By Regina Sienra

Brandon, Man., just witnessed the closest thing to a The Weakerthans reunion there has been since the split of the staple Winnipeg band was made official. John K. Samson was joined by drummer Jason Tait and bassist Greg Smith for the headlining set at the 32nd annual Brandon Folk, Music and Art Festival.

The three Weakerthans members were joined by Rusty Matyas, who has supported both The Weakerthans and Samson as a solo act. The always humble and shyly breathtaking Samson greeted the Brandon Folk Fest audience, mentioning this was the first time in 25 years he was playing there.  

The set had a massive start with “One Great City!” Samson then played the title track from the third Weakerthans album, Reconstruction Site. As it happens in many festivals, it takes some children to start a dance party in front of the stage. The upbeat “A New Name for Everything” and “Plea from a Cat Named Virtute” made some grown-ups get up and join the affair.

Samson included a few tracks from his solo LP, Provincial, like “Heart of the Continent”, “Cruise Night” and “When I write my Master’s thesis,” and some new songs like “Vampire Alberta Blues” – for which Shotgun Jimmie came up on stage as a guest –  and “On the 21st day,” which give us hope for a new solo album sometime in the future, although he has been playing these songs at this solo shows for more than a year.

“Sun in an Empty Room,” “Aside” and “Confessions of a Futon Revolutionist” were also part of the brilliant show delivered by Samson and his more-than-guests. With “Left and leaving,” a very intense finale to the main set and “My Favourite Chords” as a beautiful acoustic encore, the now-historic performance may not have given us enough hope to see The Weakerthans together again in the future, but it was a great reminder of those songs that have brought comfort to generations of outsiders, and in doing so have offered a lot of people a place where they do belong.

Thanks to Donna Lowe for making this review possible. Featured image by ShonicaR3 on Instagram