Visions by Devon Welsh - 2018 Playlist

Visions - Devon Welsh


When I arrived at Longboat hall I thought I saw my friend Jess waiting for me at the door in pink tear-away Adidas pants. I motioned up toward her, and just before I went to embrace her I realized it was not my friend at all, but indeed some other hype-beast Toronto youth. Although I do think I recognized her friend. Maybe her name was Claire, or maybe I just had Claire on the mind because I was here to see Mister Welsh, (“neé” Boucher). I should emphasize that I would never reduce Devon Welsh solely to Grimes’ ex. In fact their relationship is something I’ve come to learn of only recently; a fact that I had adored until Boucher muddied her social circles with the likes of Elon Musk. She’s an intriguing entry on an impressive resume. But Devon Welsh has so much under his belt.

Security didn’t ask for my ID but I presented it anyway. Awkward. The doorman assumed I would present my ticket to him and I didn’t. Awkward. I dropped my ID while fumbling with my broken phone to find the ticket. I’m used to behaving so clumsily in public now that I don’t even get embarrassed anymore. Moreso I just feel awful for the people that have to deal with me, who probably feel embarrassed for me. Sorry y’all, I’m just the fumbling gal who likes very out-of-my-league music, as per usual. (Yeah, I don’t know who let me in either.)

Once inside, I headed at once for a glass of whiskey (despite always claiming that “I’m not drinking tonight”). I recognized Welsh’s parents at the bar immediately. They were the only people at Devon’s recent show at the Baby G over the age of 40. At Baby G, I joked with my partner that maybe they were his parents; a quick Google search from my bar stool determined that it was true. I always love when parents come out to their kid’s shows, and I always have the tendency to speculate that older patrons might just be them. Ageism aside, not only was I right, but also his father is indeed Google-able. I got the feeling from their white hair and their funky clothes that they were not your average parents. I guess maybe I’m late to this news, but Kenneth Welsh is a Canadian actor who is well known for his role in Twin Peaks. Artistic father breeds artistic son. This time at Longboat, I found the moment appropriate to approach them. I tipped the bartender and leaned over to them.

“Excuse me, have you been here very long?” I asked.

“No, not very long,” Kenneth replied. 

“I was wondering if you caught the opener. I heard he’s supposed to be very good.” (Flimsy excuse.)

Kenneth went on to explain it an artful way (of which I wish not to paraphrase for fear of bastardizing the dialogue) how Nick Shofield was incredible and imaginative and how he played his synth in a dreamful fashion (I later learned that Shofield also plays synth in the Devon Welsh line-up).

“The headliner is pretty good too,” he said with a wink. 

I laughed while making my exit, and found a spot with the rest of the patrons (who had inexplicably chosen to sit cross-legged on the floor) next to tear-away pants girl. I was okay with it (I’m old and my back aches, she whines).

I hadn’t had a drink in a while and the whiskey was hitting the spot. When I go to shows, I like to put myself in just enough of a state of vulnerability that I am comfortable crying in public, but not enough that I need to use the washroom incessantly. It helps me ~feel the music, man!~ Whiskey is sweet in that way because the amount of liquid you ingest doesn’t amount to much in your bladder, but just enough in your heart :’).

We stayed seated as Devon and his band made the stage. As usual, his unusual presence made for awkward laughs among the audience. Devon has a way of stating the obvious in a way so earnest it comes off as comedy. Tear-away pants girl let out a few hearty laughs brought on by the tension in the room, and Devon mentioned that he’d heard her laughing in the back of the venue earlier. To which she replied with even more laughter. 

Everyone seemed relaxed. We were weirdos alike. It was quiet enough to hear any amount of movement from anyone. Sound was being magnified, and I hoped me fidgeting with the contents of my bag wasn’t being noticed. 

Without much introduction, they opened with Comedian. “Lord, let me live another life.” is the immediate takeaway lyric from this song. I can appreciate the sentiment. Devon’s hands shake when he holds a microphone, I noticed. When I attempt to sing (badly, at karaoke) with the same sincerity, my hands shake too. The way Devon sings is one of the most intensely emotional experiences I’ve ever witnessed. Even when I was listening to Majical Cloudz, I felt this way. I would cry, biking home alone from 1251 or the Junction while listening to him sing Silver Car Crash and Downtown on my headphones. I know this intensity can fall into Cringe category for some, but for me, I never feel more deeply about sung lyrics than I do with these projects.

The whole performance was acutely self-affirming. With Welsh’s vocals always the focal point, the captive audience can only help but to fully immerse themselves within the lyrics. As a pin dropped, Welsh softly counted, 1-2-3-4, into Vampires. My take: it’s a song about growing older in a city in which you were once young. It’s feeling like your time has come and past and that it’s time you finally leave. Now, it could just be my environmental forces making it feel that way, but it’s a sort of cathartic idea, no? Knowing you’re not the dominant generation anymore; feeling your time ending and then moving to the next chapter (the country?). Is this the feeling that incited everyone’s mass-exodus to Hamilton?

My friend Jess eventually arrived. She was nervous to enter the sea of cross-legged bodies littering the hall’s floor. I waved her in. There was nothing to be nervous about. I wish I hadn’t acted so awkwardly when I arrived. It wasn’t necessary. The room was safe. Everyone belonged and we were all comfortable. Toronto’s music scene can be staunch. Sometimes in spaces like this we are compelled to exist less, to be a fly on the wall. I’m trying not to be that anymore. I was sitting front row that evening and I didn’t regret it.

The night went on. At some point, Welsh played couple of older songs, one I was not familiar with called I Will Love You Forever. A quick search revealed to me an album of his from 2016 that I’d never heard before. Sadly, no such album exists on Spotify, so I downloaded the album from his Bandcamp account. I Will Love You Forever is a crucial entry for aspiring Devon Welsh fans, if you’ve just been introduced to his work. I highly recommend downloading this song for yourself. And if you’re lucky enough to catch Welsh live maybe he’ll play it for you, too.

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