Remembering Dallas Good of the Sadies: The Heart of a Music Scene
He changed the Canadian music community with both his music and his generous spirit
Published Feb 18, 2022Dallas Good of the Sadies has died. It is inconceivable to me that I can possibly be writing this.
He was not yet 50 years old and he was in the greatest rock 'n' roll band in the world — the one I first saw play one of their earliest shows, at the Volcano in Kitchener, ON, when I was 18. The band I've seen more than any other in my life.
Of any band, I was most looking forward to seeing the Sadies play live again in pandemic-safe conditions — because, to me, they represent the epitome of what it means to be a band: deadly serious and impassioned, talented and rock-solid reliable, and also super fun and playful, onstage and offstage, on the record and off.
The Sadies were really an extension of Dallas. The chemistry he shared with his brother, Travis Good, and his band brothers, Mike Belitsky and Sean Dean, was the stuff of legends. If the Sadies were together in a room or even some field, something was added to the air — a presence, some kind of magic. Whatever you want to call that, they had it.
But for me, it wasn't just that they were virtuosos; as lyricists, arrangers and musicians who worked so hard, I could conceivably see them play a dozen shows a year, easy. As a teen, seeing Dallas perform in the Satanatras and then later Phono-Comb, the Sadies, Elevator, or with Arcade Fire's Richard Reed Parry, and in his dream gig playing bass in the re-animated Shadowy Men on a Shadowy Planet (plus at least one Sneaky Dee's show as part of Career Suicide), I couldn't yet know that I'd be joined to him in some way for the rest of our lives.
Sitting among maybe 10 people in Guelph's Black Mustard café years later, I saw the Sadies, still pretty young as a band, put on a show like there were a thousand fans before them. The work was the work, night in and night out, and they took each show seriously, living up to a self-imposed standard and discipline few would, or could, bother with. This, of course, endeared them to other musicians who respected them and their work ethic, which led to collaborations with basically everyone else who is amazing.
The list of Sadies-related people and memorable shows is impressively endless. I attended live album tapings at Lee's Palace in Toronto (and warmup shows at the Starlight in Waterloo, too) where they supported Neko Case for what became her classic The Tigers Have Spoken, and also for their own In Concert: Volume One, which was recorded at Lee's in 2006 by Steve Albini and featured Case, the Good Brothers, Garth Hudson, Margaret Good, Blue Rodeo, Rick White, Heavy Trash, Jon Spencer, Jon Langford, Matt Verta-Ray, Kelly Hogan, Gary Louris, Andre St Clair, Max Danger, Don Pyle, Ken Friesen, Maud Hudson, Mike Burlington and André Ethier, among others. Then there are the collaborative connections they made with the likes of Andre Williams, Robyn Hitchcock, John Doe, Gord Downie, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Kurt Vile, Jim Jarmusch, Richard Reed Parry and Neil Young. Like I said: the list is endless.
But beyond my experiences in a crowd, through my work as a musician, journalist, broadcaster and loyal champion of Sadie and all she stood for, I got to know the band and get a sense of how they functioned. The more I spoke with them or hung out a bit when we were all in the same cities, venues and festivals across Canada, the more I realized that Dallas had a vision for everything they did or didn't do. He operated with an instinct for how the band could carry itself with integrity and grace in a music business that does not always prioritize such attributes.
The slick suits, the showmanship, the curiously dry and matter-of-fact banter, the airtight musical proficiency, the memory and affection for early allies, the god damn professionalism — my perception is that a lot of that was driven by Dallas's sense that he could be a positive force in this world.
I believe Dallas Good was the centre of the Canadian music universe in ways that most people might not even realize. If I think about the links between most of the music and musicians I hold dearest, not just in Canada but also around the world — they are all connected to Dallas. This suggests we had similar aesthetic values, I guess, but I think I just respected his opinion so much that if he vouched for something, I'd give it a chance and more often than not, discover he was right. (Side note: I remember receiving an email from the Godspeed You! Black Emperor camp sometime in 2010, just looking to reach the Sadies, so I connected them with Dallas. Not too long after, the Sadies were part of the Godspeed-curated All Tomorrow's Parties lineup that December. Music communities can be really lovely sometimes.)
And Dallas in turn would vouch for me with others, or else my connection to him and the Sadies would precede me; when I got on the phone with Jim Jarmusch recently and introduced myself, he exclaimed, "Oh, I know who you are!" He then told me that a comically awkward talk show interview I once did with the Sadies was his favourite thing on YouTube. They didn't have to take part in that taping by the way, and they moved a bit of heaven and earth to make it happen. I love them so much.
Dallas was cool and suffered no fools, but he was also incredibly goofy and fun, and a generous laugher. I loved making Dallas laugh because, even when I realized I could make it happen, something about his demeanour always made his huge laughs seem like a miracle. One of the last times I saw the Sadies in Ontario before I moved to Alberta, I was backstage with the band at the Starlight Club in Waterloo, and we had a discussion about one of his favourite things: the Funny Tweets roundup I compile for Exclaim! every week. Dallas would often message me if a tweet really made him lose it. If the feature was ever posted late, Dallas invariably texted me, heartbroken because he assumed Funny Tweets had been cancelled. I am tearing up remembering this because it's very funny but also very sweet. Dallas was just incredibly sweet.
Today I've heard from a broken colleague who knew Dallas extremely well, and he mentioned that our affection for each other was very much a mutual thing, which I am humbled by. I suppose I felt it, the love and respect we shared. I seem to have chosen heroes who inexplicably become friends, and Dallas Good was both for me. Because he took his band all over the planet, I'm sure there are thousands of people who can relate to this surreal feeling: of losing an artist whose music hit you first, but then their humanity, spirit and warmth impacted you personally. And then you lose them and it feels like you've profoundly lost just about everything.
All I can say is, Dallas Good made music better and that made the world better. He was genuinely one-in-a-million, and all of us around the world who love music and the Sadies won't be the same here without him. It just feels impossible to me that he's gone. I cannot fathom it. All of my love to his parents, his brother, his family, his colleagues and friends, and all of those who are missing him today, and who will remember Dallas Good and carry on working with his spirit and ethos in our hearts. I hate this but I'll love you forever and ever, Dallas.