Upon finding out the Walkmen disbanded, a friend consoled me by saying that they’ll probably make solo stuff that sounds exactly like the band. He was right, Hamilton Leithauser’s tunes sound a lot like his old outfit. I watched them play the Drake Hotel in late January. I’m in awe the boys are back in Toronto on the very same day 365 days later at the Dakota. I’m not sure how they nailed that venue, but it’s going to be perfection.
Mid-February was cold as heck, but I managed to make it out to see Toronto writer Sheila Heti’s play All Our Happy Days Are Stupid. It was happy, weird and confusing – I would expect no less than an emotional roller coaster from Heti.
Tobias Jesso Jr played a sold out show at the Drake Hotel. I heard whispers about Jesso early on in the new year and felt immediate interested him. Funny enough, beyond the album’s Adele-endorsed banger “How Could You, Babe?,” I wasn’t really in love with his music. I’m growing to like the fella more and more each day. His show was modest and sweet. He confessed the sneakers he wore were a half size to small for his 6’7 build and that the company gave them to him for free. He said he was too shy to ask for a new pair, but hoped someone would Tweet about his shoes so they’d know.
Hayden played an amazing diner series to promote his new album and I took photos for the National Post’s concert coverage. I caught his Aunties and Uncles set, where I jammed tight into the small breakfast spot and took as many photos as my index finger and camera would allow. Hayden performed generously, taking requests on request forms from each album.
In the last days of April, I went to a sold out Patrick Watson show at the Drake Hotel. The band was showcasing their gorgeous album, Love Songs for Robots. I was unhappily crammed in the back of the venue with the other media folks, who surprisingly always only pay half attention to gigs. Watson and company hopped off stage mid-set and played on top of the bar at the back of the venue, directly in front of me. They even ordered a number of shots and gave them out to the crowd. I believe they played the tune “Adventures In Your Backyard,” along with a few other unplugged songs. I was mesmerized.
In May I caught Tennis at the Mod Club. They played many non-surfy tunes from their excellent album, Ritual in Repeat. It was around this time that I fell majorly hard for the song “Bad Girls,” which of course they played. At the end of the month I saw Patrick Watson, Jenn Grant, Choir! Choir! Choir!, Joel Plaskett, Bahamas and Coeur de Pirate at CBC Music Festival. I was most excited to hear Patrick Watson’s gorgeous album live (after listening to it endlessly). The fella I went with didn’t wear enough clothing for late March, so we left part way through Watson’s set, which was as good as the Drake gig one month prior.
I only caught one day of Arts and Crafts’ Field Trip. I managed to see My Morning Jacket (finally!!) and Father John Misty. I wish I caught a few more acts – Rhye, Lee Fields, Temples and Alabama Shakes – a really endless supply of awesome artists.
In late June I caught Judy Blume at the Toronto Reference Library. She talked about love, literature and life. She’s an astounding, radiant woman that I admire so much.
A few days after Blume, I saw my Norwegian crush, Sondre Lerche play the converted shoe box, Adelaide Hall. Much to my chagrin he played alone. In introducing “Just Like Lazenby” and “Tragic Mirror” he said that he likes to write songs about middle-aged men. Sondre, despite having a ten year plus career to date, is just in his early thirties.
In mid-July I drove off to Detroit, Eau Claire, Milwaukee and Chicago to attend Eaux Claires music festival, my big festival of 2015. The festival had heavy hitters – Spoon, Bon Iver, the National, Poliça, Charles Bradley, Tallest Man on Earth and Sufjan Stevens. In addition to smaller acts that I’ve now grown to love – Phox, Sylvan Esso and No BS! Brass Band. On the first night of the festival, while camping, we got hit by a tornado. Three girlfriends and I huddled in our SUV and prayed for survival. Each one of us called our loved ones in fear we’d get carried away.
On August 10, as a part of Panamania, I caught Explosions in the Sky play Nathan Phillips Square. These fellas modestly introduced themselves by saying they were from a town south of Toronto. Every hair on my arm stuck up to the sweet swells and build ups. Very excited to hear most of The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place.
Visited Denver, Colorado before our dollar plummeted to catch Riot Fest. Their line up had many of our acts, but a few more awesome pulls for me to visit. I caught Alkaline Trio, Thrice, The Joy Formidable, Desaparecidos, Beach Slang, Explosions in the Sky and Nada Surf. I managed to nab a media pass, which allowed me to take photos and catch the first few songs of the set up close. One of my favourite moments of the year was catching “Artist in the Ambulance” less than three feet away from the band. My ears were pounding from the band’s noise, but it was worth it.
I caught Mikal Cronin play Adelaide Hall, his first Toronto show in over two years! Cronin was pushing his terrific album MCIII. Cronin is easily one of my favourite artists of the last five years. It was about time I saw the guy play.
On the last few days of TIFF, I wiggled my way out to catch acts from the Toronto Urban Roots Festival (TURF). I watched Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeroes, Wilco, Neko Case, Cake, Lord Huron and Hop Along. Due to work I only caught the second day of the festival.
The Constantines played a two or three-night residency at Lee’s Palace. The gig was filled with boys in plaid shirts. I’m constantly in awe by how dedicated and passionate Constantines fans are. They own their crowd.
My lovely friend and country superstar, Whitney Rose, played a show at the Horseshoe Tavern in promotion of her new album Heartbreaker of the Year. The album has become one of my go-to plays at the bar I work at. She’s since been signed to Six Shooter Records. Big news for the most deserving person.
In mid-October a friend bought me tickets to see on of his favourite acts, John Grant. I hadn’t heard much about Grant, but my friend was a huge fan of the guy. I was surprised by his poppy sound and his massive gay following. Grant has HIV and is living above and beyond its limitations.
Toronto-based sultry popstars RALPH played Taste of Iceland, a little festival that blends Icelandic outfits with Toronto acts. RALPH played the earliest set, but were easily the best I saw that night.
In late November I hung out with Matt Berninger for the second time this year. I stupidly drank a bit too much and got to the gig after the venue had filled up. His alter-outfit to the National is a poppy act called EL VY (pronounced like the plural of Elvis). Beyond shitty-ass sight lines, I managed to boogie to their cover of Fine Young Cannibals’ “Drive Me Crazy.”
A few days after I caught one of my favourite acts of the year, Beach Slang. The band’s bassist commented that one of his heroes was Kevin Drew, not knowing that Brendan Canning was in the audience. Canning yelled out something sassy in returned and I was rolling on the floor laughing. I was delighted to hear the band play numerous Replacements covers. This was my first visit to the Dance Cave as a concert venue. I look forward to more gigs in this space.
I caught Zeus at Lee’s Palace with openers TUNS (featuring Chris Murphy of Sloan). The gig was one of those gigs that makes you feel especially proud to be from Toronto.
In early December I was crowdsurfed over for the first time in about a decade. Some lame dude at the Get Up Kids gig decided to float over a bunch of now old-aged fans. The surfer made his way to the front and eventually hopped on stage trying to take a selfie with front person Matt Pryor as he was playing (!!!) Matt jokingly kicked him in the butt, gesturing him to move his rear off the stage. The surfer then jumped on myself and the girls behind me. I managed to move, but the poor chicks behind me got the worst of it. I was sad to not hear any selections from Guilt Show. Rob Pop also wasn’t there. Bassists were extracted from other bands (the dude who plays bass for Saves the Day and the front person from Into It. Over It.).
I finally bought tickets to the Jason Collett Basement Revue, but found myself too tired to attend. I ended up selling my tickets and hanging out at the bar as the bands did soundcheck. Knowing people in high places allows you to do such things. I managed to catch a mini set from each act playing, no FOMO here.