Bywater Call: Live in Hagerstown, MD

Bywater Call

Long time readers may recall many mentions made in our earlier blogging days to The Thought Lot – a local music venue that brought many enjoyable shows into our small-town community. Sadly, the venue would not survive the pandemic, eventually torn down to make way for a new, non-music themed structure. But oh, such fond memories remain thanks to this former jewel in the community – the place that brought GDW contributor and friend Matt Wheeler into our lives, and where Newfoundlander Kellie Loder performed an impromptu gig during their debut US tour in 2019.  

Supporting the old adage that you don’t know what you’ve got ‘til it’s gone – it was difficult to fill the void of losing a local dedicated and intimate music room (and having to drive to the larger cities for a music fix). Thankfully, some good news would arrive late last year when the visionary owners of our local record store in Hagerstown, MD expanded their operation with the creation of a new artistic space for touring musicians – with the focus more towards a true intimate music setting as opposed to the standard ‘bar with a corner stage.’ 

Having enjoyed a couple of shows in this great new space, we naturally yearned to see some of our favorite Canadian artists added to the schedule – which became a reality back in late April when Live at Hub City Vinyl announced that Toronto 7-piece soul-blues band Bywater Call would perform here in mid-June. The first Canadian ambassadors to grace the stage just so happened to be one of our favorite bands, making this an essential night to circle on the GDW event calendar. Tickets bought!  

Bywater Call

Performing a pair of 50-minute sets, Bywater Call would devote the first half of the show to mostly new music set to appear on their upcoming third studio album, “Shepherd” (to be released on August 9). Welcomed to the stage, Dave Barnes (guitars) would lay down a serious groove to commence the show – and accompanied by bandmates John Kervin (keyboards/vocals), Mike Meusel (bass/vocals), Bruce McCarthy (drums), Stephen Dyte (trumpet/percussion), and Julian Nalli (saxophone/percussion) – would both demonstrate their soul-blues roots whilst building the anticipation as Meghan Parnell (vocals/percussion) made her way to center stage. 

Launching into “Turn It Around,” several fans in the room knew what to expect, yet it was fun witnessing Meghan introducing the uninitiated to her potent vocal delivery. “Just before the sun got wind to me / Just before the moon closed her weary eyes and gave way to the sky / I got caught creeping in the backdoor once again.” Three new album tracks would follow in succession – including their 2023 single “Sweet Maria” – and some impressive slide guitar to kick off “For All We Know,” before the horns and keys broke out to expand this one into an epic jam-fest. 

Bywater Call

Easing away momentarily from the unreleased material, Bywater Call would dip into their 2019 self-titled album to perform “Arizona,” after which Meghan would take a moment to address the appreciative crowd. “Thank you for being here. This is our second ever show in Maryland. Our first one was a week ago,” she shared. “Thanks for making us feel welcome. We did not know what to expect, but you, the venue, everything has been amazing so far.” Taking their cue, the band would burst back into life to deliver an extended cover of the Stephen Stills hit “Love The One You’re With” – Dave once again giving his guitar a lengthy workout, almost dueling with the twin horns from Julian and Stephen. 

Returning to the new material to close out the first set, Meghan acknowledged that two of the album tracks came courtesy of keyboardist John Kervin (nice segue into “Roll” – you may recall we featured the single here on GDW back in April), before addressing the room once again to share a tale about “Sign Of Peace,” the new album’s closing track. “We’ve been playing this song almost since the inception of this band, we were playing it I think before we added the horn section,” she recalled. “I don’t know, it’s been around, and it’s morphed, and it’s changed, and it never felt quite right to put on an album. And then at the end of last year, it did.” 

Bywater Call

Following a brief intermission, Bywater Call returned to the Hub City Vinyl stage and mixed things up from the offset – drawing upon material from their 2022 sophomore album “Remain” to perform an amazing 11-minute medley featuring both “Ties That Bind” and “Bring It Back,” rounding things out with another impressive slide guitar solo from Dave. Appreciative of the positive response, Meghan would take a moment for some additional feedback. “Alright, we’re gonna try something. How do you guys feel about being guinea pigs,” she asked. “We’re working on some new stuff. This is not finished, [but] we’re gonna play it for ya.” The room was privy to a performance of not only an unreleased song, but an unrecorded song – one tentatively titled “Sunshine.”  

Inserting the new album tracks “Colours” and “As If” between a pair of cuts from their second album, Bywater Call delivered some outstanding renditions of “Fortune” and “Remain” – the latter taken by request. If you ever want Meghan’s vocals to push you beyond the stratosphere, “Remain” is the vehicle to take you there. Exiting the stage to a thunderous ovation, the band were easily enticed back for one last hurrah, sending everybody home with “Holler” (another early 2024 single release) before transitioning seamlessly into an unexpected cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Kashmir.” An excellent end to an outstanding show – thanks for sharing your music in our ‘new local’ – and here’s hoping that you’ll be back again soon. 

Set List: 

  1. Turn It Around 
  2. Everybody Knows 
  3. Sweet Maria 
  4. For All We Know 
  5. Arizona 
  6. Love The One You’re With (Stephen Stills cover) 
  7. Roll 
  8. Sign Of Peace 
  9. Bring It Back / Ties That Bind (medley) 
  10.  Sunshine (***Unrecorded***) 
  11.  Fortune 
  12.  Colours 
  13.  As If 
  14.  Remain 


  1. Holler / Kashmir (Led Zeppelin cover) 

Photo Credit: Official Tour Poster – Artist Website 

Learn more about Live at Hub City Vinyl here: 

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.

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