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Left and Leaving: An Open Letter To The Weakerthans

July 31, 2015

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The Weakerthans are no more, and we are sad.

Dear The Weakerthans,

It is with a heavy heart that I am composing this letter.

Although the news was revealed more than two weeks ago, it’s still affecting me. Tragic is likely too strong a word, but to those who loved you it’s upsetting no less.

You, The Weakerthans, have decided to call it quits.

Admittedly, I came to the party late. My first exposure to your music was with your third album, Reconstruction Site. Ever since that first moment that I heard John K. Samson proclaim that he wanted to “call a request through heating vents,” and then “hear them answered with a whisper no” I was a convert to your particular and powerful brand of poetic rock.

Sometimes you sang about Canada and there was always something about you that spoke to a certain Canadian sensibility. Though there was always a risk of focusing too strongly on your “Canadianness” and pigeonholing you as a regional phenomenon, like the tiresome stereotypes that form part of every conversation about our cultural identity—you were more than that.

You’re one of the rare examples of a Canadian band that wore Canada on your sleeve and were appreciated by the whole world for it.

To me, it felt like you weren’t creating these songs because you felt compelled to pander to a Canadian stereotype. It felt like you were writing from your heart. Your music was about something more universal than just curling at the local rink or enjoying a hockey game while it’s -30° outside. I’ll miss that about your music, because, in many ways, those are the same experiences that shaped me, too.

I’ve spent countless hours skating and practicing slapshots at an outdoor rink in the freezing cold with your music as the soundtrack. Somehow it just made it better. Made it feel like something more than it was

Your music is bonspiels in the dead of winter, watching a sunset over the prairie in the middle of summer, breaking up, getting back together, working a shitty job, being lost, feeling empty, being in love, finding out who you are and what you’re doing. It was about living in Winnipeg and also about wherever we lived while listening.

Even now when I reminisce about these things, I feel a little emotional. It’s not the first time that your band has elicited that sort of nostalgic melancholy from me, and it likely won’t be the last.

Right now I hate you the same way you hated Winnipeg.

You’ve left and you’re leaving. Maybe there will be a reunion. Maybe you’ll tour. Maybe there’s a part of The Weakerthans you’re letting lie fallow, something that will end up growing sometime in the future. Waiting for a reconstruction. For the right moment. The right site.

I think the thing that will leave me with the most regret is Virtute the cat. She was left in that noisy home, far away from the place she was needed, but seemed to no longer belong. I want to know what happens to her. I want her to go back.

I may never know the answer and maybe it’s better that way. I just hope that unlike Virtute, I’ll never forget the songs you made for me—the songs you made that spoke to everyone.

— Nathaniel Schmidt

Questions, comments, or just want to talk music? Contact me:
Email:
nathaniel.schmidt@nmc.ca
Twitter: @N88TE

About the Author

Nathaniel Schmidt

Born and raised in the Comox Valley, Nathaniel is a composer, teacher, writer, and reluctant pianist who has been freelancing in Calgary in various capacities for over seven years. He freely admits to enjoying everything Sting has done pre-1998 (including Dune).

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