Thursday, July 16, 2009

Love This Town

Joel Plaskett is a pretty flawed songwriter. He's written lyrics that make me blush, cringe, and shake my head. He needs an editor. His friends should have told him about how lame it is to rhyme "extraordinary" with "ordinary," and not to have included this couplet in the chorus of one of his songs. One of his biggest hits, as it would turn out. It's not even a rhyme when it's the same word! And come on, Joel, you don't have to deconstruct the word "extraordinary" for us! Give your fans a little more credit!

But then again, I kind of think this sloppiness is endearing. Cute. Genuine. And I somehow let it go, with him. I don't think I'd let anyone else in the world get away with the stuff I let Joel Plaskett get away with. He's one of my favourites, and I think he's one of the best. In spite of.

I tell a lot of people, when asked, that I moved to Halifax because of Sloan. Which is the short answer. Sloan and most of the other groups who made up the scene that had been touted as the "next Seattle," and which I'd romanticized in high school, had broken up or moved to bigger centres. Bands like Eric's Trip, Leonard Conan, and jale. But Joel Plaskett's band, Thrush Hermit - I got to be here for the end of them.

The very first time I saw Thrush Hermit play was in Toronto, at an early Edgefest being held at Ontario Place. Their whole set consisted of Steve Miller Band covers. It was awfully unexpected and hilarious and fun. The next and only other time I saw them was for one of their last performances, at the earliest incarnation of the Marquee, about a year after I moved here.

Joel, he keeps high school close and, well, I do too. I don't know what it's about. Not having kids? Not having grown-up responsibilities to keep my self-indulgence at bay? Or maybe I'm not that special, and it really is a universal thing he's tapping into. Maybe so many of us are so wistful about our pasts, our "glory days" as New Jersey's Plaskett might say it.

Another thing I love is his consideration of place. It wasn't long after my friend Tim copied his Smeared cd onto a cassette for me that Sloan were high tailing it out of here. It's not just in this one song that Plaskett asserts the importance of remaining in Halifax/Dartmouth despite the city's small size. ("All my friends, where did they go?"/"To Montreal, Toronto.")

When Joel Plaskett played "Love This Town" last night, he changed the last verse. He gave Kelowna a break after Kelowna gave him one. He said he "wasn't afraid to change [his] tune."

It's been more than a decade since Sloan recorded an album that impressed me, even a little. Plaskett, he makes me shake my head sometimes and then two minutes later he makes me want to call an old friend from high school, or else walk these friendly, familiar Halifax streets.

I can't think of a better or more appropriate location at which to watch Canada Day fireworks than in Dartmouth, at Alderney Landing, listening to Joel Plaskett play his songs about this place.

Canada: it's a fine country. I'm glad I live here because it means I don't have to go through customs when I want to see my mom or the mountains or the prairies. But it was a sense of civic pride, not national pride, that I felt on Canada Day, looking up at that stage, and then across the harbour. It's not about why I came, but how I came. And it's about why I stay, most of all.


I have several half-finished blog entries. I've got to get something out. So I'm just getting this out there, knowing I hit some sloppy notes but also knowing I got it right in some places, and I think, considering, that this action is fitting.

Joel Plaskett opened up for great big Paul McCartney last week-end, in little old Halifax, and a field full of impassioned music lovers sang along to this tune, nearly drowning him out. I hope Paul was listening.

Love This Town - Joel Plaskett

Listen up kid
It’s not what you think
Staying up too late
Had a little too much to drink
Walked home across the bridge
When the Marquee shut down
There’s a reason that I love this town

Nobody cares how much money you have
If you’ve got enough to get in a cab
There’ll be drinks on the house if your house burns down
There’s a reason that I love this town

I saw your band in the early days
We all understand why you moved away
We’ll hold a grudge anyway

I shot the shit with Miniature Tim
If he needs a tune, then I’ll write one for him
We like the same books and we like the same sounds
There’s a reason that I love this town

I played a show
In Kelowna last year
They said pick it up Joel
We’re dying in here
Picture one hand clapping
And picture half that sound
There’s a reason that I hate that town

If you saw my band in the early days
Then you’ll understand why we moved away
But you’ll hold a grudge anyway
Because it’s fun

Davey and me
Face down in our soup
In some French restaurant
Outside Riviere Du Loup
Last night out on tour
We burned the place to the ground
There’s a reason that I love this town
There’s a reason that I love this town
There’s a reason that I love this town


Ryan Patey said...

Between Wintersleep and Joel there are a million moments in my life that were connected to a song or a line, and it may be part of the reason why I have found this city hard to leave at points. I was worried I would not see them that often, if at all, if I lived somewhere else.
Of course, now that they're both bigger I can move pretty much anywhere and pay the old cover price I once payed at Hell's Kitchen to see the JPE on a month of Mondays.

Mike Campbell said...

I get Plaskett blog alerts, so ran across this one. Very thoughtful and well-written. I moved to Halifax in 1992, and was involved in the scene myself. I actually shot the final Thrush Hermit show at The Marquee and wound up part of Plaskett's management team. He's worth his salt in every way...

Anyway, recognized Ryan and thought I'd remind him that I started the Month of Mondays in Hell and Plaskett's run during that promotion was my favourite month of the whole series - as I knew it would be. Remember Tim Brennan's Lou Reed take?

Hope you're well. Drop in to the best new live venue in Halifax (which Plaskett opened, of course), The Carleton on Argyle Street...


Amelia Chester said...

Thanks for the kind words, both of you.

Patey, I often associate Joel Plaskett with you. He and Sarah Harmer were pretty much the default artists-that-Ryan-and-Amelia-can-agree-on when we were both stuck working the counter at Sam's. And that time we drove to Saint John. Holy hell, that would have been a long drive with a Wintersleep soundtrack. ;)

Steph said...

Yes! Yes! So glad you're posting again.