By Will Yannacoulias
As the crown jewel of the Capitol Music Club's nine year anniversary celebrations, acclaimed Dartmouth NS songwriter Joel Plaskett performed an intimate acoustic set September 23 for a packed house. Accompanied by longtime collaborator Mo Kenney, Plaskett charmed the room with a perfect mix of classic tracks, new music, deep cuts and choice covers. I've long been a fan of Plaskett's sincere and clever songwriting style, and enjoyed this set just as much as the previous four times I've seen him play. NSMZ's own Tracy Creighton, the only person I know who loves Plaskett's music more than I do, crossed an item off her bucket list and shot his set. Enjoy!
Saskatoon singer-songwriter John Antoniuk kicked off the evening.
Plaskett's set included many songs from early in his career, as well as odes to friends now gone and places left behind. Nostalgia is a big part of Plaskett's art and he understands intimately the value of anniversaries for venues like The Capitol. "There's something special about bringing something from the past into the present moment, recognizing you've grown around a venue or an album over time" he told me when we spoke. It's of course different but the original spark is still there. This interesting thing happens when you realize it's changed and you've changed, and it still resonates with you but in a different way on a personal level."
Luke Ryalls followed up, with Karla Combres joining in on backing vocals for a few songs.
The crowd at the Capitol was comprised entirely of lifelong fans, singing along word-for-word as Plaskett wove stories of places they've never seen and characters they've never known. Part of the appeal of Plaskett's songs is his ability to transport the listener vividly to a time and a place; by now I'm sure every music fan in Canada feels they were at that catastrophic gig in Kelowna immortalized in "Love This Town". The deeply personal Nova Scotia narratives are part of his desire to write as sincerely as possible, Plaskett shared. "I'm deeply attached to where I'm from and it informs the sensibility of my songwriting and music. I've recognized that when you lean into something that you know personally, it gets specific but it also gets weirdly universal. Every town has it's Ashtray Rock."
Plaskett was accompanied onstage by longtime protege-turned-collaborator Mo Kenney, an accomplished artist in their own right who has played alongside Plaskett often since 2012. Kenney performed a few of their own songs to a receptive room, with most Plaskett fans becoming Kenney fans as well ever the years. Plaskett recalled that "I started working with Mo when they were quite young, 19 or 20, so I know I've influenced their sound but the influence goes both ways. I've learned a lot from Mo over time, and we've become friends and collaborators more and more over the years. I learn a lot when I make music with other people, and I think through collaboration we stumble upon unique things."
An electric two song encore, a new singalong single ("Hey Moon") and an overhead compartment sized toy piano later, Plaskett gracefully took his bows and left the room eagerly anticipating his return to Saskatchewan.