With a handful of tour stops, appearances on national TV shows, a huge homecoming concert, their name slapped on a beer can and even a hot sauce label, The Honest Heart Collective was everywhere this past year…but with a new year, comes a new idea. So what about a live gig from the four-man crew in the perfect acoustics of a recording studio? They told their fans to “meet at the boulders on Red River”—little did we know, it would be the beginning of an awesome night out in Thunder Bay.
This February, the local Indie Rock band stripped down musically to the bare minimum, getting up close and personal with their audience at Lionheart Studios, which is the very room where a lot of their music is created, and a space they call their own. The guys treated 60 fans during two shows, to warm acoustic versions of new tunes along with fan favourites; something they haven’t really done before.
The memorable and very rare intimate gig, featured frontman Ryan MacDonald in storytelling mode with off the cuff banter in between lyrics, sharing meaning behind the songs, adventures from the road, and personal stories about four best friends— “It started as my dream, but now it’s our dream”.
It was a really unique experience, yet felt so comfortable it was like BS-ing with best friends in your living room (but with really awesome tunes).With an audience sitting right inside the studio, the small venue gave everyone a chance to really feel the music, creating a more lively crowd that was in tune with the band, and to me, the smaller the venue, the better the music. The lyrics sounded completely transformed from their recorded versions, giving a one-of-a-kind performance, with much of the band’s new record Grief Rights, being all about life, loss and hardship.
Now there’s this intimacy when an acoustic musician gets the chance to share stories and really talk to a crowd. It’s a moment of magic when the subtleties of the talent really come across. One story in particular, had much of the room in tears, as guitar-strapped MacDonald shared an emotional memory about the band out on tour and getting into a really bad accident during a winter storm on Highway 17. They ended up losing control of their van and trailer, sending the group barrel rolling into the ditch. MacDonald giving a nod into the crowd to friend, who he says saved their lives that night. He shared a very real and honest moment with everyone in the room, talking about waking up with the van on its side, hearing a roll-call as everyone started coming to, except his one bandmate who also happens to be his brother. “I was screaming out for him, so scared, then felt his hand, and I looked over and said this is all going to be okay,” A very raw MacDonald, (that I would assume not many get to see), recounted the ordeal, leading into the popular song Lonely Bones. The band members walked away from that accident with only a couple bumps and bruises but much of their equipment completely destroyed.
Adding to the vulnerability of the set-up of the show, at one point in the night, the band messed up the start of a song— they stopped, gave a good laugh and began all over again. Then telling the audience about a time on a television morning show when an unnamed band member (your secret is safe with me), had a major flub on CTV Morning Live. “That’s how it is. We screw up and we do it again. We love what we do.”
A night highlight for me—The Honest Heart Collective’s take on Folsom Prison Blues. I scanned the crowd to see a couple dozen smiling guests out of their chairs, dancing, singing along, and all friends by the time we left.
“For so many years, we’ve been trying to make it and taking risks; It was just nice to play and tell the stories in a space that means so much to us and invite our fans to where we create. It was a very relaxed, and a fun atmosphere.”
To check out The Honest Heart Collective: honestheart.co @honestheartco
Please let me know if you think the lead singer looks like Jack Pearson from This is Us.