2017 was a year packed with great experiences, moments, and memories. I had the chance to see a lot of live music, review great albums, and interview some very talented people.
Here are five of my favourite musical memories of this year, I’d love to hear some of yours in the comment section!
Country Set of the Year
Eric Church at Air Canada Centre, Toronto (March 2, 2017)
Toronto can be cold in March, especially in hockey arenas, but when Eric Church came to the Air Canada Centre, and 16,000+ came to see him, things heated up in a hurry.
For more than three hours Eric Church played hits and fan favourites. There was no opening act. There was no bullshit. There was just Church, his band, and his fans living and loving on country music in Canada’s biggest city.
Having seen Church live once before at Boots & Hearts, I thought I knew what I was getting into. But from my seat in the ACC, I experienced something different. Something more intimate… because while 16,000 is a lot of fans, it’s smaller than nearly 40,000 fans. And whenever you put a roof and walls around music and let it stay in the room instead of floating off into the night, things are instantly more real and the ability to feel the music in your bones is increased.
I don’t know when, where, or if I’ll see Eric Church live again. But I can tell you now that even if I never do again, I’ve got my melody to remind me of a memory.
Rock and Roll Set of the Year
Arkells at Budweiser Stage, Toronto (June 24, 2017)
My 2016 and 2017 playlists have included a lot of Arkells… and on a summer night in Toronto I added some live rock and roll to the year.
I stood on the grass, and I cheered and sang and danced and loved every minute of the show. And even now, looking back, I remember how great it was to watch Max direct the crowd while he and the band rolled through a set of radio hits and fan favourites.
Note: If you’re looking to get lost down a YouTube rabbit hole, I suggest a long list of Arkells live performance videos.
There were more than 17,000 people at Budweiser Stage that night to see July Talk and Arkells, and it was a moment and memory that I’m glad I was able to experience and add to my year. It was fun, like live rock and roll is when things go right. The energy was right. And just like they did at WayHome 2016, Arkells owned the stage and held the crowd in their hands as they put on their show.
Let’s do it again in 2018!
Breakout Band in a Little Bar
Midland at The Dakota Tavern, Toronto (April 25, 2017)
In late April, before the excitement of summertime or a number one hit on the radio in Canada first, and the United States – Midland came to Toronto for the first time, and made a stop at The Dakota Tavern to play an acoustic showcase for media, industry, and some lucky fans.
Mark, Jess, and Cameron were funny, smooth, and showed off the talent that country music fans have come to know and fall in love with as 2017 has progressed. And while it’s awesome to listen to the album and sing along (On The Rocks is a quality listen), and to remember seeing Midland on stage at Boots & Hearts in August with Drinkin’ Problem at the top of the charts… it’s amazing to think back to that night in April, in a basement bar in Toronto, and remember those boys picking and strumming and singing.
That night they played songs we know all the words to know from the album, songs they had release on YouTube before that, and heard for ourselves just how legit their harmonies and songwriting chops are.
I’m not sure many people are going to get that kind of chance again. I’m glad we didn’t miss ours.
Favourite Interview of the Year
Jessica Mitchell, The Feature
In June of this year we published a Jessica Mitchell feature that looked at the moments in her life that have helped push her to where she is now. I wrote about the music, the memories, and the woman herself.
Over the last couple of years we’ve had a few chances to catch up with Jessica Mitchell in interviews, but in preparation for the feature, we had my most memorable interview of 2017.
Trish and I met Jessica on a rooftop patio in Toronto and sat for more than an hour. We talked about childhood memories, we took turns telling stories, and we learned more about Jessica Mitchell than we knew before.
But more than the information we took away from that day, and the story that I was able to write and share, we left knowing more than ever that Jessica Mitchell is one of the most genuine, thoughtful people we know.
It took months of planning before we made it happen, but I don’t begrudge that, because that interview was a highlight of my year.
Live Song That Broke Me
Tim Hicks – Throw A Ball
When you are as fortunate as we are to see a lot of live music every year, there’s a higher statistical chance that there will be moments that transcend the enjoyment of the music and turn into emotional moments and memories. This fall, at one of my favourite venues in Toronto, I got to experience one of those moments.
Tim Hicks, Canadian country music star, was one of five featured performers on stage at The Dakota Tavern for Four Chords And The Truth, a singer/songwriter event that celebrates music. At that event we got to hear Tim Hicks play a new song, an unreleased track that nearly broke me.
The song, Throw A Ball, is dedicated to Hicks’ young son and tells the story of a boy growing up playing catch with his dad, and then becoming a father and playing catch with his son. It’s a story song, the kind that country music is best at, and it resonated with me as a kid who grew up loving baseball and playing with my dad.
It also hit me hard because just over a year ago I lost my dad, AND next summer I’m going to become a father for the first time. And as I listened to Tim Hicks sing his song, and tell his story, I thought about my story and the memories that I hold onto, and the memories that I hope to be lucky enough to make in the future.
I hope that some day Hicks records Throw A Ball so you can all hear it. But until then, I will hold onto the memory of that night in Toronto, listening with my eyes closed, wondering if I was going to cry.
I hope your 2017 was as memorable as mine was. And I hope that we all make twice as many good memories in 2018.