Swim for the music that saves you

On November 15, we had the opportunity to see one of my absolute favourite singer-songwriters, Andrew McMahon.


You may recall I’ve talked about Andrew a couple of times before. I saw him last November, and I’ve been listening to him in some form or another for the last seven or eight years. I’ve made it a point to see him every time he’s in town since 2010, so this was my fifth time.

We missed the opening act, Lolo, because we chose to have dessert at Factory Girl instead, but since I doubted she would play “Miss Jackson” or “Centuries”, I didn’t mind missing her twenty minute set.

The next band to go on was The Griswolds. I’ve never heard of them, but I really enjoyed them! They were a great blend of the headliners, New Politics and Andrew McMahon, plus they’re Australian! They played an excellent version of Vance Joy’s “Riptide” (I did not know that Vance Joy is also Australian, so that was cool). Check them out if you’re looking for something to bop around to.

New Politics was up next. I’ve seen them twice before (once as a headliner, then again as an opening band), so I was a little perplexed when they were announced as Andrew McMahon’s tourmates because they don’t really have the same vibe. While I’m still on the fence as to whether or not their music makes sense together, there’s no denying how much fun New Politics is, especially live. Since the last two times I’ve seen them, they’ve released another album – this year’s Vikings – so it was nice to hear newer songs. Of course, the highlight of their set was still “Harlem”, though Andrew McMahon bounding out on stage for “Girl Crush” was pretty epic too.

Finally, Andrew himself came out. Surprisingly, he started out slow with the ballad, “Rainy Girl”, but immediately picked it up with “Dark Blue”, one of my and Ro’s favourite Jack’s Mannequin songs.

The set was a good mix of his solo stuff (“Canyon Moon”, “Halls”, etc) and songs from his his earlier career: the classic “I Woke Up in a Car”, a mellower version of “Punk Rock Princess”, the always outstanding “La La Lie” (New Politics came out for part of the song, and it was clear that they were all enjoying themselves), one of my other faves, “Swim” (which he dedicated to my Light the Night team captain Laurel!), and even the less popular “Bloodshot”. And, of course, he closed the show with the double whammy of awesomeness: “Cecilia and the Satellite” and “Synesthesia”.

For some reason, the crowd seemed particularly rowdy, and a couple of people were even escorted out before the show ended. If you’re not familiar with Andrew McMahon, all you need to need is that he’s a laid-back California dude who sings songs about love and finding yourself. So having a heckler in the audience or spotting two drunk girls fighting another girl for a balloon (both of which happened!) isn’t something that’s normal at one of his shows. As upsetting as it is to see a performer get mad, I liked that he made a point to call out people who were being disruptive, and made sure they understood that he doesn’t tolerate that kind of behaviour, especially in light of recent tragic events. Why go to a show if you’re just going to ruin it for everyone else?

Boisterous people aside, it was a fantastic show that left me with a scratchy voice and a mild post-concert depression the next morning. I absolutely recommend Andrew McMahon – with about fifteen years of material, I’m sure you’ll find something you like.

Top 10 Songs

Okay, so I’ve done books and albums, but now I’m challenging myself to come up with the top ten songs that have stayed with me. I didn’t come up with this challenge by myself, it’s something else that’s been going around the Facebook.

This is going to be hard because I can barely pick a favourite song by any one band and I’m going to force myself to not repeat bands (I hate myself already). Some of these aren’t “favourite” songs, but are songs that have influenced/inspired me in some way.

In no particular order:

1) Take Off Your Colours – You Me At Six

Take off your colours, who are you wearing them for?

I originally put “Reckless” on this list, for obvious reasons (mainly the tattoo on my wrist). But then I remembered that I probably wouldn’t have even heard “Reckless” if it hadn’t been for “Take Off Your Colours”.  Finding this song (before seeing YMAS for the first time when they opened for The Academy Is… in November 2009) was the reason I gave those five boys from Surrey a chance. And I’ve never looked back.

2) There’s a Good Reason These Tables Are Numbered Honey, You Just Haven’t Thought of it Yet – Panic! at the Disco

When you’re in black slacks with accentuating off-white pinstripes, whoa-oh; everything goes according to plan.

My love affair with Panic! at the Disco is an ongoing saga. It’s not an exaggeration to say they changed my life, or at the very least, they changed the way I listen to music. This was the first P!ATD song I heard, and it immediately opened my brain to a whole new branch of music that I had previously never explored.

3) All the Small Things – blink-182

Say it ain’t so, I will not go…

When this song came out, I was about 9, and all the other girls in my class made fun of it, while I sat quietly thinking, “I don’t know what he’s singing about, but I flippin’ love it”. If Panic! at the Disco was the band that really cultivated my love for pop-punk, then blink-182 was the band that first planted that particular seed in my heart.

4) Bruised – Jack’s Mannequin

So read your books, but stay out late some nights…

This was the first Andrew McMahon song I ever heard. I owe it so much for introducing me to such an incredible, inspirational singer-songwriter-human. I may not have been a fan since the early days of Something Corporate, but I have faithfully followed Andrew on his musical journey over the past seven years and, as long as he keeps making music, I’ll keep on following him.

5) Color – The Maine

I’m just trying to find some colour in this black and white world…

This isn’t my favourite The Maine song (I have a hard time picking my top 5 TM songs, so I can’t choose just one), but I love the lyrics and the overall sentiment.

6) Slow Down – The Academy Is…

Then we’ll turn it up and we’ll play a little faster…

The first TAI… song I ever heard, it sticks with me because I have such strong memories of hearing it for the first time and learning about this amazing band.

7) Sanctuary – Paradise Fears

Even broken wings can fly away…

The first time I saw Paradise Fears – November 2011 – I remember them playing a great cover of “Stacey’s Mom”, and then, a few songs later, diving into “Sanctuary”. I didn’t know what it was called but it struck a chord with me. By the time I saw them a second time, four months later, I knew that I had stumbled on a very special band. I will never not feel emotional while shouting the words to the “speech”.

8) Bed of Roses – Bon Jovi

I’ve got nothing to prove for it’s you that I’d die to defend…

I spent a lot of time trying to decide which Bon Jovi song would end up on this list. At first I thought “Blood on Blood” because I love how relateable the lyrics are; then I thought “Born to Be My Baby” which is one of my favourites, or “Someday I’ll Be Saturday Night”, which is one of my other favourites. But I ended up with “Bed of Roses” because I have these vague memories of listening to it a lot with my oldest sister, Vanessa, when I was little (it came out when I was about 3).

9) Free Fallin’ – Tom Petty

I wanna free fall, out into nothing, gonna live this world for a while…

I remember loving this song as a kid. I still really like it (sidenote: the cover by The Almost is also excellent). I don’t have any fun stories surrounding this song, but I can definitely remember singing along to it.

10) Take it to the Limit – The Eagles

So put me on a highway, show me a sign…

For most of my life, this song ended every other mixed tape (and later, mixed CD), we listened to on family road-trips. Once, I tried throwing it into the middle of a track list to mix things up, and it just didn’t work. It’s an end-of-the-night sing-along song, and is, essentially, my family’s anthem.

I see colours when I hear your voice

See this guy? This is Andrew McMahon. He’s wonderful. One of my favourite singer-songwriters ever. I’ve mentioned him before on this blog – twice, actually. Last night, I saw him for the fourth time – this means that I’ve seen him in all of his incarnations, from Something Corporate to Jack’s Mannequin, his solo show last summer (when I almost drowned – that’s a story for another day), and then finally as “Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness”.

Opening band Junior Prom had an American Authors-meets-Twenty One Pilots vibe (the TOP comparison might be made solely based on the fact that there were only two guys in the band). They were pretty upbeat and did a fine job getting the crowd ready for the next two bands.

Hunter Hunted seemed like a mishmash of other bands I listen to: sort of a non-synthesizer-using Bastille (Imagine Dragons?) and someone else that I can’t remember (I came up with a great comparison last night but foolishly didn’t write it down). Ro said Bombay Bicycle Club and she may be on to something.

Finally Andrew came out. When I go to an Andrew McMahon course, I expect a certain level of flawlessness, and he always delivers. This show included a combination of songs from his past bands, as well as songs off his latest release, Andrew McMahon in the Wilderness, which came out last month. One of my favourite, spine-tingling, moments was during “Cecilia and the Satellite” (the lead single off of AMITW), when the stage lights went off, plunging them into darkness, only to come back with full force during the post-chorus “oh”s. He also played a beautiful, slightly mellower version of one of his most famous (I mean, it was on One Tree Hill at one point!) Jack’s Mannequin songs, “The Mixed Tape”.

The original song.

His between-song banter was funny, occasionally lapsing into serious (like when he called out the people who had started a fight in the middle of the crowd), but above all, he sounded genuinely grateful that he had a room full of people who have faithfully followed his musical endeavors over the past 10+ years. And he made sure not to let down those die-hard fans, especially when he stomped on his piano and pulled out a harmonica for “La La Lie”.

Andrew McMahon is one of those musicians who can do no wrong in my book. He could release the worst song to ever exist, and I’d still listen to it on repeat for at least a week. Of course, it’s just not possible for him to release a bad song – even if the beat is mediocre, his words more than make up for it.

Top 10 Albums

Last week, I wrote a Writing Wednesday post about ten books that have stayed with me. Today, I figured I’d do the same, except MUSIC style.

So here you go, in no particular order, my top ten albums and top two favourite songs per album (because I’m pretty sure I’ve already mentioned most of these songs in other posts):

1) Sinners Never Sleep – You Me At Six

Reckless (if you’ve ever met me, you’d already know that)

Bite My Tongue (ft. Oli Sykes)

2) Vices & Virtues – Panic! at the Disco

Ready to Go (Get Me Out of My Mind)


3) Pioneer – The Maine

Like We Did (Windows Down)

My Heroine

4) Don’t Panic: It’s Longer Now – All Time Low

A Love Like War (ft. Vic Fuentes)

Somewhere in Neverland

5) Battle Scars – Paradise Fears



6) Santi – The Academy Is…

Everything We Had


7) Everything in Transit – Jack’s Mannequin


Dark Blue

8) Save Rock & Roll – Fall Out Boy

Young Volcanoes

Alone Together

9) Sempiternal – Bring Me the Horizon


Can You Feel My Heart

10) Hello Fascination – Breathe Carolina

Dressed Up to Undress


My life has become a boring pop song and everyone’s singing along

Did you know that there are TWO Emmy celebrations? The actual Emmys were this weekend, but there’s also the “Creative Emmys” which take place a week before.

I just learned about this second celebration (though I guess technically it’s the “first”, in chronological terms) this year because Andrew McMahon was nominated for the song he wrote for Smash.

I am an Andrew McMahon fangirl. Over the past 12-15 years, he’s released music under three different monikers, and I firmly stand by each and every one of them.

I wish I had listened to Something Corporate when they first came out, but I was 10, and didn’t really listen to anything outside of what was played at my house. (This is a particularly shocking revelation if you know me now, since 90% of my free time is spent at a concert/talking about/listening to/downloading music.) But I was lucky enough to attend their 10 year reunion tour in August 2010, and it was a fantastic show. I often tell people that the first time I almost cried at a concert was when I heard “Konstantine” live especially when the audience (including me) sang along to all 9.5 minutes of it.

If you could be my punk rock princess, I would be your garage band king.

After SoCo went on “hiatus” (i.e. they broke up) in 2005-ish, Andrew turned his attention to his side project, Jack’s Mannequin.  This was when – after a friend made me listen to “Bruised” in grade 11 – I was first introduced to his wonderful lyrical story-telling. It remains one of my most favourite songs of all time. To be honest, I don’t think I really listened to the rest of his songs at the time (except maybe “Dark Blue” and “Miss Delaney”), but when I finally listened to the first Jack’s album, Everything in Transit, in full, I was hooked. I saw Jack’s live in January 2012 and lost my mind so many times, I can’t even tell you.

Have you ever been alone in a crowded room?

At the end of last summer, Andrew retired “Jack’s Mannequin” and decided to release music under his own name. So far, he’s put out one 4-song EP this year, “The Pop Underground”. Much to my delight, when he went on tour supporting O.A.R., he played a solo show in Toronto (he played songs from all 3 of his incarnations). This was in early July – July 8th, exactly. I’ll probably never forget that show because it was the day of the huge storm  – you know, the one that resulted in subway stations being flooded? – which I walked through, because there was no way I was going to miss him. And even though I was soaked to the bone, and it took 3 days for my shoes to dry…it was a completely worth it.

I see colours when I hear your voice.

One of the best parts of any Andrew McMahon show – regardless of which band he’s touring with – is the part where he climbs onto his piano and stomps out the last part of the song with his feet. You would think that playing the piano with your feet would result in unpleasant, discordant noise, but it’s actually delightful, both to hear and to see.

I realize this post has gushed on for a bit, so I’ll wrap it up.

One other amazing aspect of Andrew McMahon is that he successfully defeated leukemia about 8 years ago – right as he left SoCo, shortly after recording “Everything in Transit”. He filmed all the big moments of his illness and released it as a documentary, “Dear Jack”. If you ever need to gain perspective on your life, if you ever feel like it couldn’t get worse, watch it – and realize that he was only 22, battling a terminal disease, but still managed to stay (relatively) optimistic through the whole thing.

Obviously he survived, but I still tear up watching it- especially when he starts losing his hair…

I’m just going to put it out there: Andrew McMahon is a legend.

“Swim for the music that saves you when you’re not so sure you’ll survive.”