“…All my friends, where did they go?
To Montreal, Toronto
All my friends, they split too soon
They split town with the fork and the spoon
They all split town and they left me
Sitting with a bottle of wine…”
”Work Out Fine” – Joel Plaskett
Plenty of artists and acts from the great ’90s “Next Seattle” boom have either disbanded or moved away with their hopes and dreams of greater exposure. Joel Plaskett was not one to stray too far from the actual East Coast of Canada here in the Maritimes, and through his solo work or his work with Thrush Hermit, and the Joel Plaskett Emergency, he has carved out a name for himself that stretches all the way out to the “other” coast. Plaskett has crisscrossed this massive nation on a number of occasions, but these days he can be more selective of the dates he plays, so when you have an opportunity to see him perform, you have to jump at the chance (even more so when it’s a hometown gig). That is what many did this evening, as folks were more than ready to congregate in the newly minted Light House Arts Centre to see Joel Plaskett and the Emergency play to a sold-out crowd.
Plaskett has long been a stalwart of the local Halifax music scene and continues to do that through his long-held ownership of Fang Recording (formerly New Scotland Yard). Having left an indelible mark on the hearts of many in the Maritimes, and abroad, Joel continues to deepen those indelible marks with his production and mixing skills (having mixed Boy Golden’s Church of Better Daze album). Another local artist that benefited from Plaskett’s studio being located here in Dartmouth, is Eric Stephen Martin, a talented singer-songwriter based out of Dartmouth who recorded his debut album at (then) New Scotland Yard, and recently recorded his single “Can’t You Hear Me Sigh” there as well.
On this chilly February night, Eric was tapped to open the show, which is fitting, as Joel played drums on the young singer-songwriter’s debut. Backing him on this night was ¾ of the local psych-rock band The Brood (Siobhan Martin – keys, Jordan Murphy – drums, and Billy Taylor-Habib – bass). Before Eric’s performance on this night, he was a relative unknown to many, and for some, it would be hard not to draw comparisons to another young local singer-songwriter by the name of Braden Lam, as they occupy a similar sonic lane. Martin’s work skews more alt-country and has an old-timey flare, whereas Lam has more of a modern folk-pop sound. Can’t wait to hear more from Martin down the road.
Then after a quick tear-down, it was time for the much-beloved headliner to hit the stage. The lights went down, and the lanky songwriter hit the stage solo with his guitar in tow and proceeded to kick the night off with “Lightning Bolt” (from 2012’s Scrappy Happiness), eventually being joined onstage by longtime Emergency bandmates Dave Marsh (drums) and Chris Pennell (bass) as the track ramped up. Considering that this was only the 2nd Halifax show in almost 4 years, this could have easily been a greatest hits show, but the setlist on this night touched a large swatch of Plaskett’s discography with two fan favourite albums doing the heavy lifting (Truthfully, Truthfully and Ashtray Rock).
Early on in the set, Joel broke out the fan-favourite “Extraordinary”, and as the song worked its way along, there is a moment in the song where he talks about walking into the post office, but instead of it being sung by Plaskett himself, Mo Kenney joined the band onstage and handled the retelling, which was a great way to welcome Mo to the proceedings. The Emergency has long been a trio, but in recent years Mo Kenney has regularly joined the band on stage for much of their set, as their range and musicality perfectly complement the band as a whole.
Towards the latter half of 2022, Joel Plaskett rather quietly released The Window Inn Sessions, which was the result of his Patreon channel where fans could get a peek at Plaskett’s creative process, amongst other things. One of the tracks from that project featured a beautiful cover of “True Patriot Love” performed by unofficial Emergency member Mo Kenney. Within the Light House Arts Centre walls Saturday night, the cover sparkled with their delicate and sparse arrangement. The other special moment that The Window Inn gave us, was when Joel took his place behind the drum kit, while Dave Marsh slid in behind the keyboard to perform “What I Like About Charles” to kick off the encore.
For many of those in attendance, Joel Plaskett has been part of their lives for well over 2 decades, and that appreciation was no more apparent than it was on Saturday night, with a packed house ready to sing their hearts out alongside the Dartmouth-based singer-songwriter. Those folks left with smiles on their faces and in their hearts, as the JPE closed the night out with the potent one-two punch of “C’mon Teacher” and “Through & Through & Through”, before the lights came up and folks flooded out the venue doors into the Halifax night. Until next time, Joel.
Eric Stephen Martin
Joel Plaskett Emergency