Hands On, Direct To Fans

Regular TFN blog contributor Jane Flood shares with us her recent experience at one of the private house parties pledged on through the Pledge Music campaign. Thank you, Jane! – TFN

They said, “We want YOU to be a part of it”. So we made sure we were. All 40 of us. Ok, there were a few who were told they were coming along for the ride, whether they liked it or not, but in the end, all agreed it was a worthwhile cause.

If memory serves, the beginning of this goes back to the end of May… an announcement was made on the Trews’ website and Facebook page (and I guess Twitter, too) to stay tuned for, well, an important announcement from the band. There was speculation, of course, and accusations of it being a tease in the meantime. It felt like ages before the news finally came out (maybe a week or two?), by way of an informative and entertaining video – but then it created almost a panic, a frantic look at credit card balances and potential maneuverability: the Trews had decided to fund their next full length album by asking their fans to make a donation or pledge, via PledgeMusic, in return for what was described as exclusive content and experiences. Wikipedia says PledgeMusic is “an online Direct-to-Fan music platform, launched in August of 2009, that facilitates musicians reaching out to their fanbase (termed Pledgers) to pre-sell, market, and distribute music projects…”.

Apparently, this is the new way of making music. A few comments posted in response to their plan were not kind, but it seemed that many figured if the Trews thought it was the way to go, who were they, their fans, to think otherwise. There were all kinds of great things to “buy” – the usual kinds of merchandise such as autographed CDs and t-shirts, but also items like one of Jack’s hats and copies of his digital artwork, or experiences such as guitar lessons with John-Angus, studio visits, 4-on-4 street hockey sessions with the guys… Sean was very generous with his time (or his fellow bandmates were, on his behalf) with drum lessons and a number of Buy Sean (“…folks, he’s your problem now”) offerings for $11, the least expensive of all (you’d have to see their website for the video that launched the project for suggestions of what to do with him). These were snapped up pretty quick.

We soon learned that while such a project is geared toward raising funds for musicians, it does allow artists to include contributions to charity. The Trews chose the Cystic Fibrosis Canada Peel & District Chapter, and pledged 5% of all post-goal money in memory of Paul Gourlie, their long-time agent who died in May from complications of the disease.

Pledgers were not charged until the project goal is reached – and if the target was not reached, pledgers were not charged – and many happily pledged away. There were five private house concerts available and before I knew it, I had been officially invited to one of them by a friend. I wasn’t privy to the exact dealings between said friend and PledgeMusic, but committed nonetheless to a private concert later in the year. Committed to four places on the guest list, actually: for myself, my husband, my daughter and her fiancé. Early Christmas gifts, I decided (they don’t know that was their gift. I guess I should tell them).

The Trews’ campaign reached its goal and our concert date was set for November 15th, but then it changed to October 18th. It turned out to be good for us – a better time of year to travel on the highway. Payment to our private show organizer was requested by mid-September and a venue had been secured. The organizer had established a private Facebook message-page to post updates on our show; it was where everyone could share travel and accommodation plans and a growing enthusiasm over an event many regarded as sublime. It was simply, but aptly titled The Private House Concert.

The Private Tiny Hall Concert

The purchase of the private show was for a 50th birthday gift to the main organizer from her husband. I think it initially was intended for the lucky ladyl and some family and friends, but the by-invitation-only guest list grew to include some diehard Trews fans from near and far. And some were newer recruits, but always welcome to the Trews family of Friends and Total Strangers.

Keychains made by an attending fan for everyone to enjoy.

Keychains made by an attending fan for everyone to enjoy.

Friday, October 18th brought nice weather and we traveled down the 401 in sunshine. The venue was easy enough to locate – a quaint little building that had started out as a schoolhouse, circa 1880; it is now a community centre and I could see why our exclusive house concert was renamed The Private Tiny Hall Concert. There was enough room to move about and mingle during the social hour, but was perfectly cozy for the almost intimate atmosphere that an acoustic show creates. I knew half a dozen other fans I’d met from previous Trews shows and I recognized a few others from pictures and posts on Facebook. Everyone was friendly, chatty, and relaxed, but you could feel an undercurrent of excitement. This probably was aided by the presence of the band’s monitor engineer/stage manager, Rob, who had already set up, but was still moving about, probably just fine-tuning at that point.

Before long, people had taken up a spot – some seated, some standing behind – the boys came into the room after an introduction by The Birthday Girl, and they seated themselves in their usual order: left to right, rhythm guitar player and lead vocalist Colin, drummer Sean, bassist Jack and lead guitarist John-Angus. It was familiar, yet felt disconcerting, to be so close and have an unobstructed view of what many think is Canada’s best and hardest working band. They kicked off with “Poor Ol’ Broken Hearted Me”, which is still raucous enough in its acoustic format. One or two songs into the evening and we were told to move up closer, with Colin quipping it should be like sitting around a campfire and singing “Kumbaya”. True to his word, he sang a verse from this old spiritual, cleverly placed in the middle of “Ishmael and Maggie”. Or a few think it was part of “One By One”. At any rate, it just may be a private show classic now.

The band starts!
Other acoustic show staples they performed included “Sing Your Heart Out”, “Hope and Ruin”, “Tired of Waiting”, “Not Ready To Go”, “Man of Two Minds”, and “Hold Me”. They also sang “The Power of Positive Drinking”, which plays well when unplugged, and after this show I had decided I’m coming around to liking the slower, acoustic version of “I Can’t Stop Laughing”. “Makin’ Sunshine” with its lyrics of “my heart is not the type to sway, it’s good for any other day” was lighter fare that would appeal to hopeless romantics. They did a great cover of Fleetwood Mac’s “Second Hand News”, inserted into “Makin’ Sunshine”, which was enough of a contrast to snap you back to reality.

A couple of new songs were played, and most of us had already heard some unreleased material from attending shows in the summer – it’s all been well received. “65 Roses”, a tribute to their agent Paul Gourlie who they lost this past spring, would have been a more serious note for the evening, but the song was upbeat. Entirely appropriate for someone who had cystic fibrosis, and at almost 38 years of age, lived a comparative life of longevity.

Two songs that made everyone’s night were “Confessions” and “When You Leave”, both receiving enthusiastic responses – these are a couple of their oldest songs and deserve a certain reverence. They’re both typically youthful, fast-paced anthems. Performing these songs, even when unplugged, requires a fair measure of having been true to your roots and an ability of, well, youthfulness. The Trews can still pull it off.

The band performing.
It must be strange to play for what seems a muted reaction, compared to a bigger show with the rowdiest of fans lined up six-deep or more in front of the stage, all jockeying for position. This was certainly more civilized and older fans especially appreciated it, but the Trews seemed to enjoy the evening, too, as they smiled and joked and John-Angus graciously thanked everyone for supporting them during their foray into the world of crowdfunding.


The finale of the night was an autograph and photo session and it was organized in a casual, leisurely way. People talked and took pictures with others, while waiting to go up and say hello. It was nice to have a few minutes, in the post show glow, to  compare notes with my family and others. I had brought about half a dozen newly unwrapped CDs with me and had passed them around to everyone in our party of four, to get signed. I was first up to the table and then I took the CDs back from everyone and handed them to Colin, who was first in line. I have no idea what possessed me to do that; I’d only had one beer.

I then asked JA if he would autograph the new CD that he produced for The Glorious Sons, a young Kingston, ON, based band. He obliged, asking how I liked it (we listened to it a couple of times on our drive that afternoon). I remained standing there and Colin asked me who the other CDs should be signed for, or to. My answer of “no one” kind of puzzled (or amused) him, so I explained that I use them as gifts for international friends, which led to where were we from? …Kingston, but currently stationed in the in USA… And then I found myself almost haranguing him that this was the third time in 14 months that I’ve come back to Canada for a show and that they need to come south now! I had also handed the Glorious Sons CD back to its producer, not noticing he’d already autographed it, which had to be pointed out to me.

And there my poor family stood, off to the side, forgotten. I think they may have moved past me, but I was totally oblivious. Later, when my husband joked about it, I was upset that neither he, nor the kids, had prodded me along. I’ve been through enough receiving lines to know how it’s done. Maybe I was starstruck. My husband said we all were just tired, it had been a busy week for the four of us. I guess I’ll go with that. The photograph part of the encounter was smoother – Colin suddenly instructed me to “stand in the middle”, so I moved down past JA and cozied up to Jack, thinking that was so thoughtful of Colin, to let the matriarch stand out in the middle of the group. In retrospect, it was probably to move me away (“She’s your problem now, fellas.”).

The band with the Flood family.
One final, group photo followed, which turned out well (except my eyes were closed, but that goes with my I-was-tired story). The Birthday Girl had a memorable evening and I was happy that my family members, who I think just humour me a lot of the time, were very impressed with Acoustic Trews and pleased to have been there. I think I see another show or two as birthday presents in their future.



For the fans, by the fans. Since 2005.
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One Response to Hands On, Direct To Fans

  1. Leighton says:

    Sounds like you all had a great evening with the lads, and what a great way to celebrate a 50th birthday. Wonder if I can convince my wife to do it for mine (she’s got 90 days to sort it out) ?

    Looking forward to the new album… bring it on.

    Leighton (all the way from the UK)

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