Joel Plaskett Emergency

(Photo by Ryan Hueglin)

With a man who is so dedicated to his music and making his shows both intimate and engaging, it’s almost impossible not to love Joel Plaskett. A pioneer in Canadian music, Joel Plaskett Emergency returned to Uptown Waterloo’s Starlight Lounge on Oct. 18 to put on an electrifying performance to a sold out crowd.

However, before the lights turned on and the guitars were plugged in, Plaskett managed to sit down with The Cord to talk about the record, what it’s like to be on tour and of course, tweeting in between shows.

After his recent record release, Scrappy Happiness, which came out on Mar. 27, Plaskett has been touring non-stop since the spring.

“I’m home for like a week or two and then I’m off again. We toured a bunch in the Spring and did a bunch of festivals which took me away (from home) every weekend,” said Plaskett. “I did a two and a half week tour in the West, which was an acoustic solo set. After this, I’m going to the Maritimes and will be doing a gig at the Horseshoe (in Toronto) for four days in December.”

Due to constantly being on the road, Plaskett noted that his fans’ reactions to the record are solely based on his shows.

“The songs are fun to play and the audiences are reacting well to them. They either know the songs or if they don’t,” he said, “they’ll still react to it well instead of going to the bar during a new song.”

With fans standing elbow to elbow, the audience was able to sing along and croon to the new additions on the set-list like “Harbour Boys,” “North Star” and “Lightning Bolt.” While concert-goers expect to hear their favourite classics, after having recently released a record, Plaskett knows he must in integrate the newer and unfamiliar songs into his set-list.

“It’s always the balance and as the catalogue grows there are more songs that people want to hear. I try to put together a show that has most of them,” Plaskett stated when asked about having to incorporate new songs into his set list.

“‘Lightning Bolt’ is a really big part of the show. I’m happy with the record because it gives us a new material”.

Audience reaction and participation has always been a huge force in driving Plaskett to consider a tour successful. “The coolest thing that’s happened is that we haven’t had bad shows in terms of attendance and enthusiasm,” he said. “Some are a bit more mellow than others, some are crazier but it’s been a long time since I’ve had a show and I’ve felt like a drag onstage.”

Most of Plaskett’s performances in Ontario have been in large theaters, so his return to Starlight was able to offer a more connected bond between him and the audience. “The cool thing about [Starlight] is that you can really feel the room.”

The connection between Plaskett and his fans is extremely important, so much so that he makes note of reading all their tweets.

“I like making a connection, I like knowing my audience, I love the fact of people taking an interest and talking to me,” said Plaskett.

This is extended beyond his iPhone as his shows are intended to be participatory, breaking down the invisible barrier between the audience and the stage.

The crowd at Thursday night’s show got a first-hand look at his unique approach. Differing from concert norms, Plaskett re-entered the stage for his encore and asked the audience to listen to a song on his iPod, “Point of No Return” by Bobby Wormak as he happily swayed along.

The iPod music sharing session did not stop as he continued to play his own song, “Fashionable People” while singing along, karaoke style.

This lassez-faire approach of improvising onstage is carried into his plans for the future. Hoping to get started on his new record once he’s calmed down a bit from the tour, his plans are still to be determined.

“I’ve been living in the moment this year, I’m trying not to think ahead. It’s actually serving me well,” Plaskett concluded.

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