Great Dark Wonder: Celebrating Our 5th Birthday – Part 1

GDW Anniversary

It is an exciting time for us here at GDW HQ this week.  Back on September 30th, 2016, we launched this site out into the world, and never once did we think we’d be here today to count down these last few days leading up to our fifth anniversary.  These last five years have been quite the journey for us, discovering so much fabulous new music, and making many new friends and acquaintances along the way.

When Lesley and I started to feel the demands of posting regular content – always wanting to do as much for the musicians as two people with limited time and resources could offer – we knew that it would take a search for a like-minded music lover and creative writer to potentially join the family and share some of that workload.  Welcoming our first regular contributor to GDW back in 2018 allowed us to grow, and to add yet another unique and interesting perspective to our musings.  And as the site continued to grow, the demand for more wonderful volunteer writers did too. 

As Lesley and I celebrate this fifth anniversary this week, we currently have five active writers/friends taking this journey with us, whose contributions are valued greatly and happily shared for both us and our readers to enjoy.  One goal I had leading up to this anniversary was to shine the spotlight on our team this week – they do so much for us (often at short notice), and deserve much more recognition than simply being credited with their submissions when their work is posted.  And when I cross-referenced the number of years with the number of writers outside of our household, I arrive at five on both counts. 

With the seed planted for these anniversary pieces, we asked our team five random questions related to their own music experiences in general, sharing their answers here this week so that we can all learn a little more about each other.  I really appreciate the team embracing the concept, and I’m sure you’ll not only enjoy learning of their musical tastes and own personal exploits, but that you too feel a little more connected to these five people I am proud to call good friends.  So, without further ado, allow us to once again introduce our active team writers:

Steve Murphy (SM), London, ON (Joined GDW July 13th, 2018)

Douglas McLean (DM), Almaguin Highlands, ON (Joined GDW December 18th, 2019)

Jess Lahr (JL), Mechanicsburg, PA (Joined GDW February 13th, 2020)

Richard Clark (RC), Nottingham, U.K. (Joined GDW February 17th, 2021)

Matt Wheeler (MW), Lancaster, PA (Joined GDW September 16th, 2021)

We’ll take a look at a few of those questions and answers here today, returning with more tomorrow, and incorporating the final one into the official anniversary article itself on Thursday. 

Question: Name the best opening artist you have seen live (especially if you saw somebody before they became famous), or perhaps an opening artist already established, but unknown to you at that time?

(SM) Back in 2014 I purchased tickets to see Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds, with Sharon Van Etten opening.  Sharon’s album “Are We There Yet?” was just coming out and although I was familiar with her name from having worked with members of The National, I hadn’t yet listened to her songs.  Her set was nearly all done solo, only a few songs accompanied by percussion.  The songs were beautifully tender; mournful without being miserable.  I was immediately made a fan and bought her album the very next day.

Question: What’s the last artist/album that you listened to in the car, or streamed while you were out of your home or at work?  What do you like or dislike about it?

(MW) Julian Lage’s “Squint.”  It’s an instrumental album – as much as I love lyrics and put a focus on them in my own music, I really enjoy good instrumental music, from John Coltrane, to Explosions in the Sky, to Yo-Yo-Ma – and it is just so well put-together.  It has become a bit of a soundtrack to the last month or two for me, and catching on to it (recommended by a fellow musician) led me to catching a Julian Lage concert in MD, in an accessible setting with about 30 other people.

(JL) The last time I was in my car long enough to want/need to stream something I put on George Ezra.  He may only be a one-hit-wonder to most due to “Budapest” being played often on the radio, but to me his entire back catalog is fabulous.  Usually I will play both of his albums back to back because the are all great.  I like to crank his music when I’m cooking sometimes too, the music is upbeat and easy to sing along to.  George’s voice is also so unique and beautiful, I just love listening to him!

Question: Name a cover version (studio or live) that you strongly believe is better than the original, and why?

(RC) Based on the proviso that my mind is likely to change tomorrow, and pulling one straight off the top of my head, Emmylou Harris, “Here, There and Everywhere.”  Why? You only have to listen!

Question: If you could tell one of your favorite musicians to NOT record a track from their music catalog, who would it be, which song would it be, and most importantly, why?

(SM) Lou Reed’s “Original Wrapper.”  It has some of the dumbest lyrics, done in a horrible 80s rap-style. Ew! He could have easily scrapped the entire “Mistrial” record – a very appropriately named album.

Question: Is there an artist that you missed out on in their prime, only to discover later in life and wish you’d have paid attention sooner?  Dead or alive, but it must be somebody who you could have seen in person during your lifetime, without the use of a time-machine.

(DM) Stan Rogers.  His music has become very interesting and important to me in my older years.  The irony is that I actually played a gig with him when I was a teenager, but I couldn’t quite understand what he was going for.  His brother’s book, “Night Drive,” is a must – not only about Stan, but what it really takes to become a Canadian success story.

(JL) This is a tough one because I love so many eras of music.  If I could whisk myself back in time, I would have loved to experience the music of the 50s in person.  But, since that would have been impossible in my lifetime, if there is one artist I wish I could have enjoyed sooner, it would be David Bowie.

(MW) Bob Dylan.  I did see him in concert in Philadelphia in 2018, and as a songwriter, it seemed the right thing to do. I enjoy Dylan’s music, but to have had the chance to see him a couple of decades ago or earlier would likely have been amazing.  Though his piano-ballad version of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” was wonderful.