Greg MacPherson, Oct23, Le Cagibi, Montreal

by Nic Olson

I was maybe fourteen years old, driving back from Warped Tour in Somerset, Wisconsin, stopping in Winnipeg for two days to buy novelty swords and to experience the glory of the Osbourne Village. There was some sort of festival of culture happening and Osbourne Street was closed down from Confusion Corner to the river. We went to Music Trader which was one of the first record stores I’d been in besides A&B Sound and Records On Wheels so it was always interesting to me. I walked in, my brother trailed me, and a second later declared that he saw Greg MacPherson leave the record store. I didn’t see his face. We had listened to his music on our long drive to Somerset so I knew who he was. Since this encounter, Greg MacPherson has been a musical phantom to me. A dark dressed man, dark hair, shadowed face and mysterious movements.

Greg MacPherson sings like no one else.

I’ve seen him play music twice in the past nine months and each time I’ve experienced music unlike I have ever before. And I saw his face. It wasn’t covered with the darkness of imagination anymore, but strong and sharp like that of a thirty year old doing something they love. He seems like you could sit down with him on a used couch watching a static-humming hockey game on CBC with the bunny ears and talk about old hockey greats from the nineties, softly analyzing culture during the commercial breaks and conversing about musicians and poetry during the intermissions. His songs are told with the care of your grandfather while you sit under a felt blanket in front of a wood fire. His guitar parts have the ability to simultaneously fuze rock, folk and prairie country into styles and strums and ideas you couldn’t imagine would come from such a light faced, dark haired, shadowless man. Because I’ve seen his face.

At least three times in his set, after a day of shedding tears on roller coasters for eight hours, my brain didn’t realize that it was no longer traveling at several hundred kilometres per hour, and with the highs and the lows of a carefully planned set, my eyes moistened. The power of a voice that requires a microphone only when whispering while a band is playing is enough to make me weak, and did so often. Unlike any musical act I’ve ever seen, sitting in a rickety chair, clutching my own bent legs.

His writing is everything I want mine to be, and if I ever write a single line as strong yet comfortable as his, I will be content with my amateur career.

The face of fourteen year old imagination was permanently filled with that of Greg MacPherson, brilliant lyricist, smooth and strong guitar strummer and Canada’s greatest songwriter. And I will not be the same.

‘There’s whole towns made of stainless-steel
And people that are made of gold
Some of us are living just to stay alive
And some of us never get old’
Greg MacPherson, Kingston