Madison Galloway: Live At The Skol House

Madison Galloway

After plenty of music related adventures recently, Team GDW had plans to return to Southern Ontario over the Labor Day weekend with no specific concert dates on the calendar.  Yes, okay, okay, we find that an amusing proposition too. A weekend in Canada with no music – could we pull off such a feat?  Almost!  We almost did!  But the answer, of course, is that we did not.

Just 24 hours prior to our planned excursion, a scroll through our social media feeds found no events of interest within a leisurely drive of our weekend destination. A quick look further afield on one of my concert apps yielded the same result. Yet somehow, the name Madison Galloway flagged up in an advertisement for a Friday night show – and investigating a little more, we found that this Fergus, ON artist was also headlining a show the following night, on our arrival date. Pieces had already started falling in to place.

Making our way to a small community just north of Guelph, we arrived at the Belwood School House, a classic nineteenth century one-room schoolhouse (currently being renovated, but with a huge adjoining yard perfectly suited for a concert on a summer evening). Boasting food trucks on site, along with a bar, a campfire, and a small enclosure for the kids (and adults) to meet the rabbits – the centerpiece, however, was the cool converted old box-car that made up the stage.

Madison Galloway

The music of Madison Galloway first came to our attention a few years ago thanks to musician Ron Hawkins, who took this emerging blues-rocker under his tutelage – mentoring as a co-producer of Madison’s 2019 “Moon and Mercury” album (and teaming up to co-write and duet on “Season of Treason”). Social media announcements from Ron would follow about inviting Madison to open some of his shows, and the name became etched on our radar. Awareness was further amplified by GDW contributor Richard Clark last summer, who discovered Madison’s protest-inspired single, “Open Your Eyes,” and submitted a feature for the site. By this time, Madison had earned a placement on our list of must-see-artists – making this open weekend opportunity something extra special.

Joined by a full-band accompaniment of Nik Hirst (keyboards/vocals), Paul Loggia (lead guitar), Brent Wilson (bass/vocals) and Simon Thomson, Madison (guitars/harmonica/vocals) performed a solid and well curated mix of originals and covers over the course of just under 2 hours of stage time. Launching immediately into a lively version of the 2022 single, “The River,” the band fired on all cylinders non-stop throughout the evening, fusing rock, country, blues, and soul, and mixing in plenty of Southern boogie to their signature sound too.

Madison Galloway

Energy levels were high as the band dug into Madison’s album material, sharing memorable versions of “Love’s Not A Game,” “Doors,” and the instrumental jam that is “Coffee Stains.” Covers were plentiful, and embraced many eras, styles, and genres – from Tracy Chapman and Jefferson Airplane one moment, to Aretha Franklin and The Black Crowes the next. Madison would also acknowledge Led Zeppelin being her favorite band, and added a pair of tunes – one solo (“Going To California”) and one with the band (“Gallows Pole”) – the latter we recall last hearing live by Newfoundland band Great Big Sea during a concert here in central PA back in 2009.  The inclusion of some new, unreleased material was also offered, and upon hearing some great tunes, certainly built up plenty of favorable anticipation for Madison’s next official album release.

The band would take a brief hiatus mid-set, allowing Madison to perform a trio of solo tunes – opting to commence with the slide guitar/harmonica heavy “My Baby Don’t Care” (which demonstrated her natural blues persona), before sharing a tale that led into another unreleased number. “Has anybody ever traveled in an RV? I did it one time back in 2019, and it’s quite an adventure,” she stated. “I got this show out in BC and so we decided before this little west coast adventure [that] we were going to get this RV. We found this RV in Goderich … and [the owners] assured us it would get us to wherever we needed to go. Fantastic. Sold. So, we brought the RV back that day, and Goderich is not too far from Fergus, but we did not quite make it home.” Adding insight about the unreliable nature of the RV, Madison was happy to inform all that the vehicle did make it to BC and back with only one mechanical issue, but also that the BC landscape would inspire this new composition, “To The Mountains.”

Madison Galloway

As the band returned, Madison would discuss the origins of “Devil At My Door,” another new tune. “My great aunt and uncle were over one time, and we were talking and telling stories and something came up about whistling,” she commenced. “My great aunt said that she’d only ever whistled once, that when she was a little girl she whistled, and her mother heard her, and immediately said that she should never whistle again. [That she] should get down on her knees and pray, because she believed that if you whistled, you called the devil to your door. I was really inspired by this story and decided to write this song.” Progressing into a stunning cover of the Alanis Morissette hit, “Hand In My Pocket” ( a great interpretation of a modern Canadian classic), another new tune titled “Moonlight” would follow, slowing the pace and offering some slight country rock flavor. 

Having teased us with some of her recent single “Freedom” during the earlier sound check, this tune was performed ‘full-throttle’ and lured several dancers out towards the stage as the evening wound down; the band ultimately sending everyone home with “Open Your Eyes,” that very protest song that truly did open ours to Madison’s music. Not only was this a fun and outstanding evening of entertainment, we learned to respect that fate can often bring us together when we least expect it. And thanks to the keen eye of photographer Milton Young, fate also captured this particular music fan enjoying some of the action too – thanks Milton.

Martin Noakes

Set List:

  1. The River
  2. Love’s Not A Game
  3. Gallow’s Pole (Led Zeppelin cover)
  4. Give Me One Reason (Tracy Chapman cover)
  5. Love Like Yours (Unreleased)
  6. Boots And Hearts (Tragically Hip cover)
  7. My Baby Don’t Care (solo)
  8. To The Mountains (solo) (Unreleased)
  9. Going To California (solo) (Led Zeppelin cover)
  10. Devil At My Door (Unreleased)
  11. Hand In My Pocket (Alanis Morissette cover)
  12. Moonlight (Unreleased)
  13. White Rabbit (Jefferson Airplane cover)
  14. Coffee Stains
  15. She Talks To Angels (Black Crowes cover)
  16. Doors
  17. Think (Aretha Franklin cover)
  18. Freedom
  19. Devil In Her Eye
  20. Open Your Eyes

‘Caught in the Act’ Photo Credit: Milton Young (used with permission).

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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