SARAH HARMER

Sarah Harmer

February 23 & 24, 2022 – 8:00 PM

***Please note, in order to gain access to the venue, you will have to show proof of being fully vaccinated against Covid-19 as required by law. No refunds will be issued for those who fail to produce proof of vaccination at the door***

Are You Gone- the first album in a decade from Sarah Harmer – is a deeply
personal and momentous collection of songs motivated by life’s beauty,
love’s mysteries and the climate crisis. Two decades since her heralded debut
“You Were Here”, Sarah returns with a deepened, electric exploration of
nature and human nature.

The first single “New Low” is more than a return to music for the celebrated
singer-songwriter and environmental activist. It is a definition of form, a
call-for-uprising in light of the damage being done to our democracy and our
living world. Inspired by the increase in community action after the Québec
mosque shooting, the Women’s March, and climate rallies, Harmer calls out
the “grey area” of personal and corporate responsibility and indifference,
after meeting with the principal of Queens’ University to discuss fossil fuel
divestment and receiving feeble excuses for inaction. Singing over its
heedless pace and razor-sharp guitars:
I wanna see if we can take this from flame to fire Heat is fleeting but hearts
are beating hard.

The result of an unshakeable inclination to make music alongside a lifestyle
more attuned to privacy and local activism, Sarah wrote Are You Gone
gradually over the last decade as she traded music for grassroots organizing.
Between co-founding the citizen’s organization PERL (Protecting
Escarpment Rural Land) and leading the coalition’s successful efforts to stop
a massive quarry on the Niagara Escarpment, she became a fixture in local
politics and advocacy. She kept her musical chops up playing casually with
friends and the odd small show. Finally, in 2017, while pondering the ghosts
of loss, capitalism’s gluttony and music’s potential as a public platform,
Sarah was moved to get to work on her most sophisticated record to date.

On “What I Was To You” she recounts an early friendship with beloved rock
star Gord Downie of The Tragically Hip. Harmer traces an effortless melody
with emotional range that deftly rolls between the late Downie’s ambling,
ecstatic solo work, and the oblique chorus blasts of his band. Looking back
on stories of the fellow musicians’ time coming up together in the Southern
Ontario scene, “What I Was To You” simultaneously captures the intimacy
of their friendship and the feeling shared by the legions of souls touched by
Downie, during and beyond his lifetime-

Are you gone?
Good for you to go
I hardly know what that took.
So long, I’ll be walking with you if you happen to look

Harmer nurtured the twelve songs of Are You Gone close to home. Some
lingered for ages – like the undeniable melody of “Take Me Out” – while
others appeared behind the barn at dusk like the sweet, autumnal “Squeaking
Voices,” and the homebound “Little Frogs.” Each story paints a different
picture over the course of this album’s making, threading Are You Gone
with both personal intimacy and the shared strands of life.

Featuring eleven originals and one cover, the eerie “Wildlife” by Kingston
songwriter Dave Hodge, Sarah co-produced the album with Marcus Paquin
(Aidan Knight, Arcade Fire, Timber Timbre) in Toronto, Montreal and
Kingston. Long-time musical collaborators included Jon McCann on drums,
Ben Whiteley on bass, Gord Tough on guitar, and Christine Bougie, Kevin
Fox, Benji Perosin and Jason Euringer on steel, cello, trumpet, stand-up bass
and harmonies. Howie Beck recorded additional tracks and mixed the album
in the spring of 2019.

These songs are the inner ramblings of twilight, conversations with the
critters in the air and on the lawn, floorboard creaks of a loved one in the
next room. Some are restorative and some rock. Within them there are
answers to where Sarah has been and what it means to come back now.
Whether to the loyal fans that have followed Harmer’s work over the
decades or to the newly initiated, Are You Gone is a resounding statement of
purpose and a dedication to the indelible spirits around us.

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