Colleen Brown @ St. Stephen in the Fields Church

Colleen Brown
Colleen Brown @ St. Joseph

. : : December 18th, 2020 : : .

This time last year, we thought we were nearing the end of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

As I write this, we are ankle-deep in a fourth wave propelled by the latest Omicron variant. But last year, we thought “if we can only get through Christmas, we’ll be OK, right?”

People were desperately trying to return to something resembling normalcy, and musicians fulling embracing live streaming to supplement a year’s lost touring income meant that we had live music again. Rather than in smokey bars and tall-ceiling, boomy halls, we were listening to it from the comfort of our lazy boys with a glass of wine or a mug of coffee in our hands.

$15,000 speaker stacks were replaced by $15 laptop or tablet speakers, but we didn’t care: we had our favourite music and the very best sight lines.

There was an overwhelming selection of live streams to join — some paid, some free, some behind paywalls, others in front of donation links. I’m not sure about you, but it wasn’t long before I was overwhelmed by a glutton of options and ended up missing much more of it than I would’ve liked.

It’d been a minute since I’ve seen Colleen Brown live, and her latest album Isolation Songs seemed like the perfect way to wind down (ha!) the pandemic. Originally written as a series of weekly song-writing challenges during the first months of the lock down, the material blossomed into a 10-song album of reflection, introspection, and a dash of doom.

I couldn’t miss a chance to see her perform some of these songs with her then-roommate, Sarah Hiltz.

As Zoom musician amateurs, this recording features all the hallmarks of pandemic live-from-home idiosyncrasies, so have your BINGO card ready: you’ll hear, “Hello? Can you hear me?,” “I’ve never done this before,” “I don’t know what I’m doing,” “It’s weird having silence between songs,” common drop-outs, bursts of static, and more.

These imperfections are probably the main motivator that kept this recording in the blog post queue for so long, but listening back, it’s still very listenable. More so, it’s charming: hearing Colleen and Sarah banter and giggle between songs as they “fly by the seat of [their] pants” invokes a feeling of hanging out at their apartment while they jam.

The unstructured intimacy of this type of under-produced live stream is something so rarely reproducible in typical concert settings, and will be something that I will grow to miss when (if?) the normalcy we anticipated ever comes to be.

I was hoping to catch their follow-up performance of Christmas-centric tunes the following week, but unfortunately it fell on Christmas Eve — and as a father to two young boys, my priorities were elsewhere that evening.

But, on the eve of the anniversary of this performance, I’ll help us time travel back and allow those who made a similar choice on the evening and missed this first opportunity to catch this performance rectify that decision.

Fans of Isolation Songs will appreciate the stripped down takes and previews of songs-that-could’ve-been from an album slated for release in 2020, but still yet to see the light of day.

So, sink into your favourite lazy boy with the mug of coffee, crank your favourite $15 speaker, and enjoy Colleen Brown and Sarah Hiltz.

  1. [introduction]
  2. It’s The End of the World (Again)
  3. [banter]
  4. [The Garden]
  5. [banter]
  6. The Olden Ways
  7. [banter]
  8. Motherland [Major Love]
  9. [banter]
  10. Impossible Things Waltz
  11. [banter]
  12. Good Life
  13. [banter]
  14. Paradise (In Our Apartment)
  15. [banter]
  16. [unknown]
  17. [banter]
  18. I’m Loving You From Here
  19. [banter]
  20. [Happy Going]
  21. [banter]
  22. What Do You Want For Christmas
  23. [banter]
  24. Love You Baby

[info.txt // FLAC Fingerprint]

Good Life (Live at St. Stephen In The Fields) [MP3 sample]

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