Saint John’s Penny Blacks will share a live streamed performance of their debut album Harbour on May 15.
When Penny Blacks released their debut album Harbour back in October of 2011, critics were quick to recognize how the album’s eleven songs seemed to embody a sense of optimism in the face of defeat. In his October 25 review for Exclaim!, Michael Edwards described the record as having “the feel of a chilly autumn day” and went on to say how its lack of warmth was part of what made the album work. Noting the absence of any standout singles or intentional focus-tracks, the overall point of his review seemed to center on how Harbour’s strength came from a sum of its parts. “…it’s best enjoyed as a whole because it does a great job of capturing that inevitable moment of impending doom in any relationship, whether real or imaginary,” commented Edwards. “Everyone will find some moments of recognition and perhaps even a hint or two of guarded optimism.”
Ken Kelly made a similar point in his Music Nerd Chronicles review from November 17, 2011, noting the album’s “underlying and perhaps unspoken optimism.”
We could all use a little optimism right about now.
Two albums, an EP and a decade later, Penny Blacks will revisit Harbour’s implicit confidence with a live streamed full-album performance on May 15.
“[The idea] came about as kind of an accident, really,” said Penny Blacks founder Jason Ogden. “I had been noodling around at home on my acoustic and decided to see how much of Harbour I remembered, and I surprised myself by getting most of the way through without getting completely derailed.”
Prior to the pandemic, the band’s live set only featured a song or two from Harbour. Having shared three releases since their 2011 debut, it only made sense these songs would eventually become buried beneath newer material. But all that changed recently while the band were busy rehearsing new music for their next record.
“We’ve been jamming regularly ever since the restrictions relaxed and we defined our bubbles,” said Ogden. “We’ve been working pretty steadily on getting our new material ready to record an album. Once in a while we’ll throw in an older tune or a cover just to break up the monotony and mix it up a bit.
“When we had one of those moments at practice where we needed a break from the new songs, I threw in a Harbour song. And then another. And then another. We were all getting such a kick out rediscovering how to play these songs that we wound up going through the whole album,” he said. “Clinton [Charlton] just kind of threw out this idea that we should do a show online and play the whole album. I think we all got behind the idea right away. We needed a break from running the new tunes over and over. For no one. Just ourselves. I think we latched on to the idea of a project with a goal. It has been over a year since we played a show. And we hadn’t really entertained doing a live streaming thing to this point because we just kept our eye on preparing the new album and the possibility that real, live shows would be back soon.”
Ogden says the fact the band found themselves revisiting these songs during the album’s ten year anniversary was completely unplanned and unintentional.
“We were already a couple of weeks into rehearsing the live Harbour set when someone said something about a ten year anniversary,” he said. “That was a surprise to me. I think none of us had really put it together until then that it had actually been 10 years. Just a weird coincidence.”
The online event Return of the Rat: Penny Blacks Play Harbour will be presented free of charge. The band are encouraging everyone who plans to tune in to show their support by making a donation to the Heart and Stroke Foundation of New Brunswick.
Return of the Rat: Penny Blacks Play Harbour | May 15 | 9 p.m. | View Event