Best Shows of 2014 / by Greg Gallinger

As a music fan and a live music photographer I go to a lot of concerts. I grew up going to basement shows and seeing bands play gymnasiums, curling clubs, and Knights of Columbus halls, so I've always had an appreciation for small venues and bars. These medium to small venues make for a more intimate evening, and often bring out the best in musicians who are comfortable playing without the glitz associated with stadium shows.

In the grand scheme of things, 2014 was a terrible fucking year. The news was dominated by death and destruction, poverty and racism, colonial repression, decease, environmental catastrophe, and misogyny. Reviewing the year in news clips is enough to induce a permanent aversion to the exterior world, as impractical and priviledge as that may be.

But. BUT. Music has always served as both a reprive from and a commentary on reality, and the music that surrounded my life in 2014 was no exception.

Inspired by my annual list of books read, I've compiled a list of my favourite concerts of the last 12 months.

Propagandhi - The Windsor Hotel - Jan 1st

Though it was New Years Eve 2013 Propagandhi didn't grace the stage at the Windsor until just minutes after Midnight. This was one of the best evenings ever. Propagandhi, though Winnipeg locals, only ever play in their hometown once every couple years, usually in much larger venues to bigger always sold out crowds. The New Years Eve show was announced with practically no notice and tickets sold out within minutes. I stood in line on a cold December morning in the Exchange waiting for Into the Music to open their doors and pick up the hottest ticket in town. But like many others I was left in the cold, ticketless and irritable. But thanks to the kindness of friends Melissa and I, along with many of those faces behind me in line, got to ring in the New Year with some of the raddest dudes around.

Though it was New Years Eve 2013 Propagandhi didn't grace the stage at the Windsor until just minutes after Midnight. This was one of the best evenings ever. Propagandhi, though Winnipeg locals, only ever play in their hometown once every couple years, usually in much larger venues to bigger always sold out crowds. The New Years Eve show was announced with practically no notice and tickets sold out within minutes. I stood in line on a cold December morning in the Exchange waiting for Into the Music to open their doors and pick up the hottest ticket in town. But like many others I was left in the cold, ticketless and irritable. But thanks to the kindness of friends Melissa and I, along with many of those faces behind me in line, got to ring in the New Year with some of the raddest dudes around.

Metz - Union Sound Hall - Jan 23rd

I couldn't believe how intense Metz stage presence was. Their post-punk noise rock assaulted my ears and and body. I came home from this show with giant bruises on both thighs from being repeatedly slammed into the stage.

I couldn't believe how intense Metz stage presence was. Their post-punk noise rock assaulted my ears and and body. I came home from this show with giant bruises on both thighs from being repeatedly slammed into the stage.

B.A. Johnston - The Windsor Hotel - Jan 25th

This was one of the funniest, grossest, most engaging performances I've ever seen. His performance teeters somewhere between standup comedy and punk. Without a band, Johnston is accompanied by an old Discman with recordings he probably put together in Garageband. While playing songs about fast food, his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, and his mother's cat, he belched and perspired up and down the stage. Firing snot rockets with apologies that he had a cold, and hurling self deprecating insults like boomerangs. He capped off the evening by playing his encore in the bathroom.

This was one of the funniest, grossest, most engaging performances I've ever seen. His performance teeters somewhere between standup comedy and punk. Without a band, Johnston is accompanied by an old Discman with recordings he probably put together in Garageband. While playing songs about fast food, his hometown of Hamilton, Ontario, and his mother's cat, he belched and perspired up and down the stage. Firing snot rockets with apologies that he had a cold, and hurling self deprecating insults like boomerangs. He capped off the evening by playing his encore in the bathroom.

Against Me! - The West End Cultural Centre - April 3rd

From the moment Laura Jane Grace walks onstage she steals the show. Her booming snarling voice filled the West End Cultural Centre, sending shock waves through the crowd. Especially notable was the lack of dude bros, with a huge female and trans presence in the crowd. After the show Matt Williams and I stood around hoping to get an interview with Laura. We waited near the exit for nearly an hour, talking to a 15 year old girl and her dad who brought her to the show. They told us that they'd been to every Against Me! show in the prairies, even driving down to Minneapolis to see the band that held a special place in her heart.

From the moment Laura Jane Grace walks onstage she steals the show. Her booming snarling voice filled the West End Cultural Centre, sending shock waves through the crowd. Especially notable was the lack of dude bros, with a huge female and trans presence in the crowd. After the show Matt Williams and I stood around hoping to get an interview with Laura. We waited near the exit for nearly an hour, talking to a 15 year old girl and her dad who brought her to the show. They told us that they'd been to every Against Me! show in the prairies, even driving down to Minneapolis to see the band that held a special place in her heart.

Killer Mike - Union Sound Hall - June 20th

*Cover of R.A.P. Music used under fair use license One of the few shows I went to that I didn't shoot, but was incredibly memorable. One of my favourite moments was when he had the entire crowd chanting "Fuck Ronald Reagan!"

*Cover of R.A.P. Music used under fair use license

One of the few shows I went to that I didn't shoot, but was incredibly memorable. One of my favourite moments was when he had the entire crowd chanting "Fuck Ronald Reagan!"

Russian Circles - The Pyramid - September 19th

It's hard to describe the feeling this show left me with. It was one of those rare performances where the people on stage almost seem to disappear under the weight and ambience of the sound they create. The whole crowd was shrouded in a cloud of fog that seemed to pulse and explode with each note.

It's hard to describe the feeling this show left me with. It was one of those rare performances where the people on stage almost seem to disappear under the weight and ambience of the sound they create. The whole crowd was shrouded in a cloud of fog that seemed to pulse and explode with each note.

Fucked Up - The West End Cultural Centre - September 23rd

This show was fucking bonkers. Damian Abraham's dynamic performance is like an emotional breakdown that tears through the crow.  His pantomime performance had him shedding his shirt, jumping down from the stage and into the crowd, to the very back of the venue where he grabbed someone's draft beer and doused himself, crumpling the cup and suctioning it to his forehead, leaving it there for the next several songs, then removing it and drinking the perspiration that accumulated. Also notable was his overwhelmingly inspiring attitude, imbibing the crowd with at least a temporary sense of hope.

This show was fucking bonkers. Damian Abraham's dynamic performance is like an emotional breakdown that tears through the crow.  His pantomime performance had him shedding his shirt, jumping down from the stage and into the crowd, to the very back of the venue where he grabbed someone's draft beer and doused himself, crumpling the cup and suctioning it to his forehead, leaving it there for the next several songs, then removing it and drinking the perspiration that accumulated. Also notable was his overwhelmingly inspiring attitude, imbibing the crowd with at least a temporary sense of hope.

Fred Eaglesmith - The Park Theatre - October 2nd

I'll admit, I had never heard Fred Eaglesmith prior to Exclaim! hiring me to shoot his show at the Park Theatre. My friend and fellow Exclaim! contributor Sheldon assured me that we were in for a good time. Eaglesmith's merry band of pranksters are like a psychedelic roadshow that set out on the open road sometime in the 60's and still haven't run out of gas. 

I'll admit, I had never heard Fred Eaglesmith prior to Exclaim! hiring me to shoot his show at the Park Theatre. My friend and fellow Exclaim! contributor Sheldon assured me that we were in for a good time. Eaglesmith's merry band of pranksters are like a psychedelic roadshow that set out on the open road sometime in the 60's and still haven't run out of gas. 

The Smalls - The West End Cultural Centre - October 24th

I didn't truly understand how special The Smalls were until I stood among the aging prairie punks. Someone standing next to the stage put his arm around me and yelled into my ear "I'll be the first to buy one of those prints." I could tell that The Smalls were one of those bands that really spoke to him. He's probably heard these songs a thousand times.

I didn't truly understand how special The Smalls were until I stood among the aging prairie punks. Someone standing next to the stage put his arm around me and yelled into my ear "I'll be the first to buy one of those prints." I could tell that The Smalls were one of those bands that really spoke to him. He's probably heard these songs a thousand times.

Greg McPherson - The Good Will Social Club - November 9th

GMac has a voice like no other. Perfect for belting working class rock 'n' roll and giving inspiration talks to a room full of friends and neighbours. A show highlight, as seen in this photo, was when Hailey Primrose joined him to sing "Tourists" from his latest album Fireball.

GMac has a voice like no other. Perfect for belting working class rock 'n' roll and giving inspiration talks to a room full of friends and neighbours. A show highlight, as seen in this photo, was when Hailey Primrose joined him to sing "Tourists" from his latest album Fireball.

The Flatliners - The Park Theatre - November 27th

I probably should have also included Slates and The Greenery here as well seen as all three bands that played that night played solid sets.

I probably should have also included Slates and The Greenery here as well seen as all three bands that played that night played solid sets.

A Tribe Called Red - Union Sound Hall - December 11th

*This photo was actually taken in September of 2013 when A Tribe Called Red played a free show a the University of Winnipeg. I didn't bring my camera to the show at Union Sound Hall.  Seeing A Tribe Called Red on Treaty One Territory is always an incredibly powerful, especially in a packed crowd that includes the Grand Chief of Manitoba, Derek Nepinak and Anishinaabe singer songwriter Leonard Sumner.

*This photo was actually taken in September of 2013 when A Tribe Called Red played a free show a the University of Winnipeg. I didn't bring my camera to the show at Union Sound Hall. 

Seeing A Tribe Called Red on Treaty One Territory is always an incredibly powerful, especially in a packed crowd that includes the Grand Chief of Manitoba, Derek Nepinak and Anishinaabe singer songwriter Leonard Sumner.