Exclaim! Live Review at Regina Folk Festival

Joel rockin

As Joel Plaskett tells it, when he and his rhythm section stepped in to fill in for Neko Case at the last minute at this year’s Sled Island, he could see lightning going off as they were lighting into “Lightning Bolt,” off their latest, Scrappy Happiness. What he couldn’t have known when he was taking the stage at the Regina Folk Festival was that lightning overhead would make the Joel Plaskett Emergency the de facto headliner for the evening, as Blitz the Ambassador’s set got cut short and the Sam Roberts Band never made it to the stage.

Luckily, whenever Plaskett plays, he seemingly pours everything he has into every song. He was buoyant during opener “Through and Through and Through,” the consummate rock god during “It’s Catchin’ On” (an essential for Regina, for the “I’ll move out to Saskatchewan” line), and so electric during “You’re Mine” that you might worry he’d tire himself out. He even did the CBC Kids version of “Fashionable People” on request, which went over huge.

A monster, medley version of “Work Out Fine” and the requisite “Nowhere With You” closer were pure showmanship from Plaskett and the band, but the real highlights of the set were a pair of new songs he played, one dedicated to a neighbour of his from Dartmouth, NS who’d passed away. It was all a reminder that Plaskett’s not just an incredible performer, but a writer with plenty of honest work to put out there.

by James Brotheridge, Exclaim!
photo Peter Scoular

Joel Plaskett breaking new ground

Make no mistake, Joel Plaskett is a rocker at heart.

But from his early days with seminal alt-rockers Thrush Hermit, to his current incarnation of the Emergency — with a few folkie forays in between — the Nova Scotia indie darling has always been looking to break new ground.

And so he brings his latest, and most daring adventure to the hallowed halls of the NAC, where he’ll be trading in his jeans and plaid shirt for something a little more formal, with the famed NAC Orchestra providing the symphonic backdrop to his tunes.

It’s not completely foreign territory to Plaskett, who performed several concerts in a successful Pops series hosted by Symphony Nova Scotia back in 2006, with a reprise last fall.

“But I’ve never done anything with an orchestra outside of Nova Scotia, so it’s definitely a thrill to be bringing it to Ottawa,” said Plaskett from his Scotland Yard studio.

“I’m excited about it. I did a version of the show in September with the Nova Scotia Symphony, so some of the charts are the same (as the Symphony Nova Scotia show), and the conductor, Martin MacDonald is the same.

“I find the shows pretty nerve-wracking, to be honest, because you really have to stay on script. I don’t read music — I mean, I know my own tunes — but normally I would perform the songs either solo or with a band where you can play loose, you can take your time with things, where with an orchestra, you have to be disciplined.

“And there’s not a lot of rehearsal, because there’s so many people involved and you’re just doing it for one night. But it’s so thrilling when it’s actually happening. It’s such a different experience, and when you get to the point where you can just relax, it’s pretty fun as a singer just to have all that sound behind you.”

Joel Plaskett w/ the NAC Orchestra
With guests Mo Kenney, Erin Costelo, Bill Plaskett
NAC Southam Hall
Saturday, April 12, 8 p.m.


Intimate feel accompanies acoustic tour

Pictou County has been treated to Joel Plaskett owning the stage multiple times at Glasgow Square for the Riverfront Jubilee, but next week will feature a more laid back feeling as his acoustic tour rolls into town for the first time.

He’ll be on stage Oct. 30 with his father Bill, the second show of his acoustic tour that will go as far west as Ontario. Plaskett said he thoroughly enjoys coming to New Glasgow, although this time will be a different experience.


A celebration of arts and culture

Joel Plaskett and his father Bill Plaskett perform to a sold out audience at the opening concert of Writers at Woody Point 2013.

A celebration of arts and culture took place when the 10th annual Writers at Woody Point Festival was held from Aug. 13 to 18. Each year, the festival, which is coordinated and presented by Friends of Writers at Woody Point, sees provincial, national and international writers gather to share their work and to experience the arts and culture of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Festivities kicked off with a performance from acclaimed Canadian musician Joel Plaskett and his father Bill on Tuesday.


‘Flighty indie rock guy” Joel Plaskett helps kick off Peterborough Folk Festival

I first met Joel Plaskett in the early ’90s, when he was a pale, reedy teen playing in yet another East Coast post-grunge indie band, Thrush Hermit. At the time, I had to wonder about the staying power of that latest wave of “The next Seattle scene” bands coming out of Halifax, and I used to ask them about it.

A lot of them thought they’d be the next Nirvana. Sloan told me they’d take things as they came, man. I think Plaskett said something more along the lines of “This is all I want to do.”

Flighty indie rock guy, I told myself.

Twenty years later, we’re chatting again, and I ask him how he emerged from that shaggy, crowded field and became the success he is.

“I never had a backup plan,” he laughs. “No degree. I’ve been pretty much single-minded in my pursuit of music.”


Chromewaves at Toronto Urban Roots Fest

“It stands to reason that if you open up something of local importance, like say a shopping mall, you’d have the mayor on hand to cut the ribbon (maybe not Toronto’s mayor, but I digress). So if you’re inaugurating a new music festival in Canada, you bring out the de facto mayor of Canadian music, which is to say Joel Plaskett. Following an introduction from fellow sort-of Canuck icon, sportscaster Dave Hodge, Plaskett and the Emergency got to work with a set not too different from the one I saw at The Horseshoe in December, with a solo acoustic set sandwiched between classic rock-outs, but angled more for broad crowd-pleasing than just the die-hards. It’s pretty safe to say there’s no size stage that Plaskett doesn’t feel right at home at, whether playing the rocker or troubadour. And it seemed fitting that having largely missed Canada Day earlier this week because I was in the US, I was now marking Independence Day with as concentrated a dose of Canadiana as you could hope to find.” – Chromewaves