The Castle Hotel, Manchester.
This event is for over 18s only - No refunds will be issued for under 18s.
A port city is a place where cultures and histories collide, where goods and ideas are imported and absorbed into the local bloodstream. Not entirely un-coincidentally, Port Cities the band is the musical equivalent; a melting pot of three of Canada’s most creative individual talents, drawn together to make an entity even more outstanding as a group than as its constituent parts.
As with any form of musical collaboration, the magic occurs in the blending of one element with another, but unlike most groups, Port Cities never started out to be a band. Comprised of trio of celebrated Nova Scotian musicians Carleton Stone, Dylan Guthro and Breagh MacKinnon, Port Cities were drawn together through songwriting as independent artists, with every intention of crafting new material, and then going their separate ways. Yet that is not quite how it panned out.
That initial meeting would eventually lead to triple-bill tour in 2014 that, MacKinnon recalls, “By the end it had more of a band feel than three musicians performing separately. It was just magic when we sang together. Shortly after, we made it official and started the band.”
The first thing anyone observes when hearing Port Cities is that this band is tight. Seriously tight. Yet it begs the question; How to go about fusing divergent styles and experiences into such a singular rootsy Americana sound? From MacKinnon’s silky jazz-schooled timbre, allied to Gutho’s R&B influenced natural tendencies and Stone’s acoustic troubadour, the space in between the three is delightfully warm and resonant, yet entirely coherent across the course of their self-titled debut album.
Port Cities the album is a perfect balance of Nashville (where much of it was recorded) and Nova Scotia (where the band reside); of the rustic and atmospheric, of indie intimacy and the sort of arena-pop anthems that betray Port Cities’ globe-trotting ambitions; 2017 sees the band embark upon their second cross-Canadian and European tours. Such ambition does not prevent moments of delicate musical insight though; the album closes with the desolate ambient ballad “Astronaut,” a song that invokes outer-space imagery only to send us crashing back down to Earth, contrasting childhood dreams of interstellar exploration with the harsh, hopeless realities of navigating adult life.
It’s a fitting finale for an album that’s nestled in the minimal space between familiar and foreign, pairing sounds that comfort with lyrics that confront. Because that’s the thing about living in a port city: the place you call home is also a gateway into the great unknown—and, at any moment, that scenic, open-water vista can give way to crashing waves and fierce undertows.