Canadian music renaissance is over, but Matthew Good isn't

If, in the late 1990s, the Canadian music scene was like it is now, Beautiful Midnight would not exist. And neither would Matthew Good — at least not the version we know now.

The seminal album of modern CanRock, which in 1999 sprung forth radio singles such as "Load Me Up" and "Hello Time Bomb," came in a glory era of Canadian music. Bands could criss cross the country playing smaller venues and fill the rooms with fans. Producers championed Canadian music on network TV.

"It was a Canadian music renaissance," said Good, who will play Beautiful Midnight front to back in a show at FirstOntario Concert Hall (Hamilton Place) on Saturday. He's also promoting an EP of revamped songs called I Miss the New Wave: Beautiful Midnight Revisited.

"I don't think we'll ever see the like of it again."

Smaller venues are rapidly closing, he says. Record labels investing in Canadian music are fewer and farther between. At 45, he's still releasing music, still packing shows like the countless number he's played in Hamilton. But if the climate now existed then, "I don't know if I'd be in music."

"I'd still make music," he said. "I'd just do it for myself."

As it stands, Good is some 22 years past just doing it for himself. Originally a folk singer, he rose to prominence in the mid 1990s with Matthew Good Band, in a new Canadian alt-rock climate that included the Tragically Hip, and the Watchmen, and Bif Naked, and Spirit of the West. The scene hummed with possibility.

He released four albums and two EPs with Matthew Good Band, and after its 2002 breakup, another 10 on his own, including a live album and a greatest hits. Each major tour has included Hamilton, even back when the venues he played were Casbah-sized.

"I can't for the life of me remember the name of the club we used to play there," he said. "Throughout your career, you have memories of all those different stages and progressions."

Good doesn't see much of the cities he plays now. On tour, he usually rolls into town sometime early morning, and has "coffee. A lot of coffee." He calls home to B.C. to check on his wife and three kids. He reads the news a little. He watches footage on his computer of whatever catches his interest. 

That leads to sound check, and then the show. There are 14 left on this tour, including Monday in Waterloo and three in Toronto.

These days, Good is about halfway done a new album. For years, he kept a blog where he penned lengthy political commentary — in-depth takes on international issues, and shrewd criticism of U.S. foreign policy.

He doesn't have the time or energy now, he says. Besides, Donald Trump's rise has dumbfounded him. 

"What's going on right now, it's utter stupidity," he said. "What do you really say other than 'What?' You kind of struggle and look for cognitive explanations for things, and they're just simply not there."

As he's recording, his feelings about it are coming out "a little bit" — not necessarily around Trump, but around the historic patterns that lead to the rise of populism. 

"It's not necessary wholly based on what's happening in the States," he said. "It's something that's happening in the world right now that started in the 20s… Europe had just come out of a very free-thinking time, (and) there was that push back on the right."

"You see the same warning signs."

People who see his show this tour will see Beautiful Midnight played in sequence, and the inevitable encore.

"It's not like I can really get away with playing a show and not playing Apparitions," he said, referencing his hit song from the late 1990s. "I'd probably get hunted down." | @SamCraggsCBC