Finding the highlights

Novels will be written in year-end posts about the year that was 2017 and it will be short on highlights.

It wasn’t awesome. We all know this.

But what was the last year that really was? If you’ve got an answer, please, lemme know.

This is not a time for cynicism, though.

It’s cheeseball but I’ve always really enjoyed, and kind of believed in, the fresh slate of January 1.

So here are a few songs that helped keep me going in the past little while.

Arkells have replaced The Violent Femmes on my top five bands list. Those bands don’t have a whole lot in common other than catchy songs. (And generally being badass, but that’s for another time.)

There’s unbridled hope here. There’s optimism out of a really ugly, hopeless place (considering the song was reportedly written in the vicinity of Washington as the Women’s March took over, dwarfing a certain inaugural event in January).  Look around; there are good people trying to do good things and not giving up.


Dear all that is holy do I love Two Cow Garage. This band gives me life. Made a complete ass of myself when I met Shane and Micah nearly two years ago, wide-eyed and hands clasped and breathless, wondering how I’d managed to not know about them sooner and being an Almost Famous-level Band Aid in minute one. (Technically the first song of their set in a small room in Buffalo but you get the idea.)


The nicest group of guys you’d ever want to meet. Over a round or two of drinks in Buffalo, they’re eager to talk about how hard they want to work, how much they want to tour, how much they love what they’re doing, how much fun they’re having. It will serve them well in the long run. And well worth your time if they’re playing nearby — check them out.


This is the loss of ’17 that just doesn’t make sense. And it won’t. Here’s the chorus.

But it’s all right
When you’re all in pain
And you feel the rain come down
Oh it’s all right
When you find you way
Then you see it disappear
Oh it’s all right
Though your garden’s gray
I know all your graces
Someday will flower
Oh oh in a sweet sunshower


The first time I saw the Sons was on my birthday in 2014. They opened for the Trews at the Danforth. I’d been a fan for nearly a year at that point. There were rounds of drinks in hole-in-the-wall dives in DC and Maryland and long chats about the Canadian music world for a band and a fan hours away from home. Seeing them get the attention and airplay they deserve is bittersweet: For so many years a friend of mine and I would talk about them as “our boys.” They’re not anymore. They’ve outgrown tiny bars and rooms with ceilings so low I thought Brett would give himself a concussion.  Selling out the KROC Centre in Kingston 10 years after the Hip opened the place? Good on you, boys. Couldn’t be prouder.


Raise your hand if a band from your crucial teenage years of music fandom has broken up, or gone on indefinite hiatus and you never thought you’d have the chance to see them play live.

It was worth the 2.5 hr drive to Syracuse to see the Sheila Divine in December, the middle night of three shows in three days. (This video isn’t from that night, obviously, but oh well.)

Getting an autographed setlist after the fact? It has a place of honour on my wall of concert ephemera.



Couldn’t find a clear, steady video, but OLP played in front of Albright Knox Art Gallery on a glorious June night this past year. We drank red wine out of plastic cups and sang our lungs out and it was perfect. (The last time I saw them, it was September, pouring rain and about 40 degrees. This was a significant improvement.)


New QOTSA album. Awesome.

Getting into a super limited-availability show — tickets sold out in about five minutes — scheduled as a kind of preview before a bigger tour, in a room so cramped and muggy and hot that the walls were sweating? Hell yes. One of the highlights of the year.



This song will always remind me of moving home — it’s been two years now and the reaction is as visceral. I don’t get it. But I love it.


Happy 2018, music fans.

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