Heartbreaking Bravery

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2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Sonia Weber)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Sonia Weber had an incredibly impressive run in 2016. Not only did Weber’s own project, Alien Boy, release an outstanding record but the two of us met when Weber was touring as part of Mo Troper‘s band on the back of a record that was one of this site’s Album of the Year picks. Not everything was positive, though, and in this piece, the multi-talented musician turns a lens on some personal anguish. It’s a poignant piece that effortlessly invokes an empathetic response and one of the most personal pieces to ever grace this series. Read it below and then let the good, important people in your life know that they have your love.

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For almost everyone I talk to 2016 has been a shit show. For me personally, it’s unbelievable how different my life is now compared to the beginning of the year. I met Steven (who asked me to contribute to this) on my first full US tour, I don’t even really remember where. It was somewhere before Chicago. It was hot, we were tired, we went bowling, I got drunk, and the show was great. That’s how almost every day went, and I was happy.

I had spent the first half of the year more depressed than I’ve ever been. My favorite person in the whole world wasn’t in my life anymore, my mental health was at an all time low, and her new date was my co-worker. It’s was like ground hogs day for heartbreak. I wasn’t feeling better because reliving it in my head a hundred times a week was turning me into a barely functioning anxiety blob.

This is the point in the story where my brother Jacob would tell me that “I’m not special”. A joke we started on Thanksgiving as we were comparing horror stories of 2016. And I agree, everyone gets their heart broken. I’m not special.

Steven asked me what moment meant the most to me in 2016. I don’t know if I can say this “meant the most to me” but it sure does stand out.

The moment I lashed out. The moment I found the part of me that was mean and angry. One long angry (embarrassing) text message. Something I had never really done before. It made me feel sick. I was exhausted and sad and tired of everyone else getting to act like an asshole. I decided that night half drunk in bed that I wanted to be an asshole. And that was that. A messy break turned into a clean break.

I don’t know if I meant it, and I don’t know if it was worth it.

I haven’t talked to her in 7 months now. I think about her everyday. I wish I could tell her I loved her and that I really do hope she’s happy. Sometimes I almost do.

The seven or eight weeks between that and tour I just tried to distract myself. I tried not to hate myself for doing it (only worked sometimes). I still thought about her every day but it was easier thinking that maybe she hated me.

And then I left. And I still thought about her every day, but I was far away. And then farther away. And I sometimes was happy.

I have since returned and it still fucking sucks. But with low lows comes high highs, and every once in a while I can make myself feel like it was all supposed to happen like this (right before I turn back into the raging angry monster I unleashed who now makes bi-monthly appearances).

One day I won’t think about her every day. Or maybe I will.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (John Rossiter)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

One of the bands that Heartbreaking Bravery was built to celebrate was Young Jesus. Ever since Home, the band’s been consistently releasing some of the best material of any year they put something out. The band’s leader, John Rossiter (pictured left), has been kind enough to provide this site with a whole array of material for premieres and publishing, including a piece for the last edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories. Rossiter’s graciously returning for this year’s edition with a piece examining some moments on the bands tours and revelations gleaned from introspection. Read it below.

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Too many thoughts for this year. Too too many. I don’t even know where to begin and I think that’s part of the point– part of this dark and swirling and sordid winter of a U.S. soul. There’s no single laser-focus problem or answer (I know this is nothing new but I don’t know what else to write).

I wanna write to you like I know you. Maybe we’ve played the same houses, seen the same bands, read the same books. And still you are DISTANT— on some computer or phone (like me right now). There are strands here though, the tiniest bridges or strings. Cobwebs connecting us in some real tenuous ways. Tenuous but they’re there. Together in the no-answer?

This year was, like the last few years, full of touring, recording, work. We played an exhausted two hour improv set in Yorkville, IL where (looking back on it) we probably sounded something like Phish meets Neu!. I got a fever in Houston and missed out on Fuddruckers. Slept on a ranch with ten huskies and a few horse in the middle of a Dallas thunderstorm. Time’s gone gauzy and Like Bill Callahan said in “Jim Cain“, “I used to be darker, then I got lighter, then I got dark again. Something too big to be seen was passing over and over me.”

There was a line from a tune we released this year, where it culminates in me yelling, “I am ashamed to believe in myself!” The more I think about it, the more the whole idea changes. Maybe it doesn’t matter whether I believe in myself. I’ve come to believe in the constant flux construction of it all– the distance and intimacy between me, Eric, Kern, Marcel (the band)– our families, our friends, people at shows– the daily strange process of living.

I’m trying to grant it a certain vigilance and respect and thought. Consideration of space (for people, for things). I don’t know you but I believe in this daily effort, the slow strengthening of our tiny strings. There are Too-Big-Things passing over us. We’ll be around. I’m not sure what kinda model to follow, how our music should be released, at what level our actions need to speak of resistance and care. But I wanna talk about it and hear what you think.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Lindsay Hazen)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Last year Lindsay Hazen contributed an astounding piece to this series that focused on using music as a means of coping. This time around, Hazen continues to celebrate the music that makes life worth living. In a chronicling of great shows, artists, and records, Hazen also offers a unique window into some personal experiences accrued throughout 2016. As always, the writing’s compelling, swift, and lands with impact. It’s a beautiful piece that more than deserves anyone’s time. Tackle it in full below.

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I saw Weaves at a free NXNE showcase at Sonic Boom’s temporary location on Bathurst. They played with Courtney Barnett, Army Girls, and Baby Eagle. My partner and I got day-tipsy on free French beer and did the annoying thing we do in record stores where we walk around and then yell to each other excitedly about things we want. Or… I did. You don’t understand Weaves until you see them. Jasmyn Burke trembles. She commands your attention. She is a diva in the most positive of connotations. She is extremely kind.

I saw her with her band RatTail at the Drake Underground. She shone then, too. Angular, jagged guitar, insistent drums complement her voice in many of the songs on Weaves’ self-titled debut. Morgan Waters was the best thing about his previous band, Sweet Thing (whom you might remember for being the ridiculously catchy song from Easy A that wasn’t “Pocket Full Of Sunshine” by Natasha Bedingfield). I saw them at the Mod Club with Allie Hughes, one of the best moments from the first year I lived in Toronto (a period of my life I have to actively try not to romanticize).

I saw PUP a couple of years ago, on a snowy night in Toronto (the second time), at a show in the public library in Yorkville. They played with Alvvays. They covered “Sabotage” by The Beastie Boys. I remember how I felt my body tremble when they began to play “Reservoir”. I listen to it when I get really bad panic attacks. I can’t help but feel the carpet of the library under my feet, I can’t help but breathe – let the song expand inside me, let my heart race along with it and spend my nervous energy. What’s left to lose? What am I supposed to do now? Nothing. Anything I can, anything I want. I knew what I was doing after all. PUP is that kind of band. They’re a band that lifts. Unites. Makes songs into anthems; crowds into tempests; energy into things that matter.

PUP makes The Dream being over sound like taking the pill that wakes you up from The Matrix and into 2016. It feels like true things that you can’t say to the ones you love. It feels like Canada – expansive, yet claustrophobic at the same time. Dark corners in which you can lose yourself. Being snowblind in the sun. I was sad they didn’t win the Polaris. I was more thrilled than I can express that 2016 was very much The Year of PUP. They can only get better.

When I’m 70 I can’t wait to get sweaty in the crowd of geriatric PUP fans and pay $250 to see them at the Skydome or something equally arena-esque and brag to my grandchildren that I knew they were rockstars when I read about a band called Topanga in Exclaim! I knew what I was doing after all. When I left the library it was snowing, but I held my jacket in my arms and let the cold embrace me. I was numb on the subway home. My lungs were killing me, I didn’t even get high. I knew what I was doing after all.

I saw The Lonely Parade in Taco Pica, which hosts its fair share of Saint John’s local DIY shows. I went with my two friends. I acted like a dork. I was ridiculously excited. Their song “Stomach” is one of my favourite songs of all time. I was not prepared for their set. I wish I had been less self-conscious and danced. They were so fucking ridiculously groovy. No Shade, their startlingly wonderful album from this year, is mixed to sound cool and dry. It sounds… acerbic.

It sounds witty. In person their sound is heavy and warm, surrounding you. The bass lines flow like lava, weaving through the percussion. Watching “Johnny Utah” literally dropped my jaw. The guitar solo in “Girl“… I cannot speak more highly of their musicianship. “No AM” is a real highlight of the album, the use of reverb and the rhythmic patterns remind me of Controller.Controller, and I get another amazing guitar solo I can embarrassingly rock out to at the bus stop.

I was lucky enough to see Casper Skulls, Chastity, Blessed, Billy Moon, Sheik, and hand-drawn (RIP). I was able to watch producer-composer-engineer Artifiseer (Ian Livingstone) and Arkanjello (Gabe Williams) the musical polyglot who crafted my favourite record of 2017 (so far), Vegan Songs, evolve as artists and work with found sound and imagery grounded in real experiences of maritime life. Gabe has a singing voice like a young Bowie. He has programming sensibility of Caribou on a Grimes and Lana Del Rey listening kick, and makes songs that are frenetic – kaleidoscopic almost. There’s a beautiful fracturing in his tones.

I am glad that the world finally found out that Toronto has long been the source of some of the best punk music in history (Martha and the Muffins, anyone?) and is home to some of the world’s legendary spaces – spaces that feel like home to any music person. The Horseshoe Tavern and Lee’s Palace are more a part of me than any house I have ever lived in. New spaces are opening all the time. I can’t count how many shows I’ve wished I could see at Smiling Buddha this year that made my heart ache from across the country.

But right now, pay attention to New Brunswick. Sackville has Sappyfest and bands the likes of Partner and Baby Eagle. Fredericton is also a DIY hotbed with deep relationships with the Halifax and Montreal scenes. And Saint John, my adopted home, is a place where people make pain and struggle into beauty, make some innovative venue spaces that give diverse artists a voice – including the Panic Room, Taco Pica, live performances at the City Market, and the historic Imperial Theatre.

We lost so much this year, so many people, so many dreams, so many fights. But we have fought, won, reclaimed, rejoiced. As a community we yelled, donated, protested, protected, aided, loved and learned so much this year. 2016 is the year that we declared music our home and our sanctuary. We are going into 2017 blind to the future but facing it together.

‘You have the right to be mad, but when you carry it alone you find it only getting in the way.’ In 2016, music carried us. We let it inspire us and drive us and effect real change and use art to be as selfless as our empty wallets and full hearts let us be. Thank you to the artists I’ve seen perform, the people whose lyrics and riffs and beats made me want to be a better person than I was yesterday. And thank you to Saint John for being my shelter in a world that sometimes feels like its falling apart.

2016: A Year’s Worth of Memories (Phil McAndrew)

Heartbreaking Bravery recently went offline but all facets of the site are back to being fully operational. Apologies for any inconveniences. All posts that were slated to run during that brief hiatus will appear with this note.

Somewhere over the past few years, Phil McAndrew became a vital part of Heartbreaking Bravery. The band McAndrew plays in, The Nudes, was kind enough to offer a song to the site for a premiere spot, he’s contributed to every edition of A Year’s Worth of Memories, and gifted the A Step Forward compilation with it’s gorgeous album art. A gifted musician, writer, and artist, McAndrew turns the attention to the time he set up a show for the first time. It’s a heartening read that can (and should) be explored below. Enjoy.

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Right at the beginning of 2016 my pal Isabel sent me a message. Isabel was planing to take their band Izzy True out on the road in the spring with Painted Zeros and they were looking to play a show here in my zone, in Syracuse, New York. They asked if The Nudes would want to play too (I play drums in The Nudes) and wondered if I could set it up.

I’d played many shows before and I’d been recruited to draw flyers for a lot of shows over the years, but I’d never set a show up myself. I’d always been happy to let other people handle that stuff because it seemed like a lot of work and I don’t even really know how a guitar amp works. But I said yes, I will set this show up. So I asked my friend Jon (Spit Fam Tapes), who I was pretty sure had some idea of how guitar amps work, if he could help me run a show and he agreed.

Fast forward to April. The Nudes had finished recording some new songs and were scrambling to get a new tape ready in time for the show, which was set for April 9th and had swelled to a massive five band show. In addition to Painted Zeros, Izzy True and The Nudes, Crusher was coming up from Brooklyn to play and Real Things was coming up from New Paltz, New York.

All five bands were connected in some beautiful way – Izzy True were touring with their good friends and Don Giovanni label mates Painted Zeros. Painted Zeros had a practice space in Brooklyn right next to Crusher and had been helping Crusher record some songs. My brother Ray was playing bass in Crusher. My bandmate and roommate Shauna was good friends with Real Things drummer Kate, who I am pretty sure had previously played in a band with Izzy True drummer Angela.

I’d been pulling all-nighters for weeks trying to hit a final deadline for a graphic novel that I’d spent a year and a half illustrating. After staying up all night on April 7th, I’d managed to finish work on the book at 5:55 am on April 8. I slept for a few hours and then went with Shauna to a print shop to print inserts for the new tapes that we’d been working on. I was feeling very bonkers and scattered and exhausted, but also super powerful and full of excitement.

The next day I ran a bunch of errands and then met Jon at the venue, Spark Contemporary Art Space. Jon is a chef by day and he’d made food for the show and we had free coffee for anyone that wanted it and beer for anyone that knew to ask for it. We got the space set up and puttered around listening to music from my laptop, waiting for people (and bands) to show up. I had no idea if anyone would come! My worst fear was that nobody would come and I’d have to send four touring bands on their way with little or no money. Luckily somewhere between 100 and 150 people came (which most of the time is unheard of in Syracuse) and had fun.

Jon ran sound and I manned the door. We recruited our friend Brendan to do some live projector light art stuff, so the bands played with a backdrop of swirling liquid colors and lights. Everyone got wild and shredded. I don’t say this to toot my own horn, but it truly was one of the best shows I’ve seen in Syracuse, not only because of the quality of the bands that played but also because the space seemed to be actually glowing and pulsating with love and good vibes.

A drunk man hugged me at the end of the show and said “please do this again.” Another person told me that it was the first show they could remember seeing where they felt compelled to buy a record or tape from every single band that played. After the show Isabel gave me some Mœbius trading cards that they picked up on earlier on tour at a comic shop in Portland, OR, a gift that I still treasure and keep near my drawing space as a memento of this perfect day.

We had a total of thirteen or fourteen touring musicians who needed a place to crash that night. The sleepiest handful of rockers went and buried themselves in blankets at my dear sweet parents’ house after the show, which at the time was only about a mile away. Everybody else stayed up all night hanging out at my house. Jared of Painted Zeros was turning a year older at midnight that night and he demanded that people stay up and finish a bottle of whiskey with him. I remember being up very late in my kitchen, laughing with Jared and Jon and my brother Ray and Crusher’s drummer Kat. Eventually every nook and cranny of my apartment was filled with sleeping people, like the opening scene in Muppets From Space where characters are popping out of cabinets and bathtubs and dresser drawers.

Someone told me a few days later that it was the first time they could remember seeing a show in Syracuse where none of the bands that played were fronted by dudes. I know for a fact that there had been other shows here in recent memory where most, if not all of the bands, were fronted by people who are not dudes. But this person was right to point out that this is sadly a rarity here in Syracuse. And when it does happen, the show is often promoted as an “all girl band show!” or something. So I made it my mission to continue booking shows and to normalize shows where all or even half the people playing music are women (or people who don’t identify as male).

I realized that by continuing to occasionally take on the responsibility of booking shows (and helping friends with shows that they’re booking), I’ve been able to have some small bit of influence on the local music scene in ways that I think and hope are very positive. Plus, I get to make sure that bands that I am really excited about come through town every so often. I ended up booking a bunch of shows throughout the rest of the 2016 and already have one coming up in 2017 with two of my favorite bands.