Sold Out at the Ironwood
January, 2022 - Almost a year ago we released Sold Out at the Ironwood to the world. And it landed with a great thud. Not because of the quality of the work, not because people didn't like it or listen to it, but because it landed smack-dab in the middle of a pandemic. We wanted to celebrate the album, show off our new songs and share new stories during a release tour. That had worked so well since our EP release in 2013 when emerging supporters descended on The Club at The Banff Centre. The show was oversold, we broke fire code rules to squeeze a few more in. We invited several storytellers to the stage: wardens Karsten Heuer, Brianna Burley, Frank Burstrom, Gord Irwin and famous Banff warden bride Dorothy Carleton. Each storyteller filled the night with rich tales of a life in the hills. The show was a greater success than we ever could have imagined. It was a sign to carry on.
In 2017 we were back with a new album, performing at The Banff Centre to present Sleeping Buffalo right on the very shoulders of the sacred Sleeping Buffalo mountain. The show was sold out. The next night at ArtsPlace in Canmore, sold out again. We presented a final release show at Calgary's Woodcliffe United Church and more than 300 people packed the house. The energy, the love and the appreciation for our new work was overwhelming. These are the nights we strive for, the performances we dream of.
Today, on the first anniversary of releasing Sold Out at the Ironwood we know live music will be back. For two years live music's collective soul has had the rug ripped right out from underneath it. But reflecting on the effect our music has had on our audiences, we know the wait will be worth it. If anything, this forced cultural hiatus has taught us something very tangible going forward: play every show as if it were the first AND the last.
See you very soon.
Since Bear 66 - our first full-length album, we have spent considerable time ensuring our albums best represent the experience of our show. Our welcome message has become a staple and in 2021, with a world that had gone topsy turvy we were very much outside of our comfort zone. Our introductory note reflects that - and our optimism to return to the stage. We would never have thought this meant two years without music. A year later, we are still optimistic and ready to go:
"The Wardens are a live touring band. That means we exist to gather around a microphone and share our music with people. For over a decade we’ve performed on stages from Calgary to Souris, Manitoba to San Diego, California; from western Alaska to northern BC, southern Saskatchewan and eastern Wyoming. And everywhere in Alberta. We’ve picked our guitars and thumped the upright bass in community halls, churches, coffee shops, and soft-seat theatres. Are we grateful? You bet we are. It’s something we couldn’t have done without you. You’ve literally come from the hills to listen to our stories and hear our harmonies. Often, we’re sold out.
But as sharply as a whip can crack, that all changed. In 2020, the music stopped. The intimate relationship between audience and performer - something that only exists when we breathe the same air - is gone. The way we know it, playing at one of western Canada’s premiere venues - like Calgary's Ironwood Stage & Grill - is impossible. But dreaming, that’s still possible. While you listen to this album, close your eyes and imagine it like this: we’re elbow to elbow and Sold Out at the Ironwood.
Someday, that will happen." - Scott, Ray and Bradley
As anyone who has seen us live knows, stories are as much a part of the evening as the music. While Spotify and other streaming services do a fantastic job of highlighting our music, they do a terrible job at the tactile elements like giving listeners the liner notes (oh, and money too). While many don't have CD players anymore, our albums are part of the music, not apart from it. The song descriptions help frame our work just as they do in live shows. Hopefully here in digital form we can approach something a little more tactile.
In Sold Out at the Ironwood we also added another element that we've never previously done - live tracks. People have often asked us if our stories are included on the CDs. Our answer is usually: "we save the stories exclusively for our live audiences." With lockdowns looming, we decided to break our rule and provide one of the most touching stories in our repertoire, that of Neil Colgan and the terrible backcountry accident that cost him his life.