acoustic shows from Matt Mays on this outdoor stage. Adding a unique element to Matt’s music on this occasion would be violinist Anna Ludlow, whose mastery with the fiddle made for an outstanding substitute for where you’d expect to hear Adam Baldwin’s electric guitar riffs (Baldwin fulfilled keyboards duties this time around). With Matt and Anna sharing a brief solo moment together, the duo would set aside the predetermined set list, and deliver a stunning version of Matt’s 2012 track, “Chase The Light.” You really did have to be there!
Kellie Loder: “Molded Like a Monster” Shippensburg/August
Blessed with both a phenomenal voice and some of the finest lyrical creativity on the folk-roots scene right now, the added bonus of having Kellie Loder and her band perform here in our home town really capped a great August for us. As one of the stand-out tracks from her current album, hearing the origins and inspirations behind this composition added an incredible depth to the experience during this live performance. And with the support of her full touring band on this debut US tour, the instrumentation further enhanced the underlying message, leaving a lump in my throat, and a much stronger appreciation of the gift that is Kellie Loder.
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