There have been many instances in our blog articles about how important it is to support live music, and to get out and attend shows when your favorite artists are playing nearby. Being strong advocates of practicing what we preach, Team GDW were back on the road heading north this last weekend to not only catch live music, but to drive almost eight hours for the pleasure. Heading from our home in south-central PA, we took I-81 all the way north to the Canadian border, crossed over at the picturesque Thousand Islands, and headed west into Kingston, ON. Alright, not exactly catching a local show, but with the relatively easy drive, low-key border crossing, we had an enjoyable Saturday afternoon in this part of the province.
I am sure many would understand undertaking such a journey to catch a big name act, or a once in a lifetime event (like the final Tragically Hip performance in this very city last year). But for us, we set aside an entire weekend for the opportunity to catch a small, intimate show with The Karpinka Brothers. Hailing from Saskatchewan, brothers Aaron and Shawn Karpinka first crossed our musical radar earlier this year during an article about The Gateway Festival, and we were instantly hooked on their brand of old-time pop-rock and feel-good music. Ever generous with their time, we were fortunate enough to interview both brothers upon the release of their brand new “Talk Is Cheap” album, and found that they had very infectious personalities that perfectly mirrored their musical style and sound. With just a few select live dates on their eastern provinces touring schedule, Kingston would be as close as they would get on a ‘weekend’ date that we could tie in with our own schedule.
With some last minute changes in the performance times made by the venue due to a double-booking, we arrived at the quaint coffee shop in downtown Kingston to find that the show was already in full swing. Not that this was a huge event, as the coffee shop was a unique little hole-in-the-wall, but we were both grateful to at least catch half of the show, and to find some seats directly opposite the artists. With some freshly made hot beverages, we sat and enjoyed several tracks from the new album, along with some older tunes to round out their set. Their friend and album collaborator Krista Muir was in attendance too, and accepted an invitation to join the brothers in front of the microphones for a couple of numbers.
From a performance standpoint, the brothers were as humble and honest in the flesh as we expected. Their positive and energetic numbers were performed flawlessly, and their natural chemistry as siblings shone both during and in between tracks. Indeed, it was the brotherly banter and tales of life on the road that really endeared them to the crowd. With their recent time spent in New York City, tales of sharing a closet sized apartment with no private shower provided some natural humor. This highlight of the tales would be about one night in a New York bar, where the drinks kept flowing, leading Shawn to encounter his ultimate hangover experience whilst in the big city. The images you could conjure up of Aaron attempting to maneuver his legless brother into a taxi are pure Comedy Central material. The combination of these exploits and their great live music proved to be a successful recipe for the audience in Kingston.
It was amazing to finally meet and chat extensively with both Aaron and Shawn after the show. As genuine down-to-earth guys who clearly love not only what they do, but who they meet, both were generous once more with their time. And while this is not the first time an artist has been truly in awe of just how far we have driven to see them, Shawn’s reaction of bewilderment and being completely overwhelmed provided a special moment and bond between us and the artist. This sense of mutual admiration and camaraderie is what makes our love of this music and artists so special to us. The Karpinka Brothers may have been the headliners here, but their personalities and attention made us feel that we were in the spotlight too.
For Team GDW, this was a wonderful (half) show that left us bidding Aaron and Shawn farewell not as ‘a pair of ticket sales,’ but as (new) old friends with whom we’ll catch up with again soon. It only takes ten minutes in the company of these fine gentlemen to feel at home. I actively encourage everybody to go see them live, enjoy their music, their company, and above all else, become enriched in their wonderful friendship and hospitality.