Feeling lacklustre? Try live music!

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A photograph of Hotel Mira performing at Louis' in Saskatoon on February 1, 2024. The photo was taken in the section closest to the stage where people stand to watch the show, and there are other show attendees also taking photos or videos in the shot.
Hotel Mira performing at Louis’ in Saskatoon on Feb 1, 2024. Holly Funk

If you’ve been sucked into a rut, find things that help you appreciate beauty

One of my favourite causes of joy throughout my early 20s was going to live music shows, though with 2020’s sudden COVID-19 onset, this pastime of mine ground to a halt.  

I used to get out to a couple dozen shows a year at The Exchange, The Artesian, and The Mercury among other venues, but I think I only really made it to three shows between January 2020 and December 2023. I’m now in my late 20s and am just realizing how much missing out on shows was impacting me, because I’m getting to see how much more readily I appreciate beauty when I do go. 

Standing in a crowd of total strangers and watching someone’s face light up as the band starts to play the first few chords of their favourite song. Noticing people hold their loved ones extra close during sweet songs, tears flowing down cheeks during heavy-hitters, or experiencing absolute elation as they lose all self-consciousness while dancing.  

In January, I decided I wanted to go see a show on my birthday, and after some peeking around I discovered that Halle Ponton, Bears in Hazenmore, and Marissa Burwell were slotted to play at The Exchange that exact night. I’d never heard anything from any of these artists beforehand but decided, what the heck, if it winds up being a great show then I’ll have some good stories and if it winds up being a terrible show, I’ll still have some good stories. 

Ponton’s range in vocal tone immediately put a grin on my face, and the bass player funk-slapping through a grungy country song had me smiling for days after (somehow it just worked). Bears in Hazenmore was another highlight with Dalton Lam’s brass accents being a particularly memorable favourite, while Marissa Burwell’s honey-warm voice and Chris Dimas break-down-frowning as he drummed behind was a beautiful contrast.  

Another show I went to at The Exchange this January featured Fake Shark, as well as Hotel Mira who was headlining a tour for their first time. I’d only heard one of Hotel Mira’s songs beforehand and none of Fake Shark’s, but I kept my attitude from the show earlier in January: let’s go and just see how things go.  

Even though I went in with no expectations, Fake Shark was underwhelming. Specifically lead singer Kevin Maher who said no fewer than seven times throughout the set, “We’re your new favourite band: Fake Shark!”  

I simply can’t agree. The band did a fantastic job and maintained good chemistry, but in everything from costume to timing to intensity and general demeanor, Maher stuck out like a sore thumb. 

Once Hotel Mira started playing, however, my attitude took a 180-degree turn as I was enraptured by lead singer Charlie Kerr. His voice live was better than any recording I’ve heard of him before or since, his magnetic charm and cheeky grins wooed the crowd from the start, and he never shied away from an opportunity to welcome those attending to participate (an inside joke for those who attended: fuck Taylor).  

I enjoyed Hotel Mira so much that after the show I mentioned I’d be excited to see them again anytime the opportunity came up, and a delightful darling of a man who I went to the show with slyly mentioned that they’d be playing at Louis’ in Saskatoon the next night.  

We ultimately decided to make the drive. Fake Shark was a bit more bearable (only four “We’re your new favourite band!” comments this time), and Hotel Mira maintained my excitement to such an extent I had their newest album on repeat for weeks afterward.  

Attending live music again has helped to enhance my ability to appreciate beauty. Sometimes that beauty is watching someone dance with abandon, sometimes it’s a wondrous unity you feel belting out lyrics with everyone else in the crowd, and sometimes it’s pure admiration for the artists’ skills and creativity.  

Long story short, I’ve learned that I feel more constant joy when in the habit of appreciation, so I’ll be continuing to make live music a priority in my life and I’d encourage you to do the same.  

Even if you know none of the bands at a given show, you’ll come away with good stories. Hell, maybe you’ll even see me there.  

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