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Great Big Sea

Great Big Sea

Raise a jar to greatbigsea.com

Yesterday on the Online Kitchen Party Facebook group, it was reported that greatbigsea.com has gone down, and so have the GBS-related Facebook and Twitter accounts.

This is what you see now if you try to go to the greatbigsea.com site:

GreatBigSea.com 404

GreatBigSea.com 404

(For my visually impaired followers, it’s a screencap that has a giant 404, followed by ‘The site you were looking for couldn’t be found. This domain is successfully pointed at WP Engine, but is not configured for an account on our platform.’ And a couple suggested courses of action in case you’re the person who just put up the site and haven’t fully configured it yet and um, yeah.)

Bob Hallett showed up on the Facebook thread (which should be publicly readable, the OKP group is public), essentially saying “there is a plan, but, Sean”. By which I think it’s safe to conclude that the shutdown of the site and of the social media accounts is part of the whole “for his own health and well-being, Sean needs Great Big Sea to be done” problem.

I think it’s also safe to conclude at this point that no matter how much the long-term loyal fandom might wish otherwise, the Great Big Sea we’ve all known and loved is dead.

And, well, I mean, I knew that already. A lot of us in the fandom had pretty much decided that when Sean announced his withdrawal from the band after the XX tour. It had certainly also seemed pretty obvious when Alan was quoted last November as saying that the band was essentially retired.

But a lot of us had been holding out at least a crumb of hope that if the band still had an online presence, maybe eventually all involved parties would reach an accord and make music together again someday.

Now? Not so much. And I have to admit, seeing the site gone, a corner of the Net I’ve loved for sixteen years now, made me tear up today. This makes it feel a lot more final.

I stand by my post from November; every word I said there still applies. I’m still very grateful for all the joy Great Big Sea has given me. I’m sad that Sean feels like he has to separate himself from that part of his life, while at the same time, I’m happy that he seems to be finding some peace and happiness of his own. If Alan or Sean comes to Seattle, I’ll certainly go see them. Their solo acts aren’t quite enough to get me to cross the border–but if they happen to have shows in Canada going on while I’m up there anyway, then I’ll absolutely go see them there, too.

And I’ll keep playing their songs, for values of “playing” meaning both “in iTunes” and “on my instruments”.

I’m thinking there needs to be one last Three Good Measures jam. Because Great Big Sea needs a proper wake.

And, y’know, I do know “Paddy Murphy”. Tonight, though, I’m kinda thinkin’ “General Taylor” is called for. Here’s superfan Lynda Elstad’s vid of same, from the Torbay concert in Newfoundland 2012 that Dara and I went to.

Sing with me, people. SING.

Great Big Sea

For the B’ys of Great Big Sea: thanks for all the good times!

This article that showed up on the OKP Facebook group this morning has a quote from Alan Doyle in it that makes it pretty much official now: Great Big Sea is done.

I’m not surprised by this. I’ve seen this coming since Séan McCann stood down from the band, and really, I had suspicions of it being on the way even before the 2013 XX tour. But part of me wishes it would have come a bit sooner, and I note we still haven’t had any sort of official announcement via the band newsletter, the band website, or anything of that nature. So people coming to the greatbigsea.com website still won’t have any actual idea that the band’s pretty much done.

But it is what it is, and I feel it’s important now to take a few moments to celebrate what this band has meant to me in the last fourteen years. They’ve brought me huge amounts of joy. They’ve led me to making lifelong friends, to learning brand new instruments, to discovering the dynamic energy of Newfoundland traditional music in general, and most of all, to looking forward to the yearly outing to a concert where I could bounce and sing at the top of my lungs. And sometimes more than one concert in a year.

They led me to founding the Three Good Measures jamming group, and I’m proud to this day of all the fun we had making those MP3s.

They made a guitar player out of me! And they are, of course, responsible for why my best guitar is named General Taylor.

Me and the General

Me and the General

They led me and Dara and a bunch of our friends to have ridiculous amounts of fun participating in the fan song contest in 2010, when Safe Upon the Shore came out.

(Not to mention that we also had a bunch of fun making the blooper reel for these shenanigans, too!)

And of course, Alan Doyle does still hold the record for killing me MOST DED WITH SWOON in any given concert, thanks to our getting him to sing “Can’t Help Falling in Love”. Okay yeah sure, this was an Alan Solo show, but I include this because it’s all part and parcel of the joy these guys have brought to my life!

Which of course also leads me to add that I was also very, very grateful to finally get pics of myself with Alan AND with Séan.

And last but most DEFINITELY not least, these boys are very specifically responsible for why Christopher in Faerie Blood and Bone Walker is a Newfoundlander and a bouzouki player. They are why the very first scene of Bone Walker is, in fact, at a Great Big Sea show, even though I don’t call them out by name. And they are why the third book of the Free Court of Seattle will be set partially in St. John’s, and why Dara and I had such an awesome time in 2012 going there for the Newfoundland and Labrador Folk Festival. Where, I might add, we saw them sing on their home soil, with the added special bonus of Darrell Power showing up to help them sing “Excursion Around the Bay”.

(And man, it was satisfying to see Alan’s doubletake on the stage when he came out and saw Dara and me there, faces he usually saw on the other side of the continent. ;D Particularly since this was only a few months after the Elvis incident!)

And in fact, they did “Excursion” TWICE.

It is part and parcel of life that all good things must eventually come to an end. But the music still lives on in my collection, and in my fingers. I will still come to both Alan’s and Séan’s shows when I can. And I know that whenever I pick up one of my guitars or flutes or whistles, when I start singing “Ordinary Day” on a walk to or from work just because I can, it’ll be because these guys kindled that within me.

Thanks b’ys. From the bottom of my heart. <3

Great Big Sea, Other People's Books

Book review: Where I Belong, by Alan Doyle

As I’d already posted, I pre-ordered Alan Doyle’s new memoir Where I Belong straight off of greatbigsea.com, and that book got here yesterday, woo! (Although I only wound up getting it out of the mailbox tonight, since I worked from home yesterday and forgot to check the mail.)

But in the meantime I also pulled down the ebook via Kobo, since I wasn’t about to try to take a signed hardback anywhere in my backpack. And I’ve gotta say, I was expecting the read to be delightful–but hadn’t really quite grasped how fun it would be to go through a few hundred pages’ worth of Alan essentially telling us all about the first half of his life.

I already knew the man has a command of language; I have, after all, been following his blog posts on greatbigsea.com and his own site for years now. And I’ve been to many a GBS concert in which he’s launched into amusing tales while at the mike. I’m very, very familiar with the cadences of his voice at this point, after 14 straight years of Great Big Sea fandom.

And reading Where I Belong pretty much was just like hearing Alan tell a very long tale at a kitchen party, I swear. His voice came right through into his writing, and it was made all the more delightful by assorted pictures of his young self and assorted family members. At the end of each chapter came an additional anecdote, often tying into Great Big Sea, that gave the overall narrative good structure and eventually brought us to the big turning point of Alan’s life: i.e., the founding of the band that would make him, Séan McCann, Darrell Power, and Bob Hallett famous.

Some of this stuff I already knew, just from being in the fandom as long as I have. Some of it, though, I didn’t–particularly Alan describing the poverty of his early life. Boy howdy can I sympathize with that. And now that I’ve actually visited St. John’s, bits of the book kept resonating for me. Particularly Alan’s tale of the first visit he ever made to O’Brien’s–which has sadly now gone bankrupt. 🙁 I’ve been in that store. And I have a very healthy respect for the significance it’s had to the history of music in St. John’s.

Those of you who’ve read Faerie Blood and who will hopefully be getting Bone Walker by the turn of the year–you also know my Warder boy Christopher is a Newfoundlander. And reading Alan’s book, for me as an author as well as a GBS fan, kept triggering little moments of “ah yes, this would be important to Christopher and all of his family”.

So yeah. Absolutely required reading, if you’re a Great Big Sea fan. And I’d even recommend it if you’re not a GBS fan, just on the strength of Alan’s storytelling. The man does have a way with a word. And I’m hearing rumors he may be already thinking of writing another one.

To which there can of course be only one proper response: yes b’y.

And here: both of my copies of the book, the signed one from greatbigsea.com, and the ebook on my Nook HD!

Where I Belong, in Stereo

Where I Belong, in Stereo

Great Big Sea

Sean McCann at the Railway, Vancouver, BC 10/3/2014

This is a somewhat belated concert report since I’ve been busy dealing with Victory of the Hawk, but I didn’t want to go too long without writing this up–because although I am possessed of a mighty sadface that we have no Great Big Sea to look forward to for the foreseeable future, it was nonetheless extremely satisfying to see Sean McCann do his solo show at the Railway in Vancouver on my last trip up to BC.

As this was my first visit to the Railway I didn’t really know what to expect, but I did like the venue. And other GBS fangirls, my usual Vancouver crowd, had snagged a table towards the front, which turned out to be a good thing. Because the place was packed, standing room only in a way I hadn’t really experienced since before GBS started playing the Moore in Seattle. It was a relief to be able to retreat to a place to sit down, just because so many bodies in so small a space ramped up the temperature considerably. The size of the crowd even startled Sean, who remarked that it was something on the order of seven times the size of the crowd from his first Railway show.

This was, hands down, the perkiest I’d seen Sean at a show in years. The show was just him and his guitar and his bodhran, and he was lively, engaging, and in excellent voice. He was in delightful humor, making jokes about starting the show late, and he’s apparently now comfortable enough with himself that he was able to make self-deprecating jokes as well about his battles with alcohol–and in particular, how his wife had sternly vetoed the idea of his putting a glass of scotch on stage with him to build tension as to whether he would snap.

He did a mix of songs off his current record and Great Big Sea material. In the latter case, it was unsurprisingly stuff on which he’d sung lead (and I’m pretty sure it was stuff he’d written as well, though I’d have to look up the credits on various songs). He did several things I hadn’t heard at a GBS show in ages, which was a pleasure to hear. Notable GBS ditties he did were “Good People” and “Safe Upon the Shore” (from Safe Upon the Shore), “Graceful and Charming” (from The Hard and the Easy), “Love” (from Something Beautiful), “Feel It Turn” (from Turn), “The Night Pat Murphy Died”, and “Mari-Mac” (Rant and Roar if you’re me, Play and Up if you’re a GBS vet who pre-dates me in the fandom).

My favorite ditty off the solo album that he did: “Red Wine and Whiskey”, for getting the crowd to sing along with him.

Favorite GBS ditties: VERY pleased to hear him do “Safe Upon the Shore”, though it was decidedly strange to NOT hear the harmony brick on the chorus. Those of us in the audience did our level best to make up for that, though it was less “harmony brick” and more “everybody’s singing at the top of their lungs”.

Also rather startling to hear him actually do “Paddy Murphy”, because of the heavy drinking theme of the song. But this was an example of Sean being very willing to take requests from the audience, while at the same time reserving the right to veto things he wasn’t comfortable singing. (I notice nobody tried to get him to sing “General Taylor”, for example, though SOMEBODY kept yelling for him to sing “Old Black Rum”, to wit–no. Partly because bad idea in general, but also because he didn’t write that ‘un, and it would not be appropriate for him rights-wise to do that one solo unless he’s got Bob’s buyoff on that.) He faked us out with “Paddy Murphy”, too! Sang the first line, pretended to stop, and then went ahead and did the rest anyway to the audience’s delight.

In general he was very active with engaging the audience in the show, and by engaged I mean he kept pulling people up on stage to sing with him. My fellow fangirl Vancouver!Angela, a.k.a. sticckler, got to be in the first round of this when she and a couple others came up to sing backup on the title track from Sean’s current album, “Help Your Self”.

But he didn’t stop there. He got a great big honking herd of us to swarm the stage with him to do his closer–“Mari-Mac”. I could not resist the urge to jump in on that, though it caused a moment of MASSIVE EMBARRASSMENT as I tripped over my own damned feet on the way up there. “OH NO,” Sean shouted, “piper down!” But I scrambled back to my feet and assured him as well as everybody else that I was in fact OKAY, and then we all yelled “Mari-Mac”, and it was awesome.

Afterwards I was a little chagrined on behalf of the band that had to follow Sean’s set–because the place cleared out fast after he was done. A lot of the fans lingered in line because he did in fact do a meet-and-greet after, and naturally, I had to hang around for that. Which resulted in this pic!

Me and Sean McCann

Me and Sean McCann

I was able to tell Sean to his face that I talk a good talk about falling at the feet of my favorite musicians, but don’t usually mean it literally. And I also made a point of being rather more serious and telling him that I’d also been reading what he’s been saying to the media lately, not only about his fight with alcohol, but also that he’s an abuse survivor. I know what that’s like. And I wanted to wish him love and strength and just general fan support. He thanked me very kindly for that.

So yeah. Great show all around and it does make me feel somewhat better about GBS being on extended hiatus. The question came up again on the OKP as to whether the band will ever emerge from that hiatus, and in what form. Nobody’s saying yet, but it was very noteworthy that Bob Hallett did show up on that thread and say “Never say never.”

I do find myself hoping that eventually Sean will be comfortable enough to rejoin the GBS boys. But until then, if he’s willing to keep singing to us by himself, I’ll absolutely show up for his shows.

Thanks for a wonderful performance, Shantyman. We still love you. <3

Great Big Sea, Other People's Books

For the Great Big Sea fans, hey look! Alan Doyle, author!

Those of you who’re in Great Big Sea fandom undoubtedly know this already, but just in case you don’t, Alan Doyle is releasing a memoir in October! It’s to be called Where I Belong. Alert fans will note that this is the same title used by one of Alan’s songs on his solo album Boy on Bridge, and it’s about the importance of family collections even when a Newfoundlander wanders far from home. A fitting title indeed for a personal memoir.

GreatBigSea.com announced today over their newsletter that the book’s now available for preorder directly on their site, in hardcover form. So just for giggles, I went and poked around my various favorite ebook sites, and I’m seeing available on a lot of the major ebook sites as well. Here’s a roundup of places I’m seeing for sale!

GreatBigSea.com

Amazon US (Kindle and hardcover)

Amazon CA (Kindle and hardcover)

Barnes and Noble (hardcover only, no sign of a Nook version yet)

Powells

Chapters CA (hardcover and ebook, note that Chapters sells ebooks via Kobo)

iBooks US

iBooks CA

Kobo US

Google Play US

These are all the various links I can get at, browsing on computers in the States. If anybody in Canada or elsewhere wants to add links to this list, drop ’em in the comments!

AND! For those of you who’re on Goodreads, be advised that there is a giveaway in progress for both United States and Canadian readers! So if you don’t want to commit to buying a copy yet, you might want to jump in on this.

As y’all know, I am a voracious buyer of books, not to mention a longstanding voracious buyer of anything with Alan’s name on it. It tickles me deeply that I get to throw some of my book-buying money to Alan’s first venture into writing, and I very much look forward to having a signed hardcopy and a digital version. ‘Cause I ain’t taking a signed hardback on a bus commute!

Great Big Sea

A LOT of visitors coming by to read about Sean McCann

I’ve had a massive uptick lately in people hitting my three previous posts about Sean McCann leaving GBS, here and here and here. And what I’m sensing here is quite a few people who might perhaps be looking for answers as to why exactly Sean bailed on the band–and what Great Big Sea’s fate will be now that he’s out.

On the latter question, there has still been no formal announcement through official GBS channels. I’ve seen nothing posted on the site’s news page, and nothing’s come across the newsletter either. The most official thing I’ve seen on the matter is Alan Doyle’s most recent post to his personal blog, From the Road, which you can see on the Great Big Sea site here or on Alan’s site here. Alan basically says that the band is on hiatus again, and goes into some detail about what he, Bob, Murray, and Kris are up to. He does also mention Sean’s leaving, that Sean is about to release a new CD (today, in fact, as of this writing, up on his bandcamp page), and that he wishes him well.

Sean himself in the meantime has started talking to the media. So if you haven’t seen it already, an interview he did on the matter is over here. He’s saying pretty much what I expected, which is to say, creative differences. And he, like much of the fanbase, is going a bit “buh?” at the silence on greatbigsea.com about his departure.

‘Cause yeah, you’d think they’d have issued some sort of formal announcement by now. o.O

But, be that as it may, I’ll continue to relay any news I come across. If you’re on Facebook, you might consider dropping by the OKP group there since that’s become the more or less de facto replacement for the OKP forums that used to be on the Great Big Sea site. This is where I’m getting my most recent news. You can find that group here.

Great Big Sea

One more musing about Great Big Sea and Sean McCann

Overall my household found “The Time of the Doctor” to be a bit of a mess–but Dara, Paul, and I were all in agreement that Matt Smith’s regeneration speech was the shining gem of the episode.

This part:

The Doctor: It all just disappears, doesn’t it? Everything you are, gone in a moment, like breath on a mirror. Any moment now… He’s a-comin’.
Clara: Who’s coming?
The Doctor: The Doctor.
Clara: You. You are the Doctor.
The Doctor: Yep, and I always will be. But times change, and so must I.

And this part:

The Doctor: We all change. When you think about it, we’re all different people all through our lives, and that’s okay, that’s good, you gotta keep moving, so long as you remember all people that you used to be. I will not forget one line of this. Not one day. I swear. I will always remember when the Doctor was me.

All of which I mention because the recent regeneration has been on my mind, what with the ongoing emotional reactions of Great Big Sea fandom to the departure of Séan McCann from the band. Many fans have been heartbroken by this news. Some have sadly expressed how this will impact their ability to enjoy Great Big Sea concerts moving forward, and that they’re not sure they’ll want to try. A few have been actively, alarmingly resentful on the matter.

In Doctor Who fandom, many fans speak of “their” Doctor–often the actor who was playing the role when they first imprinted on the show, either as a child or as an adult, but sometimes not. For me, although Christopher Eccleston was the Doctor who made me start paying attention, David Tennant is “my” Doctor since he’s the one with whom I’ve developed the emotional connection.

Great Big Sea feels the same for me. The band’s already been through a few changes–the departure of Darrell Power back in 2003, the addition of Kris MacFarlane on the drums, the replacement of Darrell by Murray Foster. All of these have been changes that caused their share of brouhaha among the fandom, and all of them bring to mind Matt Smith’s speech up above.

Because like Time Lords, bands change. But when you’re a devotee of a band, it can be almost like being one of the Doctor’s Companions. Your Doctor is the one you travelled with in the TARDIS–even if you meet the Doctor again many years later and he’s gone through half a dozen regenerations since you saw him last, as we saw happen to Sarah Jane in “School Reunion”. Likewise, your version of a beloved band is going to be the one whose combination of vocal and performance chemistry is the one you fell in love with–the one that got you to eagerly seize every new album the day it’s released, and to snap up concert tickets the instant they go on presale.

My Great Big Sea was the original four–Alan, Séan, Bob, and Darrell. I’ve very much enjoyed the Great Big Sea made up of Alan, Séan, Bob, Kris, and Murray, mind you, much as I’ve happily enjoyed other Doctors besides David Tennant. This second version of Great Big Sea, for example, gave me The Hard and the Easy, which remains one of my all time favorite albums of the group’s.

But that said, I made the transition between these versions of the band much as I made the transition from Eccleston to Tennant. Losing Séan, though, is harder. It’s like losing Tennant as the Doctor–I’ve found things to like about Matt Smith, make no mistake, but he just never grabbed me on the same level that Tennant did for the most part.

Still, though, I haven’t stopped watching Doctor Who. Neither will I stop listening to Great Big Sea. It may be that when the group regenerates again (aheh), I’ll find new things to love about what they’ll provide to us fans. And as I periodically keep an eye on what Tennant’s doing now that he’s no longer the Doctor, I’ll be keeping an eye and an ear on what Séan does with his music.

But I’ll always remember when Great Big Sea had Séan McCann.

Shantyman, good night.