All great stories are love stories, aren’t they?

And so are all great tragedies love stories, too.

All the great adventure stories, all the great comedies, have love at the centre of them.

As does this story that Ian Mackenzie has fashioned into a short film after some panel somewhere deemed him and the concept a worthy thing and gave him a small whack of dough to keep the wolves at bay and hire some folks to help him. Since 2015, when Stephen Jenkinson and I first went out on the road with little but a notion and a Quixotic mutual “I’m in”, Ian followed us with his camera, capturing the ephemera of touring America, shooting some of the shows, and conducting straight up interviews.  It was a tough row to hoe because SJ and I didn’t really know what we were doing and while the idea of the author and the singer figuring it out in front of a paying audience was something to see, I’d have to say we didn’t give him much to work with.

Except for the love story.

That handful of concerts Ian shot turned into 15 or so stops in America and then another dozen in Australia then another few in Canada then another 7 in the UK then another 25 in North America then another 8 in the UK and as I write this I am on a plane to Iceland where we will do another three, and then home to do another 25 in North America and then Scotland and then Ireland and then Istanbul and then Tel Aviv…you get the point. 

Somewhere along the way we began to understand what we were trying to do, what was possible to do. We learned theatre had a place in this so we added lights that I’d operate with my feet. We learned that pulse was important so we added a drummer. We learned that texture was important so we added another singer and taught her to play keys. We learned that this was something older than theatre, something like ceremony but older still, something like ritual, so we tore the wall down between us and the audience so that the audience is in on the ritual. We learned that every ship needs an anchor so we added a bass player and asked her to sing, too.

So where’s the love story, you ask? Well, let me ask you: why would we wake at ungodly hours to get to airports, suffer the lineups and indignation’s of the security gauntlet, fly for hours and hours, drive for hours and hours, lug gear in and out and in and out and up and down and down and up over and over and over and then crawl into a questionable bed in a questionable hotel only to do it again the next day and the next and the next?  Why would we risk the farm and the physical body to fund the thing? And why would we risk stepping out on to stages in (what is turning out) to be cities all over the world armed not with bullet proof grooves full of helium to lift people out of their lives and make them feel better about all the questionable moves we’ve made as a species but instead seek to crack the rib cage open and bathe the heart in songs and tales that are sorrowful, about endings of all kinds, and actually attempt to get people to sink into their sorrows?

Because of the love of the thing. Because of the life-long love of and respect for the alchemy of words. Because the love of the feeling of lungs full of air and the long note wrapping itself around a phrase, singing what life has to teach. Because of the love for the occasional moment where I can hear an echo of a song I wrote bounce of the walls of a strangers life. Because of the love that we have for the audience that is hungry and straining for a tasty groove to free them from the effects of going down that dark road with us. Because of the love we have playing that groove. And because we sure as hell don’t do it for the money, so we must do it for the love.

And because of the love we have for each other on stage. A slow, earned trust. And because of the love we have for life, for living, for getting up in the morning.

This is a love story that Ian Mackenzie has caught. A 25 minute visual poem carved from umpteen hours of footage after he and a small crew followed us on the road last year and captured some ephemera again, conducted interviews again…the same questions but with different answers. This is not a show reel, but a glimpse into the mechanics of the thing. And if he were to train a camera on us again and asked those questions again, we would have different answers again for him because we keep learning about this thing. The Nights of Grief & Mystery is an alive thing now.

Pretty high fallutin’ words, you say. Yeah. Probably. I’ve stopped being perplexed by life and have settled into the reality that, at the age of 55, I might know a thing or two. I’ve grown tired of pretending I don’t. So here I am on a plane with Stephen, Lisa, and Colleen, a few moments out from Reykjavik, flying east into the sun and so there was no real night for us. We will land, bleary, rent the van, gather the gear, and play in a city, try to sleep, play in a town, and then to the edge of the world to play in a 1000 year old village that is dying.  For the love of the thing.

Watch Ian’s movie.

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London Night 2

Stephen insisted it was a punk club. We did sort of roar out of the gate and then careen off the tracks, which is kind of punk. And the room was underground. And the air was close and it was hot. And it was a black box.

So I guess all that adds up to sort of punk. In fact, the room was part of a local arts organization. Pretty tame stuff.

We were to have played in Canterbury but the host there became ill and it fell on Justin’s shoulders to find us a room to play so we opted to do a second night in London. By this point, Justin’s shoulders were already chock full of other things but he took it on anyway and, in the end, the joint was full.

Learning to love the Soundman…is easy.

When I started out with The Stickpeople a million years ago, I had a soundman, Leslie Charbon. He was a part of the band. It was a luxury, something I learned when I started touring without him. Every night became a crapshoot, and chances were that the more competent the person sounded over the phone in the days/weeks leading up to landing at their venue, the bigger the gamble when it came to showtime and the more disappointed I would be. Sometimes it would feel like yelling into the wind for two hours.

As the band has grown for the Nights of Grief & Mystery, it has become clear that we need a sound person, so for this tour we bit the bullet and hired Joe Meekums. I had long forgotten the impact on stage of knowing that shit was being handled out front, that we had a co-conspirator out there with a vested interest in helping us get to where we so deeply want to go every Night we do this.

I am (we are) indebted to Joe (quite literally) for being reminded that the words, lyrics, melodies, grace notes, subtleties, silences and roars are all worth being heard out there in the rooms we play.

Thank you, Joe.

Back on the dark road to the dark, dark woods.

Friends are forged on the dark road headed out of town, and so we head there again, beginning on June 4, 2019 in Portsmouth, UK.

MAP and thing

A quick note from the factory floor here.

There are a lot of things that slay me about touring with Nights of Grief & Mystery, but few more so than what can land on the table when wrestling with language to properly describe the thing. We seem to be learning about “what this is” as we go along. In the beginning, we were happy to admit that we didn’t know and were more likely to be able to tell you a whole lot of “what it isn’t”. The more we travelled with The Nights, though, the more we understood that simply saying “what it isn’t” was, in fact, a cop-out. Follow?

So here’s our latest understanding:

We have an idea where the monsters are. That’s where we’re headed.

You can read the full new blurb at the new nightsofgriefandmystery.com landing page.

The tour will Take us to 28 cities in the UK and North America for 32…shows?Performances? Nights, is what I prefer to call them.
Or 32 chances to get it right. We know what “it” is.

That dark road thing?
That image is more than an image. That is what we do. That is our devotional act. And those monsters? Probably not what you expecting. That’s another thing that slays me about the Nights: mostly they are everything you wouldn’t expect.

See you out there.

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CONCERT ANNOUNCEMENT: TORONTO, DECEMBER 7

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Coming off a 25-city tour with Nights of Grief & Mystery, Gregory– along with Lisa Hodgson (keys and vox) and Adam Hay (drums and vox)– takes over the intimate space of The Factory Theatre for his first solo concert appearance in Toronto since 2014, delivering songs from 2017’s Vain + Alone as well as King of Good Intentions, Surgery, and The Beggar Heart.

Tickets:

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/gregory-hoskins-vain-alone-tickets-51988787864

A New York City Night of Grief & Mystery

Tickets for a NYC Night of Grief & Mystery have finally gone on sale. On November 2nd, Stephen, Adam, Lisa and I will be at The New York Society for Ethical Culture. The 100+ year old building sits on the edge of Central Park and the stage in the main hall has played host to a diverse collection of performers and performances. It is NOT small.

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Tickets can be had here:

https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/night-of-grief-mystery-concert-new-york-city-tickets-49365911771

NOGM Tour Trailer

A good feel for a Night of Grief & Mystery. All the audio you hear was taken from concerts in Australia and the UK. We are happy to be joined on this tour by Adam Hay (drums, vox) and Lisa Hodgson (keys, vox) and feel good about being able to tour this closer to home.  Strange days, indeed.

CONCERT: Vain+NOT Alone in Alton, ON. April 28, 2018.

This concert takes place in the intimacy of a beautiful art gallery in the small town of Alton, Ontario.   Artist Paul Morin curates a series of events at the gallery throughout the year bringing high-quality art into the Caledon horse hills north of Toronto.   With Adam Hay on drums.  Lisa Hodgson on vox and keys.  Songs from Vain+Alone, Beggar Heart, The King of Good Intentions.  For tickets/reservations, call The Paul Morin Gallery at (519) 942 4918.

A San Francisco Night of Grief & Mystery

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On April 20, 2018, at The Swedish American Hall in San Francisco, California, we take version 2.0 of NOG&M for a spin.  Accompanying Stephen and I on stage will be Adam Hay and Lisa Hodgson.  You can find tickets here.

The concert is being presented as a part of Reimagine End of Life, a week of exploring big questions about life and death.

I’m still at a loss when asked to describe the evening.  It’s a collision of sorts between Stephen’s world and mine.  We don’t create material specifically for these nights. Rather, we’ve gingerly introduced writings and stories to their ambient counterparts in front of live audiences and in doing so we’ve discovered a thing or two about the works we didn’t know before subjecting them to an experiment like this.  I’m really not the one who should be trying to describe what goes on, so I’ll use this…something from a concert-goer:

Hearts broken.  Hearts mended.  All on one Dark, Luminous night.

Fish(es) out of Water

Photograph by John Launer

Last Friday I was preparing to take the stage with The Art of Time Ensemble which included Andrew Burashko, Stephen Sitarski, Drew Jurecka, Rachel Mercer, Joe Phillips, Mark Mariash, Doug Perry, Rob Piltch, special guest noise maker Don Rooke, author/poet Michael Ondaatje, and actor Rick Roberts.  Other vocalists on the shows were Andy Maize, Tom Wilson, and Suzie Ungerlieder.

Some of these folk I have known for some time now, and a couple I am lucky enough to consider close friends.  I don’t get out much, and I’ve never been a social creature.  I failed spectacularly at being part of any scene.  I was pacing back and forth behind backstage thinking how funny it was that these AoT gigs are the one place I get to spend time with artists I’ve only orbited around…Tom, Andy, for intance…or meet for the first time: Suzie, for instance, this time out.   The thing about these gigs is…for some of us more, um, roots/pop inclined singers or musicians… is that we are in strange waters, or fish out of water altogether and it sort of levels a playing field we aren’t even aware exists and we get to see each other make peace with performing things that stretch our own understanding of ourselves.  That sounds a lot more lame than it is.  Put another way, there is not a lot of ego on these shows and that is as refreshing as refreshing gets.

It was the second time I got to work along side of Michael Ondaatje and I finally got the chance (and nerve) to tell him how Coming Through Slaughter has danced on the fringes of my creative consciousness since the day I turned the last page on it.  A couple years ago I got to work with Margaret Atwood and that led to a weird and wonderful night at the opera with her and her family (a shitty version of Don Giovanni, I was told…I wouldn’t have known because I was just happy to there and was kind of geeking out).

Renowned dance company David Earle Dance did an inspiring piece on a show I was on, and it introduced me to the world of modern dance, a world I hadn’t paid much attention to.  Out of our mutual admiration from those nights grew dance pieces to two songs of mine that members of the company, Suzette Sherman and Georgia Simms, choreographed and performed.

Most of my performances with the Art of Time have had me singing at least one arrangement done by Jon Goldsmith. Jon produced my first two recordings for True North and we have been friends since.  He also arranged strings for me on the live concert recording we did almost 10 years ago called Pleasure & Relief (a couple years before I met Burashko and started singing with the AoT).  I admire many of the arrangers whose songs I get to swim in when I sing with the AoT, but none more than Jon and getting to sing a chart of his makes me want to try and make my own songs more…well, more.

I met Don Rooke…inventor, soundologist, and progenitor of Tornto cult faves The Henrys…on an Art of Time gig not so long ago and that led to me singing on The Henrys last recording, 2015’s Quiet Industry, a collection of songs I would urge everyone to check out without reservation.

I’ve learned a great deal watching members of the Art of Time negotiate the rehearsals, speaking in, what is to me, a foreign tongue, having never learned how to read music myself.  I have a great respect for Burashko and his carving out a career in the arts.  This is no small feat.

And nowhere else could I practice pacing the stage guitar-less, singing words that are not mine, trying to figure out who I am in the thing while I’m doing the thing, and all the while wearing a hat and a wee bit of bling.  Thank you , Art of Time Ensemble:  I hardly recognize me.

Worry, Australia, worry.

Gregory Hoskins (L) and Stephen Jenkinson (R) somewhere on the Great Coastal Road, AUS.

A few thoughts on the recently completed Nights of Grief & Mystery Oceania Tour 2017.

First off, a flurry of thank you’s to the intrepid people who organized the thing on the ground in Australia and New Zealand.  It is no small thing welcoming a small band of tired men into your busy lives for a few days, tending to all the details that need tending to, sending us on our way, and rejoining the regular broadcast that was your life before signing on to promote one of these gigs.   It is my hope is that some echo of your efforts comes to your ears every now and again…something good.  Things are felt for such a short while it seems these days.

The land was beautiful, there were good people met (there were some challenging folk, too), and there was  the rare empty seat in all the halls we played…something astounding to me considering the night can detonate a kind of sorrow that makes ovations unlikely but, still, there were always those who hung back to connect, struggling to find the words to acknowledge the night and our part in it.

Here’s the thing:  what I wasn’t prepared for (besides the vicious jet lag on my return home) was feeling like the alien from that postulated theory “what would an alien say if it landed here”.  So much of what I saw and heard felt foreign under the skin but nothing more so than the phrase “No worries.”  Even typing it gives me the shivers.  At one point, I thought my head would explode if I heard those two words together on more time.  Mysteriously chosen to replace “you’re welcome” in the English language, the phrase found itself concluding almost every single transaction one might have in Australia.  To utter “thank you” guaranteed a “no worries”.  Really?  None?  I gave you $10 for a $4 coffee, you give me $6 change like you are supposed to, I say “thank you”, and you tell me I shouldn’t worry about it.  About what, exactly?  All the trouble you went to in getting me the correct change or my Long Black (an Americano down there)?  The impact on the environment of the cup?  The carbon footprint of my plane ride to and from the country and the 10 or so in-country flights we took?  The shady trade practices that makes a good cup of coffee so easy to find down here?  The exploitation of baristas and the worse treatment of 7-11 employees?  The quiet despair that is crushing the developed world?  The harsh awakening from the dream that whatever we want we can manifest?  No worries about dying, either?  Not the after part we aren’t around for, but the actual doing of the thing…no worries about that?

My niece tried to tell me the French (in Canada) have the same kind of phrase with “de rien” which is roughly translated to “it’s nothing”.  However, there is also “bienvenue” which is widely and respectfully used and means, quite literally, “welcome”.

Australia, there are worries: small, niggly little worries and HUGE FUCKING BADASS WORRIES that should keep you up nights.  You would be well advised to carve out some time to carve some worry sticks because sometimes worrying about something can sometimes lead to some kind of action.  I’ll admit I’m being pretty vague there, given the fact that worriers are more likely to be seen as ineffective lumps of worthless worry, but worrying could be the first step in changing something.  Your political landscape, for instance.

I think that—without you knowing it—the phrase “No Worries” has become your national motto.  Deeper than just a phrase uttered at every cash register in the land, it just might have been spoken aloud soooooo many times that it has become a real cornerstone of the colonial Australian culture.  I’d definitely worry about that.