Certain aspects of my own country are basically myths to me. Like, I get that there are large pockets of first nations people living in the north, with their own culture and language, and that forests with incomprehensibly huge red woods grow in the west. I’ve also heard a lot about the oil industry in northern Alberta, and the unique communities that grow around it. Without having seen and touched, they all live totally as concepts in my life, as complete lore basically. Before I moved to Halifax, east coast music was also a myth. I’d heard about it quite a bit mind you, some from my mom, whose Irish/Scottish ancestry is still fresh in the family tree, which gave her a visceral connection to the music. I’d even heard some of it on the radio and tv. But I’d never seen it played. It hadn’t ever surrounded me. I hadn’t ever breathed it or felt the floor rattling from stomping boots while the fiddle danced. When I first moved here, I went to a few open mics at the Old Triangle and got a taste of the talent and the spirit embodied by the tunes, and was impressed.
Then a bunch of cool things happened.
Last year we shot one of our favourite weddings ever at one of our favourite venues ever (Oceanstone!), and we were thrilled when Susan from Oceanstone later contacted us and we got the opportunity to shoot a series of incredible intimate concerts they’re currently hosting called ‘Up Close & Coastal’ . We were given the opportunity to attend (and photograph) Brian Byrne, Town Heroes, John Campbelljohn and Heather Rankin (the last two of whom are featured in this blog). This was east coast music at another level, the cream that rose to the top, the sounds from which the myths of east coast music came from. Listening to it moved something in me. I’m not sure exactly what moved though. I started asking myself questions about the music, and asking Rae questions too. We came to stupidly simple but meaningful answers for ourselves. Answers like, “it’s basically cheerful music” and “it’s meant to be heard with your feet”. Then, just tonight, my aunt and uncle from Ontario were passing through Truro as they do every year and we met up with them for our annual lunch and chat. We got talkative and my aunt, who was born in Scotland and moved to Canada when she was 10 or so, told stories about what it was like living in Canada steeped so heavily in Scottish and Irish culture. She talked about the music, how one person played the spoons and another played a hair comb (and did it well). I don’t want to wander off into the realm of cliche and say something like, “I’m getting back to my roots”, but something about the sounds and the stories are affecting me. I grew up worshipping 90’s grunge rockstars whose music expressed our lonely, disenchanted cynicism, and though the music is great, music on the east coast is different, brighter, inclusive, and way happier. Even some of the sad songs. A lot more wholesome, too.
Rae and I are up to our eyeballs in weddings right now, so we were pretty late creating the blog for John Campbelljohn (who played June 23rd). So, we’re combining the images from that night with the images from Heather Rankin’s performance (on July 14th). There are also some images of the chefs from Oceanstone–Bryan, the executive chef who, when we arrived on site, was having his mohawk ironed–and Steve, who opened up for Heather Rankin and has a voice that could easily make the radio. Enjoy!