by Andrew Stephens-Rennie
You know? It’s always a little nerve-wracking when you throw your hat back in the ring.
After growing up in a musical void for much of my life, I discovered more music while away at school than I knew how to handle. Continually catching up on the music that should have been the soundtrack to my childhood, and listening to the new stuff popping up around me, I was hooked. It was a late discovery, but when I finally discovered the music that was out there, it changed my life.
From the sounds of U2, to G’n’R, Ben Harper, Dave Matthews, Metallica, Pearl Jam, Sigur Ros, discovering bands like Anberlin, Further Seems Forever, and Big Wreck who awoke me to the diversity of musical expression. Suddenly my world was way bigger than the CBC.
With this love of music came a desire to experience it live, and from that desire, a continuing series of risks. I put on my first concert in the summer of 2000 at Mill Race Park in Cambridge featuring several bands from the GTA. More concerts followed, including a few with Bedouin Soundclash at Clark Hall in Kingston.
I pulled in Canadian bands like Turn Off the Stars and Lucerin Blue to mix things up, and eventually found myself managing the band Obsidian, now known as Born Destroyers, putting them on stage with Gob, Jersey, Closure, Robin Black and Three Days Grace amongst others.
But sometime in 2004, after graduation and the acquisition of a real job (who knew? and with an English degree at that!), I gave the whole racket up, leaving it behind for longer work weeks which left a lot less time to negotiate with agents, venues and the rest. I gave it up, never feeling I’d go back again. Part of it the futility of the business, part of it pure exhaustion. I told myself that I wouldn’t jump back in until it made sense. I wouldn’t do another concert unless it was an artist I truly believed in.
Fast forward 2008.
Martyn Joseph is planning to come back through Canada. I’ve moved to Ottawa, away from the familiarity of Kingston or Toronto, and yet feel that this is the time. If ever there was an artist I would want to bring anywhere, it would be Martyn.
Experienced and stage ready, he’s been performing for almost as long as I’ve been alive, and is one of the most intense, one of the most charismatic shows I’ve ever had the chance to witness. I send an email, sign a contract, and suddenly I’m promoting a concert featuring one of my heroes on February 5, 2009.
Empire Remixed presents Martyn Joseph at Ecclesiax Church in Ottawa.
And when the day arrived, it all started to click. There were the usual pre-event hiccoughs, but then 55 people showed up, most of whom I’d never met before, and the show was underway.
Jon Brooks opened with his understated, melancholic portrayal of War Resister Jeremy Hinzman, the fire sparking, cracking, and beginning to burn deep and wild as he transitioned to “When We Go.” The refrain powerful and true, the refrain ripped from Matthew’s gospel, and presented to us anew:
We can’t take it when we go,
when we go, wherever we go;
if it’s not love,
we can’t take it when we go
to that place where moth nor rust
cannot touch us past this dust –
if it’s not love,
we can’t take it when we go.
Brooks’ ability to confront oppression with redemption, to embrace pain with heart continued as he boldly marched through “God Pt 3,” concluding his set with a call to life, a life rooted in gift, singing “And if we keep what’s within us / what’s within us will kill us / But if we give what’s within us / what’s within us will save us.”
A gift. A brilliant gift to kick off the evening, and the best was yet to come. As Jon walked off stage, Martyn entered from the rear of the room, guitar in hand, singing “Strange way to start a revolution…”
But more on that tomorrow…