I’m not going to preface this particular entry with too much context on COVID-19, 2020, and live music. I ranted and raved about it in excess on my previous post.
I will take a minute to talk about Whitehorse, a band many visitors to this blog are now well acquainted with, and give some context on their 2020 (if you would be so kind as to indulge me).
Whitehorse is a husband and wife musical duo with decades long resumes that cover the gauntlet and have taken them around the world. Their talent is immeasurable, and their success remarkable — but not incalculable.
The most recently posted Whitehorse recording, about two entries back, came only a few short weeks after shuttering the previous version of this website.
My family had grown bigger, money tighter, and my web host was being a punk. I wasn’t getting any feedback from readers, leading me think everyone had (rightly) gone off to more fertile websites.
I also wasn’t entirely sold yet on Whitehorse’s full band dynamic, so when they announced their follow up Toronto date at Massey Hall — the MOST overrated venue in the city, if not the country — I skipped out on buying a ticket in the name of penny-pinching.
I justified seeing them two more times that year: once, the duo show with the erstwhile retired Kathleen Edwards opening in Port Perry (and it was free!), and another time in Ottawa at the historic National Arts Centre while I was in town visiting an old friend and fellow fan.
Although they came close, they never quite hit a public gig in Toronto in 2018, so I took a Whitehorse sabbatical that year. I likely would’ve taken 2019 off, too, given they had outgrown the best-sounding venues in the city and were moving on up to the bigger stages with the muddier sound systems, and ticket prices had inflated in tandem.
I’ve written (I think a couple of times) in earlier blog entries that this was Whitehorse‘s record release party for Panther In The Dollhouse.
I understand why I’m misremembering it as such. The band had been using social media to create some pre-release hype for the album throughout the recording sessions, making its release feel imminent. The lead single, Boys Like You, had been hit the airwaves three months prior. They’d previewed a couple of additional tracks from the disc at the end of the set, giving that exciting, brand-new feel. Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland even used some in-between song banter to recognize and thank producer Gus van Go, who was in the audience (and I believe about 8-feet from where I was standing).
In retrospect, the biggest reason I likely made that mistake was because of how much this felt like the beginning of a new era for the group.
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.
Having seen Whitehorse about half a dozen times before, you’d think they wouldn’t be able to surprise me. Especially for a free outdoor show in Port Hope, a quaint town about an hour and a quarter east of Toronto with a population of ~16,700, put on to celebrate Ontario’s 150th birthday.
I’d seen the band perform as a duo using looping pedals to build their songs up from the ground. More recently, I’d seen the band performing as a traditional four-piece, a configuration that seemed to be the new standard.
It was that iteration of the band I was expecting on that summery August evening, but the band pulled out a card that completely caught me off guard in the best way possible.
I’ve held back on posting this recording for a while now for a couple of reasons.
First, it occurred only a week and a half before the birth of my son — so I was otherwise preoccupied much of the time. Secondly, the online hype you’ve read about the sound quality at Massey Hall is grossly overstated: its legendary status is more for the names and performances that have graced the stage rather than the quality of sound being pumped from the speakers. Third, the members of Whitehorse were making such a big deal of the performance, going so far as to name the entire tour and a EP of cover songs “The Road To Massey Hall” that I wasn’t convinced an official recording of the set wouldn’t be eventually released. And I wasn’t completely wrong, either; the band did sell a recording of Emerald Isle from this show to benefit the victims of the infamous Boston Marathon bombing victims.
. : : January 11th, 2013 : : . If you’re anything like me, you just can’t get enough of the Luke Doucet / Melissa McClelland duo Whitehorse. In the next little while, I hope to have an original audience recording of Luke Doucet and White Falcon — a rare reunion with his prior band from 2012 — available for your listening pleasure. Until then, though, I got my hands on a edited re-airing of the band’s set on Q with Jian Ghomeshi last year. Unfortunately, it’s missing the band’s performance of Wisconsin, but there is still exceptional takes on Devil’s Got A Gun and No Glamour in the Hammer from their most recent album, The Fate…
. : : September 23rd, 2013 : : . Most fans of HaterHigh will need no introduction to Whitehorse or its parts Luke Doucet and Melissa McClelland, so I’ll skip the how’dyados and get right down to business. The Polaris Music Prize is a coveted music award that started as a sort-of underground alternative award to Canada’s generally commercialized North-of-the-border Grammy award, the Juno. It has gained huge notoriety in its seven short years of existence due to its tendency to award smaller, lesser known, fringe and alternative acts that are generally otherwise ignored by the mainstream media. Its inaugural event awarded Final Fantasy for the crassly named album He…
. : : August 28th, 2012 : : . I get asked a lot if I’m excited for upcoming concerts. I don’t know if it’s just that I’m not that excitable, or if I’ve been to too many to feel excitement with any frequency or intensity, but the answer is almost always “no.” I don’t feel any real sense of anticipation for a performance long before a show starts. Maybe, just maybe, once I get to the venue, or just as the band takes the stage, but days, weeks or even months before the show? I shrug, people frown in confusion, and…