Canadian Musicians Show Off Ticket Stubs from Their Favourite Shows

Allison Russell, the Strumbellas, Cadence Weapon and more share their concert memories
Canadian Musicians Show Off Ticket Stubs from Their Favourite Shows
Photo: Sara Mojtehedzadeh
Live music is finally on the horizon, and with artists booking gigs for later this year and into 2022, we're getting excited for the upcoming wave of shows. With that in mind, it's the perfect time to reflect on concert memories from years past. We reached out to some of our favourite Canadian artists and got them to dig out ticket stubs from standout shows they've attended.

What we received was everything from a rapper talking about his favourite folk concert to an indie pop artist who opened for Twenty One Pilots before they were famous. One artist even had a stub from a concert that took place post-lockdown.

Leandra Earl of the Beaches
Avril Lavigne at Air Canada Centre
Toronto, ON
November 4, 2004

The lyrics on the Beaches' new EP, Future Lovers, confrontationally tackle the experience of being pigeonholed as a woman in the male-dominated rock music industry. It's only appropriate, then, that her career dreams were ignited by a 2004 performance by the like-minded Avril Lavigne. It was Earl's first-ever concert, and her mom surprised her with tickets to the show for her 10th birthday.

"This was at the height of my Avril obsession," says Earl. "I remember just being in total awe of her when I finally got to see her live. Watching her run around on stage while singing, playing guitar, piano and drums made me want to do just that. Thank you, Avril, for inspiring young, tomboy me to pursue my rock'n'roll dreams." Note the Avril T-shirt Earl is wearing in this photo.

Cadence Weapon
Bonnie "Prince" Billy at McDougall United Church
Edmonton, AB
March 23, 2009

Fresh off his album Parallel World, Cadence Weapon (a.k.a. Rollie Pemberton) proves his musical breadth by picking a 2009 gig by Bonnie "Prince" Billy at McDougall United Church. "The show was great, very spiritual," Pemberton remembers. He even coincidentally met the artist following the gig. "It was an evening where I made some really good friends and felt a lot of optimism for Edmonton's music scene. We ran into Will Oldham at a dive bar down the street called Hawkeye's after the show, which felt incredibly magical at the time."

Evan Lewis of Ducks Ltd.
Neil Young at Nokia Theatre
Los Angeles, CA
October 30, 2007

In 2007, Neil Young played a Toronto concert at Massey Hall. Unfortunately, by the time he announced that show, Ducks Ltd. member Evan Lewis had already booked a ticket to Los Angeles to see him at the Microsoft Theatre (at the time called the Nokia Theatre). It wasn't quite as convenient at seeing him here in Canada, but it worked out for the best. "I'm obsessed with his On the Beach album, and by good luck he played an incredible version of 'Ambulance Blues,'" Lewis tells Exclaim! "Still my favourite concert I've been to." Formerly known at Ducks Unlimited, the rebranded Ducks Ltd. recently reissued their Get Bleak EP in expanded form.

Britney Spears at Scotiabank Place
Ottawa, ON
August 21, 2009

fanclubwallet's new EP is called Hurt Is Boring. But do you know what was definitely not boring at all? Seeing Britney Spears on her Circus tour in 2009. Ottawa's Hannah Judge was being babysat by her mom's friend at the time, and she tells Exclaim!, "We went out to a restaurant and the waitress was like, 'Do you guys wanna see Britney Spears tonight? I have these tickets and can't go.' We called my mom to confirm it was even allowed for nine-year-old me to see Britney Spears and off we went — she was very cool about it." It's the earliest concert Judge remembers, and she calls it "definitely one of the best I've seen."

Rosanna Burrill of Hillsburn
The National at Roy Thomson Hall
Toronto, ON
April 24, 2019

Hillsburn hail from Halifax, NS — so driving to Toronto's Roy Thomson Hall just for a show involves a lot of effort. The indie rock band (who released their album Slipping Away this spring) did just that to see the National in 2019, and they say the trip was totally worth it. Singer Rosanna Burrill tells Exclaim!, "We are all huge fans and it was so incredible to see them live." We couldn't agree more — Exclaim! gave the show an 8/10 review.

Mac DeMarco, Chromeo, Bombay Bicycle Club at Garrick Centre
Winnipeg, MB

Clearly one to save his stubs, JayWood showed off a trio of tickets. Two of them are tied to fond memories: the Winnipeg songwriter born Jeremy Haywood-Smith, who recently released his EP Some Days, witnessed a celebratory Chromeo show in 2014, and that same year had a revelatory experience at a Bombay Bicycle Club gig that inspired him to explore more indie music.

As for the other ticket, it's a Mac DeMarco show from 2015, and, well: "I remember this show for the wrong reasons," admits JayWood. "The crowd was so horrible! It was a bunch of kids that were super rowdy, and it seemed like even the band was like, 'Whoa, chill the hell out.' Either way, they all sounded super great."

Peach Luffe
Twenty One Pilots at Mohawk Place
Buffalo, NY
November 10, 2012

These days, Toronto's Jong Lee makes dream pop under the alias Peach Luffe, including two EPs in 2020 (Shimmer and Bloom). But before his current project, he played in a band called Sweet Apollo who, back in 2012, got invited to open for a little-known touring band called Twenty One Pilots in Buffalo, NY. "They had maybe like 20,000 followers on Facebook at that time," he tells Exclaim! "We ended up playing to a small crowd of 50 that night. Also, the band were super nice and friendly! Crazy to think that, two years after the show, they became worldwide."

Daryl James and Jeremy Drury of the Strumbellas
The Juno Awards 2017 
Lollapalooza 1992-1995

Strumbellas bassist Daryl James calls the 2017 Junos the "highlight of my musical career." Not only did the band win Single of the Year, he saw performances by A Tribe Called Red, July Talk, and Sean Mendes — and he even scored two goals in hockey at the Juno Cup.

Drummer Jeremy Drury, on the other hand, casts his memory much further back: to four Lollapalooza visits in the early-mid 1990s. "I went down in the pit during Pearl Jam in '92," he recalls. "I remember that, no matter how hard I tried, I just couldn't get up. Of all the reasons my mother was reluctant to let me go, I suspect 'trampled in a mosh pit' wasn't even on the radar. Still so vivid is my memory of that stranger's hand, piercing through the dusty cloud of cargo shorts and Doc Martens like a gleaming sunbeam cutting through a storm cloud." I'm still alive, indeed.

Allison Russell
Brandi Carlile at Ryman Auditorium
Nashville, TN
March 28, 2021

Of all the artists who shared treasured concert memories for this feature, Allison Russell (who recently released the debut solo album Outside Child) is the only one to choose a ticket from 2021. Although she hails from Montreal, she's now based in Nashville, TN — which explains how she saw Brandi Carlile at the Ryman Auditorium, a.k.a. the Grand Ole Opry, a.k.a. the "Mother Church of Country Music."

"It was a hybrid virtual/limited in-person concert," she explains. "In-person attendees had to have proof of full vaccination and mask and distance." The night included an appearance from Monica, and Russell says the experience "felt like resurrection and heaven." The night raised over $100,000 for charity. She says, "The best kind of communion. The memory of this magical night continues to give me hope. We are going to get through this — together."

Josh Ritter at the Arden Theatre
St. Albert, AB
February 23, 2018

VISSIA's recent With Pleasure dabbles in bubbly pop, rock and soul sounds — but her roots are in folkier, more singer-songwriterly material. It's fitting, then, that she's long taken inspiration from Josh Ritter, and she's been seeing him live every time he comes through Edmonton for more than a decade.

She still has this ticket from his 2018 show in the neighbouring St. Albert, AB. She calls the Arden Theatre "the perfect-sized room to receive the giddy, golden energy that the always-smiling Josh Ritter brings to every stage he graces."