Kicking Down the Door with Whitehorse

I recently took in a concert at the London Music Hall with a good friend of mine. The band playing that night was Whitehorse – a Canadian folk-rock, husband-and-wife duo from Hamilton, Ont.

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(Photo courtesy of London Music Hall)

My boyfriend introduced me to Luke and Melissa’s music when we first started dating and I became an instant fan.

I first saw Whitehorse (and my friend was there too!) in July 2013 at Hillside Festival in Guelph where they closed out the main stage. It was my first time attending Hillside Festival and seeing Whitehorse live made it even more exciting and special.9425402706_1647bf19a1_z

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Whitehorse at Hillside Festival 2013. (Photos by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

I saw them again a couple months later in Waterloo at Starlight Social Club’s 10th Anniversary event.10526528374_bd5eaa77ff_z

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Whitehorse at Starlight Social Club 10th Anniversary. (Photos by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

The night at London Music Club was particularly special because I had won a pair of tickets, plus a VIP meet & greet with Luke and Melissa, and I got to share it all with my friend Duncan. Screen Shot 2017-11-13 at 1.28.13 PMApart from my boyfriend, I don’t think there’s anyone else who would have enjoyed it more than Duncan – I am so happy he could go with me!23658361_10155743953597464_5787873978799978188_nThe VIP meet & greet was hosted by Big Rock Brewery and included meeting Luke and Melissa a taking a photo with them, an intimate acoustic performance, a Big Rock Brewery x Whitehorse t-shirt and pint glass, as well as a signed copy of their new album Panther in the Dollhouse.24825866_10155790155477464_1645388485_oThe show opener was Begonia, who I really enjoy. I saw her at Hillside Festival this past July so I was excited to see her perform again.

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Begonia at Hillside Festival 2017. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

Here are some of my favourite Begonia songs:
Out of My Head – Begonia
Lady in Mind – Begonia
Juniper – Begonia

When it was time for Whitehorse to take the stage, Luke and Melissa made a point of “kicking down the door” of London Music Hall, and they did not disappoint.24879477_10155790129707464_1483591000_o24726236_10155790129467464_506099338_o24740184_10155790129822464_1136196990_o24825959_10155790131582464_2074414780_o24726067_10155790134852464_1568516218_oWhitehorse performed a lot of songs off their new album, with a handful of older favourites, such as ‘Achilles’ Desire’ (The Fate of the World Depends on This Kiss), ‘Tame as the Wild Ones’ and ‘Evangelina’ (both off of Leave No Bridge Unburned). It was awesome to hear Panther in the Dollhouse live because it is such unreal album that really tells a story:

“The pair makes a shift on this album from writing autobiographical songs to writing songs they refer to as “anti-fairytales,” written from the point of view of a cast of mostly female characters who grapple with issues of life, death, sex and love, all floating in an atmosphere of cinematic desert-noir.”

According to Whitehorse: “The title came from a dream. The dollhouse is a place of wholesome, conventional life. It is a perfect depiction of grown-up life based on childhood ideals and social conditioning. Enter the panther and suddenly the animal instincts we are all born with are knocking over these perfectly placed people and furniture. For better or worse, there is no ignoring this creature.”

CBC First Play: Whitehorse Panther in the Dollhouse

I LOVE every. single. song. on Panther in the Dollhouse.

Honestly.

My favourite songs of the night were obviously the two older ones I mentioned above, but also Panther in the Dollhouse‘s ‘Nighthawks’, ‘Boys Like You’, ‘Manitoba Death Star’, and ‘Epitaph in Tongues’.

At the end of the set they left the stage only to come back moments later to play a rendition of Neil Young’s ‘Ohio’ – SO GOOD. I loved hearing those bouncy riffs come out of Luke’s signature White Falcon.

It was an amazing night, to say the least. I am still thinking about it!

An Evening with Buffy Sainte-Marie

On the evening of August 7, my boyfriend and I travelled to Stratford for a very special concert, one that I had been looking forward to since the tickets first went on sale last December.

The tickets were a birthday gift from my boyfriend and they were to see a rare, solo performance by Buffy Sainte-Marie at the Avondale United Church. Buffy was performing as part of Stratford Summer Music, and to a sold-out crowd.

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(Photo by Matt Barnes Photography)

This show was the second time that I would see Buffy. I saw her for the first time at Hillside Festival 2016 in Guelph, Ont. where she closed out Sunday night on the main stage.

I’ve been a fan of Buffy for a very long time.

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Buffy Sainte-Marie at Hillside Festival 2016. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

The Stratford show was also a part of Buffy’s tour for the promotion of her new album Medicine Songs, which was slated for release on Nov. 10.

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(Photo courtesy of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s website)

Medicine Songs comes on the heels of her 2015 release Power in the Blood and revisits her material from the last 50-plus years of her career with new arrangements and lyrics. The album includes activist songs such as ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying’, ‘Universal Soldier’, ‘Little Wheel, Spin and Spin’, ‘Fallen Angels’, ‘Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee’, ‘Carry It On’, and ‘Star Walker’, to name a few.

It also features two new songs: ‘The War Racket’ (as well as an unplugged version), and ‘You Got to Run (Spirit of the Wind)‘ featuring Inuit throat singer Tanya Tagaq. Buffy also wrote two new sections to the Katherine Lee Bates and Samuel Ward classic ‘America the Beautiful’.

“This is a collection of front line songs about unity and resistance – some brand new and some classics – and I want to put them to work. These are songs I’ve been writing for over fifty years, and what troubles people today are still the same damn issues from 30-40-50 years ago: war, oppression, inequity, violence, rankism of all kinds, the pecking order, bullying, racketeering and systemic greed. Some of these songs come from the other side of that: positivity, common sense, romance, equity and enthusiasm for life.”

“I’ve found that a song can be more effective than a 400-page textbook. It’s immediate and replicable, portable and efficient, easy to understand – and sometimes you can dance to it. Effective songs are shared, person-to-person, by artists and friends, as opposed to news stories that are marketed by the fellas who may own the town, the media, the company store and the mine. I hope you use these songs, share them, and that they inspire change and your own voice.”

“It might seem strange that along with the new ones, I re-recorded and updated some of these songs from the past using current technologies and new instrumentations – giving a new life to them from today’s perspective. The thing is, some of these songs were too controversial for radio play when they first came out, so nobody ever heard them, and now is my chance to offer them to new generations of like-minded people dealing with these same concerns. It’s like the play is the same but the actors are new.”

“I really want this collection of songs to be like medicine, to be of some help or encouragement, to maybe do some good. Songs can motivate you and advance your own ideas, encourage and support collaborations and be part of making change globally and at home. They do that for me and I hope this album can be positive and provide thoughts and remedies that rock your world and inspire new ideas of your own.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie on her album Medicine Songs

At her Stratford show, she played so many of my favourites: ‘Cripple Creek’ (with her mouth bow!), ‘It’s My Way’, ‘Little Wheel Spin and Spin’, ‘Cod’ine’, ‘I’m Gonna Be a Country Girl Again’, ‘Sunday Blue’, ‘We Are Circling’, ‘Not the Lovin’ Kind’, ‘Cho Cho Fire’, ‘Farm in the Middle of Nowhere’, and ‘Generation’, to name a few.

She also played ‘Until It’s Time For You To Go’, ‘Darling Don’t Cry’, ‘Universal Soldier’, and ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying’ – songs that give me goosebumps and nearly bring me to tears every time I hear them.

In addition, she performed ‘The War Racket’ (she played it at Hillside as well!). She also performed a spoken word rendition of her song ‘Carry It On’ – similar to her 2016 JUNO Awards performance.

Buffy sounded amazing and sang with so much emotion. She really gave it her all and commanded the stage.

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Buffy Sainte-Marie at Hillside Festival 2016. (Photo by Steph Smith/@vagabond__photography)

At the end of the show, she was gracious enough to do a meet & greet, photos and autographs.

I got the chance to meet her and tell her how much I loved the show and her work. A dream come true!20638039_10155466299257464_4409231807838583900_n20727841_10155470119492464_1390729207449900192_nA very magical, wonderful and special evening – to say the least! One that I will remember forever.

Jam-Packed Weekend

Now that it is officially summer, a lot of events are happening around the City of London. This past weekend in particular was super fun, but also super busy!

First, we celebrated my birthday a couple of weeks early on Friday with a group of some very dear friends. The morning was a bit worrisome because it had rained… and rained, and rained!  Luckily it ended up holding off just in time so we could go mini golfing at the Tin Cup!After we went for dinner at Beertown Public House where I had the Crispy Chicken Sandwich with a side of french fries and gravy. It was probably the best crispy chicken I’ve ever had, if I’m being honest – it was so flavourful and was crisped to perfection. The sandwich came on a sesame seed bun with lettuce, tomato, Gruyère, roasted garlic aïoli and pickled jalapeños (YUM!)

Where we were sitting was unfortunately too dark for photos, but I can tell you the food was delicious and I would highly recommend it if you’re having a hard time deciding on what to get!

After, most of us headed back to my apartment for drinks and boardgames. It was a great way to end the night! Everyone was too full for cake, so I sent everyone home with their slice. It was a very beautiful cake given to me by my boyfriend, and it was delicious too!

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On Saturday evening we headed out with our friends Lenny, Heather and Eric to check out the Appleseed Cider Festival – an event that celebrates Ontario Craft Cider producers and their cider products!I tried four different ciders, three were from KW Craft Cider in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ont. and the other was from the County Cider Company in Waupoos, Ont. The ones from KW Craft Cider were Cherrymint, Thai Ginger, and Canadian Shield Berries. The one I tried from County Cider Co. was called Feral.The Cherrymint cider was good, you could really taste the mint on the end notes. This cider was very tart – I would consider it to be a dry cider, but I’m not sure. All-in-all it was good, but I don’t know if I would buy it.

The Thai Ginger cider was very unique, but tasted great! You could really taste the hot green Thai chili peppers, but the taste was well-balanced out by the ginger spice. I sampled a chili pepper beer in Santa Fe, and the flavour and heat of the pepper were very overwhelming. This cider would be great on a hot day, especially if you’re looking for something to sip on.

The Canadian Shield Berries cider was delicious! It tasted like… sparkly juice! (If sparkly juice were a thing and had a flavour haha). You could taste the tartness of the currants and cranberries, but also the sweetness of the raspberries, blueberries and strawberries. I normally am cautious of ‘strawberry’ flavours, as I find they can come out too strongly for my liking. There’s nothing wrong with strawberry, it’s just not my preference!

The Feral cider was by far my most favourite. It’s a combination of County Cider Co.’s Waupoos Premium cider – an off-dry cider with tangy apple flavour – and wild raspberries and cranberries. I’m a big fan of cranberry juice, and so I was pleased when I could really taste the cranberry at the beginning and then the raspberry at the end. I think I will be calling in an order, since Feral is not sold in LCBO stores!

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On Sunday afternoon we checked out the International Food Festival in Victoria Park.We got there at a really great time, and there was tons of food to choose from. I went with a beef and lamb gyro from Sammy’s Souvlaki.I forgot to take a photo before digging in… so worth it though! Mmm.

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You can tell that summer is finally here in Ontario – there is so much to do and see during this time of year. I look forward to sharing my summer adventures with you!

If you’re from Canada – what are you doing this Canada Day long weekend, and do you have any special plans for Canada 150?

☀︎ ☀︎ ☀︎

Keystone Alley, Stratford

The other night, my boyfriend and I met up with some friends for dinner at the Keystone Alley in Stratford.Malba Pudding, Keystone Alley in StratfordWe were going out because it has been so long since we’ve all been able to get together, and it was also a chance to celebrate my boyfriend’s acceptance at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland for his PhD, and our friend Drew’s acceptance for his medical residency at a hospital in Calgary.

For all of us, this was our first time checking out Keystone Alley. The menu had so many delicious-looking options, I was unsure if I would be able to decide!Menu at Keystone Alley, StratfordFunnily, most of us actually ended up choosing something off the of the three-course Bistro Menu, which made deciding a lot easier because it listed a couple of options and you just had to make the difficult decision of choosing one of them for each course.Bistro Menu, Keystone AlleyMy boyfriend chose the Smoked Trout for his appetizer, which came with pickled vegetables, horseradish and a caper cream. I chose the Greens – a salad of mixed spring greens, with grapes, almonds, pistachio goat cheese and poppy seed vinaigrette. One word: Perfection.The Greens, Keystone Alley in StratfordFor our main course, we both chose the Ale Braised Beef Brisket, which came in a Forked River beer reduction, with roasted heirloom carrots, Brussels sprouts, crispy polenta. It was Heaven on a plate, seriously!The Beef Brisket, Keystone Alley in StratfordUnsurprisingly, we both chose the same dessert – A South African pudding called ‘Malva’ that is made with apricot jam, cream and butter. It was deliciously spongy and sweet. It was served warm with vanilla ice cream.Malba Pudding, Keystone Alley in StratfordIf you are ever in Stratford and looking for somewhere to go for lunch or dinner, I highly recommend Keystone Alley. In addition to inventive and flavourful food, the restaurant also has a great atmosphere.

Take a walk along the Avon River, see a show at one of of the theatres and then stop for a bite to eat at Keystone Alley. You won’t regret it!