Hawksley’s (Virtual) Night in Canada

My body has caught up to life’s 4th decade. That quick step is nowhere near as light, priorities have changed, and experiencing live music impedes my ability to have a full night’s rest. Yes, a great night’s rest takes precedence over a show. In another life, I’d attend upwards of 40 shows per year, today that number can be tallied on a hand. The younger version of myself is embarrassed, shamefully shaking his head and inevitably asking, How could this be?

It’s a matter of priorities and the logistical challenge of disappearing for an evening. The opportunity costs of experiencing live music are not what they once were. As surreal as that is to my younger self, attending a live show isn’t an option today.

Enter the virtual show. It’s something I have come to appreciate, dare I say, prefer. Online gigs provide simple access, clear sightlines, flexibility on where you watch, and creative segments the live experience does not.

Hawksley Workman, the singer/songwriter with chameleon-like artistry and the power to alter trajectories, put on a show from his father-in-law’s basement. He billed it as 75 minutes, beginning at 8 PM EST, and required a ticket; ideal duration, amazing set time, and Hawksley’s done me a few solids, so the chance to support him was a privilege. His set included recent winners like “Battlefords”, a nostalgic, uplifting trip down rural Canadian roads; 2001’s melodically catchy “Your Beauty Must Be Rubbing Off”, an intense vocal exercise proclaiming the beauty in a loved one; and thankfully, “Safe and Sound”, Workman’s delicate folk creation assuring his lover she chose wisely. 75 minutes gave Hawksley time to pull songs from many albums and showcase what one can do with a virtual gig.

Workman’s trailer for his gig spoke of “Pet Songs” and “Hawk Talk” as special segments. The latter took me back to a previous period any music fan remembers. You’re listening to the radio, the DJ is whetting your appetite with tickets to an upcoming sold-out gig. “After the break…at the top of the hour…” Then all of a sudden, it’s go time, and the listener with the fastest fingers is now on the air! You might be the lucky caller who’s two tickets richer to this coveted show! That caller who got on the air was absolutely floored, sometimes speechless, and their enthusiasm was contagious – jealously became your middle name. This gig recreated that momentous moment.

At a small club, it’s not unusual to have the opportunity to be face-to-face with an artist; merch table, their journey to the stage, crossing paths with them on the sidewalk, etc. Today’s equivalent of that experience is “Hawk Talk”, a chance to speed dial your way into Hawksley’s Workman’s studio and converse with him via his landline phone. A legitimate Peterborough, Ontario, Canada number flashed across our screen and the race began. My mobile shows 13 failed calls to break into Hawksley’s basement. Numerous lucky fans, as other salivating, jealous fans watched on, conversed directly with Hawksley. My wife and I didn’t need an intermission, and certainly wouldn’t have requested the music to stop. But this unexpected moment made us smile, discuss what we would have said, and appreciate his creativity even more.

Through these times, a slightly nuanced day, an upcoming experience you place on the calendar, and an opportunity to witness a highly coveted artist when other musicians might be lying dormant is special. The virtual gig will play on during this period, and my hope is that the potential has been showcased for it to extend beyond this quarantined era. When venue doors open, and your favorite band rolls into town, attend, enjoy every moment of it. In the meantime, artists making unconventional moves to entertain you deserve your support. It’s this support today that will bring them back tomorrow.

Live music is an experience, it’s one that we can attest to be life-affirming, and now it’s been taken away. Sadly, the power to see live music can be fleeting as life evolves. This period has me striving to be more present and bask in all moments of joy. Regardless of the medium, wax, streaming, a dirty rock club’s PA, or in the intimacy of my home, comfortably seated next to my wife as Hawksley Workman’s powerful voice and imaginative pop creations virtually strike us, it’s music that continues to be the consistent joy.

2 Responses to “Hawksley’s (Virtual) Night in Canada”

  1. May 30, 2020 at 11:15 am

    Dude, that’s the real deal. I actually went out and listened to the Tree album because of you. I need to give him more listens in general.
    You know, I agree, after this is all said and done I hope some of this virtual stuff continues. I’ve been streaming Lolla for the last three years and I love it. But some of these basement shows, I think this shit is the future especially for us with families who, like you said, can’t always get out.

  2. June 1, 2020 at 1:53 pm

    Had you successfully reached him, what did you plan to chat with him about?

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