Restoring the broken promise

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I still remember that night like it was yesterday. Standing outside in a long line with other half frozen rock and roll fans waiting for the doors to open at the Bell Center in Montreal so we could pay our respects at the altar of rock and roll that is a Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band performance. It was November of 2006 and I was about to see Springsteen and the band on the Magic tour; a tour for an album that I had been listening to non-stop since it had come out. Springsteen seemed to be channeling elements of the Arcade Fire (a local band made up of friends of mine) that had exploded onto the international scene a few years prior. The album seemed fresh and relevant but also classic Springsteen. I’ll never forget the moment when the Boss hit the stage and the full band connected behind him for the first song. Tears streamed down my face as I stood in GA admission transfixed by a master at work.

The night fulfilled the promise of rock and roll for me in a way that few other nights have. Perhaps the only thing that topped it was seeing Prince at a secret show in Montreal at a small club where the genius performed all night for us into the wee hours of the morning, completely owning and transfixing the room from minute one. Completely inspired at 6am we finally left the venue and went to a 24 hour dinner to try to make sense of what we had experienced.

The Night of the Springsteen show !

I bet many of you have had experiences like that with music. Experiences that solidified your bond with the artist and felt, at least for a little while, like pure magic.

But is it just me or is that feeling in short supply these days? Our musical heroes seem to be dropping like flies, or letting us down en masse. How is it that Prince could have turned up dead in a Paisley Park elevator of a fentanyl overdose? Chris Cornell, Chester Bennington and many others have chosen to take their own lives, in the biggest let downs of our lives. My favourite songwriter Ryan Adams seems to be losing his battles with the darker angels of his nature. I’ll never forget the night that I greeted Dan Bejar of Destroyer fame in a bar in Montreal only to have him completely snub me and not even make eye contact or respond to me when I said how excited I was to see his show. Isn’t that taking the whole super mercurial Bob Dylan thing a little too far !?

Just like Prince, Ryan Adams and many of you I’m sure, I’ve been fighting my own personal battles recently. Maybe it’s just my age (mid-life crisis anyone?) or the fact that the last 5 years have been hard on us all (Trump, covid, the environment etc.), but I really needed to get clear on what I was meant to do in life.

In my case, my mission and purpose is it to try to restore the faith in the great promise of rock and roll. I want to put out an energy into the world that inspires and helps people, and for me this means releasing music that is as inclusive as it is challenging, as personal as it is political, and, above all, a force for empowerment. A vote against small-minded, fear-based thinking.

I want to put out music that helps us to acknowledge our shared humanity and gets us all playing on the same team again (the promise of all great arena rock and roll shows). And I want to speak up about mental health and wellness issues that don’t just impact musicians but affect us all.
In order to do this I’ve started a record label called Enabler records to release music that is both generous and challenging. Music that is substantive and weighty and filled with aspiration, without falling to the pitfalls of elitism, affectation or the kind of disingenuous aloofness that seems to plague certain music circles.

Hopefully at least some of this has resonated with you and you believe in the prospect of a more humane future, where we can restore our shared sense of self worth and humanity (surely we don’t want to live in a future where a Dave Chappelle comedy show should spark such self righteous indignation).

If you’re excited about having an impact and making a difference in the world, add a comment below and share your feelings about this blog post. And if you’re interested in checking out this music of enablement that I’ve been talking about, check out my newest album “The New Great Game” here, or take a look at the Enabler Records manifesto.


Andrew Johnston

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