Tuesday, August 11, 2015

W is for Walk Off The Earth, Patrick Watson and the Weakerthans

     A few years ago, on a rainy, indoor recess school day, I found myself on supervisory duty.  As I entered the computer lab, one of the older kids beckoned me over and said, "Hey!  Mr. M.!  Check this Out!  Five people playing one guitar!"
     I walked over, expecting to see some sort of novelty act but, instead, I stood, transfixed, watching some very talented performers expertly playing one guitar and singing the most amazing song called Somebody I Used To Know.

     "Who Is this?" I asked.

     "They're called Walk Off The Earth."

     At the time, I had no idea that this was not their own song and was, in fact, a cover of the original song by Australian singer, Goyte.  All that I know was that this video was really well done and that the group seemed refreshing and original and that I liked them.  While still on duty, I called in the music teacher to watch the video and then, the Principal, too.  We were all floored!  Apparently, we were not alone.  At the time of the writing of this post, Walk Off The Earth's version of Somebody I Used To Know has been viewed over 2 million times!   Many people, myself included, far prefer the WOTE version of this song and that is where controversy took root.  Walk Off The Earth's version was being requested on iTunes and on local radio stations but, technically, Goyte's version was the legally-released song and, as such, it was almost impossible to hear WOTE's version through mainstream sources.  There was a lot of back-and-forth on comment boards between fans demanding that WOTE's version be more readily accessible, with just as many criticizing the band and accusing it of ripping Goyte off.

     In the end, both bands declared mutual respect for the other and, in retrospect, it is easy see how the publicity helped both performers gain attention and record sales as a result.  However, at the time, Walk Off The Earth became one of the most talked-about groups in the world.......and, they never even had a record contract!   Like The Weeknd, Walk off The Earth circumvented the traditional music industry route when it came to having their music heard by the masses.  They pioneered the use of YouTube and social media like Facebook and Twitter, to connect directly with their fan base.  Since that first video, Walk Off The Earth has released all of their songs on video first. In most cases, they released the videos straight from their own website onto Facebook and into the homes of millions of their "friends" and "followers".

     Walk Off The Earth has had a string of hits with other cover songs such as, Little Boxes, Some Nights and I Knew You Were Trouble. But, they have started releasing their own, original tunes, as well and have been achieving an increasingly higher amount of record sales and/or air play on mainstream media. Songs such as Summer Vibe, Gang of Rhythm, Red Hands and Rule the World have all become hits and have earned their fair share of airplay at my house via our various personal iTunes playlists and all across the country, too.

     This band, from Burlington, Ontario, just seems to be getting stronger and stronger. Their inventiveness and creativity can clearly be seen in the really cool videos they produce.  They appear to be having a lot of fun doing what they are doing and seem very relaxed and comfortable with the vision they have for their career and how best to interact with their fans.  It wouldn't surprise me at all if, on future rainy, indoor recess kind of day, that some other student doesn't call me over to say, "Hey!  Mr. M.!  Check out this really cool video!"   I know I'll be as impressed then as I was that first time, when I first watched "five people playing one guitar"
     *Just as an fyi, the video for Gang of Rhythm was filmed on the pier by the beach in my hometown of Cobourg, Ontario so, if you want to get a sense of where I am when I write these posts then, check out Gang of Rhythm.   

     When I first began creating these posts, it was with the goal of, hopefully, bringing some new and deserving artists to light.  With that in mind, allow me to introduce you to Patrick Watson.

     Patrick Watson is a very interesting performer because he appears as Patrick Watson, solo artist, as well as, Patrick Watson, the band.  Whether alone or accompanied, Patrick Watson has been wowing the music critics and his fellow performers for years.

     Born in the U.S. but, raised in and around, Montreal, Patrick Watson, has performed with many of the performers who make up the Montreal music scene such as The Dears, The Stills and so on.  Watson's first album, Closer To Paradise, won the Polaris Music Prize in 2007 and was nominated for a Juno Award. His second album, Wooden Arms,  was shortlisted for the Polaris Prize in 2009.  His songs have appeared on famous television shows such as Grey's Anatomy and The Walking Dead. 
   Patrick Watson has developed a devoted following who admire the inventiveness of the instrumentation and poetry of the lyrics used in such songs as The Great Escape, Noisy Sunday, Big Bird in a Small Cage and Lighthouse.  Currently, Patrick Watson has a hit song entitled, Love Songs for Robots. Moody. Atmospheric. Ethereal. Delicate and Intricate. Perfect. Patrick Watson.

     I will leave you with Winnipeg's The Weakerthans.  The Weakerthans were formed in the late 90s by members of two hard rock bands, Propaghandi and Red Fisher.  The goal was to create a more melodic type of sound than was possible within the constraints of their former bands.  The band name was chosen after a line, "What force on Earth can be weaker than the feeble strength of one."

     The Weakerthans have achieved both, critical and commercial success. Their second album, Left and Leaving was named one of the Top Ten albums of all-time in Canada in the very same reader's poll from Chart Magazine than had named Sloan as having the top album of all-time.  Obviously, readers of Chart Magazine enjoy their Alt-rock music written and played well.  The Weakerthans have been nominated for Juno Awards and have been shortlisted for the Polaris Music Prize. They have won multiple West Coast Music Awards, as well as, being named Artist of the Year at the Verge Awards on XM Satellite Radio (other winners have included, Hey Rosetta!  Alexisonfire and Dan Mangan).
     The Weakerthans have produced several hit songs including, Civil TwilightTournament of Hearts, Sun in an Empty Room, One Great City, Left and Leaving and Aside.  This particular song, One Great City, is a great example of what The Weakerthans are all about; it is Canadian to its' core, unpretentious and down to earth, a sing-along song about Winnipeg...who knew?  Well, apparently, all of the folks singing along in the crowd did.  What a great Canadian band, The Weakerthans!!!

     Finally, a big tip of the hat to the following artists whose name happens to start with a "W":

Indie Rockers, Women, Singer/songwriter/producer, Hawksley Workman, Superb musical siblings, Martha and Rufus Wainwright, Lead singer of Sum 41, Deryck Whibley, Satirist, Nancy White, Rocker, David Wilcox,  Lead singer of Blackie and the Rodeo Kings/Junkhouse, Tom Wilson, Singer/songwriter/composer, Bob Wiseman, Singer, Karl Wolf, Country star, Michelle Wright, Singer/songwriter, Royal Wood, Bluesman, Jackie Washington, Alt-folk band, Woodpigeon, Alternative darlings from Montreal, Wolf Parade, Bourbon Tabernacle Choir founder, Andrew Whitman, The Lumberjack Singer, Hal Willis, Alternative band, Wake Owl, Bluegrass stars, The Wailin' Jennys, Alt-rock band, Whitehorse, Indie rockers, The Waltons, Rockers, Wide Mouth Mason, Weeping Tile and The Watchmen, Blues rockers, Wild T and the Spirit, Trenton, Ontario's own, The Wilkinsons and, finally, Indie rockers from Halifax, Wintersleep.

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