December 22nd, 2017

Earlier this year, Hey Rosetta! announced they were taking a hiatus as a band. This took me completely by surprise, and I literally gasped as I was reading the statement:

And despite all the movement and light and love there is on the road, or perhaps because of it, you begin to sort of exist beyond any sense of reality or responsibility – to family, to friends, to self, to security, to art, to anything – and the pressures build up and pull at you and its kind of a miracle that 7 people can stay together and work single-mindedly towards one end for so long really, even something as beautiful and privileged and cool as making music.

It’s been over ten years since a band’s breaking up hit me this hard. I don’t use music to define myself as I once did, but I have loved this band unreservedly since I first saw them in 2011.

what was it like?/to be young, strong, stupid and drunk – “Yer Fall”

I remember buying tickets on a lark (the venue was close by, and I could afford them on my grad student salary). I was going through the death throes of my first major relationship and wound up lashing out at a friend because I was dealing poorly with the associated anxiety and feelings of worthlessness. I lost a friend that weekend, but I gained music which has sustained me ever since. I remember seeing their set and being amazed at the fervor of the fans and being carried away by the performance. Here’s a video of their cover of Time After Time from that performance:

Hey Rosetta! – Time After Time from Skot Nelson on Vimeo.

How could you not fall in love?

I remember gobbling up the recently-released Seeds and the rest of their discography after that show. I discovered that Tim Baker is one of the finest songwriters working in Canada today; his lyrics have this beautiful literary quality while staying grounded.

what arrow? at what angle? and what angel? – “What Arrows”

Their music has always given me a quiet sense of hope. It’s the lyrics, it’s the dynamics, it’s the sincerity of their music. Hey Rosetta! is not an ironic band. They carry their heart on their sleeves, and they make it okay for me to do so, as well. While I was living in Germany, they released “Carry Me Home” as the title track of a Christmas EP. It brought my homesick self to tears.

can any saints hear me? is there any angel near me? if you won’t lift me up then would you send my love? – “Carry Me Home”

With their October announcement, they also announced a series of goodbye shows, so naturally I started looking at how much plane tickets to Toronto would be. I’ve travelled a lot for music, crossing various international borders, but this would be the most impulsive thing I’d ever tried to make work. I was very aware that I was possibly doing something very stupid, but you’re only young and foolish once, and this band has meant so, so much to me over the years–

you take what you saved, and you get on a plane, you take what you saved – “Another Pilot”

It turns out a lot of other people (or scalpers, at least) felt similarly. After missing the initial release of tickets, I managed to get some the second time around. It was a go. I spent the months leading up to it busy, busy, busy – but the day finally arrived.

but our arcs, they could align – “There’s an Arc”

And what words do I have to describe that final show? When they began with “New Goodbye” I felt tears prick my eyes: and we’re waving a new goodbye/our arms open wide. Way to be on point, Hey Rosetta! They launched into a set of old favourites – they’re all old favourites, now – and they played everything I’d hoped they’d play: Red Heart; Bandages; Welcome (with the extended bridge); Soft Offering (for the Oft Suffering); and of course, A Thousand Suns. The band put together a throwback video which they played as an intermission.

what you’ve done is not yours alone/what you’ve done echoes on and on – “A Thousand Suns”

I snuck in later than I wanted to (missing the opener) and wound up at the back of the room, which I’ve finally learned provides better sightlines for people around my height. It didn’t matter, though – every person in that room was a fan, every person in that room was singing along, we all stirred as we recognized the opening chords to every song. Someone asked me once why I liked going to concerts, where it was crowded and the sound quality was worse than listening to the album at home – I can’t remember what I told him but I’d tell him now that it’s a feeling of community and practically communion; we are all sharing this experience together and growing it together and making it unique.

I’m grateful to have had Hey Rosetta!’s music as company for the last six years; but as a wiser friend told me, “everything is temporary.” Good luck in all your future endeavours.

doctor uncover my ears/I hear the chorus weeping, i see the people singing – “Yer Spring”

Just a few more links:
Selections from the first Toronto show
From the same set as in the body of the post: Cathedral Bells, We Made a Pact; Gold Teeth
Final show at Mile One – Stand by Me (Ben E. King cover)
Other songs from the final show at Mile One
Reactions from people far more eloquent than I

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