Chris Hadfield is best known as a Canadian astronaut, but he’s also an acclaimed musician and author, and has built strong friendships with some of Canada’s finest artists.
This blog entry goes back to the beginning of his explosive career, where he collaborated with Barenaked Ladies’ Ed Robertson and the gleek club from my high school alma mater, Wexford Collegiate School for the Arts on a live performance.
Which, wouldn’t be so unusual if Hadfield wasn’t performing his contribution from the International Space Station in, you know, SPACE.
Blue Rodeo celebrates their 34th anniversary as one of Canada’s most-beloved band this month, so now seems as good a time as any to look back at this recording of the band’s celebratory performance of their 25th anniversary, performed 9 years ago on this very day.
Performed at the beautiful Glenn Gould Studio, I can only look back and wish I had been able to attend this one.
Almost reading like a who’s-who of Alt-Country and Roots-Rock in Canada, there were performances by Whitehorse, Ron Sexsmith, Justin Rutledge, Oh Susanna, Cuff the Duke, Skydiggers, Great Big Sea, the Sadies, and more.
When Portugal. The Man performed at Austin City Limits in 2013, they were still three and a half years away from their breakout single, Feel It Still. By this time, I’d already seen the band perform a few times and if you told me that by 2018 the band would be nominated (and win!) a Grammy Award for Best Pop Group Performance, I wouldn’t believe you.
That’s not to speak on their talent or their worthiness of such prestige — On the contrary, I thought they were fantastic! But they were heavy, and psychedelic, and more than a bit avaunt-guard. Their debut album, Waiter: “You Vultures!” featured the song AKA M80 The Wolf, one of my favourite rock songs of the decade. Their follow up disc, Church Mouth, was experimental, bluesy, and challenging.
Their third album, Censored Colors, is when a pop-sensibility seemed to start to sneak in. But to the extent that they’d be Grammy-worthy? Seemed highly unlikely.
At that point, they were releasing new albums’ worth of material annually and continued to do so for their first six discs(!). It wasn’t until the Danger Mouse-produced Evil Friends, released in 2013 and the album being promoted on this ACL performance, that the band began taking time between album cycles.
Beams is a band hard to accurately pin down. Their music generally derives from classic folk instrumentation, but it’s the hyphen in the genre that seems to be contested.
One part alternative-rock, one part roots, another part psychedelic: I’m not exaggerating to say I’ve seen literal back-and-forth arguments on Reddit debating how exactly to classify the band — and I expect that’s by design.
Featuring a handful of Toronto’s most widely-recognizable indie musicians, everyone’s bringing something to the buffet, so to speak. Members have been featured here on the blog as participants in The Postage Stamps, Hamilton Trading Co., Freedom or Death, and Danielle Duval, but have also contributed to acts such as Dany Laj and the Looks, the Diableros, Ace of Wands, The Paper Makers, and many others.
Hey, remember about a month ago when I said I only had one more Nicole Atkins recording to share?
I was happily mistaken!
I also captured her performance on Late Show with David Letterman in January of 2015. At this point, Letterman was only four-months from retirement, but still brought the excitement and enthusiasm for his musical guests like it was his first week on the job.
Nicole and co. perform a version of Neptune City‘s War Torn that trades the lush keyboards of the recorded version for dreamy, reverb-drenched guitars that ultimately delves into a crunchy, distorted punch-in-the-face climax.
Combing through Ye Olde Archives of Tapes Unreleased to upload, I came across not only the previously posted early Nicole Atkins & The Sea recording I made from the band’s performance at Lee’s Palace in Toronto, but also a capture I made of her performance on the BBC’s legendary Later… With Jools Holland.
I grabbed this from a rerun around 2012, but it’s original air date is from September 2008. I couldn’t get concrete details on the filming data, but it’s presumably in that vicinity.
Unlike my personal recording, this one is professional and sounds fantastic. Nicole performs two of the most accessible, powerful songs off her celebrated debut album. This would probably be a much better introduction to the band, and I should’ve posted it first. Oh, well. Live and learn, I guess!
To compliment the Whitehorse recording posted earlier this week, here’s a couple of songs from the archive, captured from the CBC Music Backstage Pass television program.
These tracks were recorded weeks before the release of their debut full length LP, The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss at an undisclosed location (likely in rural Ontario, possibly at the Keelor family farm — but that’s merely speculation).
The videos are available on YouTube should you prefer a visual but if not, Mismatched Eyes (Boat Song) is recorded outdoors, presumably on the lawn of the interior cabin where Achilles’ Desire was captured, while a caramel and ash-coloured cat takes interest in the microphone cables, inches toward the couple, and eventually lies down comfortably at Melissa’s feet.
Bahamas had put out (another) critically acclaimed album, somewhat self-titled Bahamas Is Afie, and on the promotional tour, stopped by CBC for a First Play Live set of five songs (four of which aired on the program Backstage Pass captured here) and later swung by Conan to top off his program one evening.
Although I’m sure the videos are on YouTube or whatever, I’ve captured the audio in high quality from their television broadcasts for those who prefer their audio without video.
Hannah Georgas‘ album This Is Good is full of great, punchy, catchy, hooky guitar-based indie rock, so when it met some success including a finalist for Best New Artist Juno, it came as a surprise her sophomore album took a hard left into moodier, down-tempo synth-based music.
It caught me off guard, and it wasn’t until experiencing the new tunes live that I really got it.
Four and a half years after her brilliant début major label album, The Cricket’s Orchestra, Meaghan Smith is back with her sophomore follow-up, Have A Heart.
Gone is influence of the big band and early jazz of the 40’s and 50’s, replaced an eccentric mix of modern and 60’s/70’s pop. Although jumping ahead several decades in influence and sound, all you have to do is listen to songs like Friends Like You and you’ll rest assured that at the heart of these bigger, bolder, and largely produced songs is still that sweet and wry Canadian gal who won a Best New Artist Juno in 2011.
Meaghan and her hus-band, Jason Mingo, seemed to have also upped the ante with their live set-up, replacing the stripped down almost-all-acoustic set enhanced by samples with a full live band. Jason now brandishes an electric guitar, and is rounded out by a keyboardist, bassist and live drummer.