Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

Hackett: The power of music

As tempted as I am to go one more round with the Sovereignty Act, in the spirit of Christmas and the holiday season, I decided to write about a little more joy.

This past week I was lucky enough to attend a pair of concerts at Bo’s Bar and Stage and they really got me thinking.

The first was the Sheepdogs, who put on an absolutely fantastic show. I’ve seen them a handful of times, mostly back in my Ontario days. I also saw them once in Grande Prairie at a place called Better than Fred’s. With a group of mostly people I didn’t know, that show brought me plenty of joy.

As I was listening to the Sheepdogs play tunes, in particular, one called Southern Dreaming, I was transported back to nights around the campfire in my early 20s, when my close group of friends first heard of them.

In that moment, not only was I enjoying the show for the company I was with, I marvelled at music’s ability to transport me back to those days and deliver such vivid memories. Like a soundtrack playing over a montage or a movie.

The second show last week was the hometown favourite, Dear Rogue. It was my first time seeing them and they rocked out. Danielle McTaggart and her group know how to put on a show. They killed it.

She brought her mom on stage and they sang a duet – wasn’t a dry eye in the place. It’s tough for me to say for sure, but it seemed like they brought a little bit extra to show off for their hometown crowd. There was a special energy in that building that night; the magic of music was on full display.

That isn’t just the beer talking, either.

I’ve been so fortunate in my life to see so many bands and concerts and the feeling that live music gives you – there’s simply nothing like it.

When Alanis Morissette played on Roger’s Place this summer, I closed my eyes and I was back in my parent’s mini-van, where my dad played a cassette of hers, of course turning down the music for one of her less colourful lyrics.

She is an unbelievably talented artist and that show was so powerful and special, even if the songs were 20-plus years old.

I saw the Arkells at Roger’s Place in September and we had floor tickets, just a few metres away from the band I had idolized since I first saw them in 2008, during frosh week at university back in Ontario.

I have played every album they have back to front and worn out a number of their CDs on drives across Ontario. I had a sore throat the next day after that show, it was just so uplifting.

They have been the soundtrack of so many moments in my life it’s tough to pinpoint just one. Their song Champagne Socialist is one of my all-time favourites – it was a staple in my student house. I can see the grungy, sticky-floored living room with a tacky couch and a pool table we swindled off someone on the internet, vividly as ever.

I can see my roommates singing it loud as we head out on the town. That album, called Jackson Square, to this day is still one of my all-time favourite albums.

I held my future wife’s hand at the show in Edmonton and we both belted out some of our favourite tunes. When I hear their songs now, the joy on her face and the simplistic delight I felt in that moment, will stick with me for a long time.

My all-time concert experience was seeing the Tragically Hip at their first show of their last tour. It moved me and there were people in literal tears after they left the stage. The power of music is magical.

Any time I hear the song Long Time Running, I think of Gord Downie and what he must have went through to put on that tour and bring Canadians together with his music. He touched so many people– it’s remarkable to think of the power one man and his words had on an entire generation.

The Hip also played on Canada Day in 2011 at Downsview Park in Ontario. People as far as the eye could see. Shoulder to shoulder.

In between Weezer and the hip, the crowd broke out in a rendition on O’Canada, unprompted. Just people coming together to honour Canada, strangers standing arm in arm, singing our national anthem. It was beautiful and holds a special place in my heart, even a decade later.

When I look back on all this, it makes me proud to be able to live such a privileged existence up to this point; to have experienced so much music that will have an everlasting impact on my life.

I hope my anecdotes and my thesis help you to think back to those special moments at a show or a song that transports you to a memory you thought might be lost in the ether.

Byron Hackett is the Managing Editor of the Red Deer Advocate.

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