George Pettit and Wade McNeil sat nursing beers quietly in a booth at the Hard Rock Cafe in downtown Toronto. It was mid-June 2009 and we were talking about the soon-to-be-released Old Crows/Young Cardinals album.
Fan and critical anticipation was freakin' HUGE and a #1 debut on the album charts was a foregone conclusion. National and world tours were already laid out. This band, which many had initially chalked up as a niche-y screamo outfit with very limited appeal was at the peak of its powers.
So why weren't George and Wade more excited? They were subdued, melancholy and almost...sad.
Must be tired, I thought. Maybe they're pre-emptively weary knowing what was ahead.
Turns out, though, George and Wade knew that it was the beginning of the end.
The reason for the somberness was revealed in the second paragraph of George's official AoF break-up statement:
Almost a year ago, Dallas informed us that we would be leaving after we finished our Old Crows/Young Cardinals touring cycle. Trying to balance his life between touring with us and at the same time quelling the success of City and Colour was a task too difficult to continue managing. He informed us he wanted to focus his efforts on City and Colour.
Hindsight Revelation #1: When Dallas started having a significant number of cross-format hits and began winning Juno Awards, we should have begun to really question the future viability of AoF.
Under the knowledge Dallas was leaving, we completed the Dogs Blood EP and toured Europe, Australia and Canada. Our last show in St. Catharines, Ontario, on December 19, 2010 was poised to be the last-ever Alexisonfire concert with a line-up as we knew it.
Hindsight Revelation #2: Was it the fans' imagination, or was there an extra intensity to that show? It was hard to tell, given that it was hometown Christmas show. But thinking back...
After much deliberation, we decided to continue and attempt the difficult task of replacing Dallas, but time got the best of us. Over the last six months, we all dealt with a litany of personsal issues, which pulled us further and further from Alexisonfire.
Hindsight Revelation #3: By the time of that St. Cathatines show, AoF had been around for ten years. The friends that formed the band were older, wiser, had families and mortgages and probably looking for a little more out of music and life in general. Given that the average life of a band is about seven years, AoF was already well into injury time.
In addition to that, Wade was recently asked to join another band [the very fierce and fine English band, Gallows] and he felt it was an opportunity he would like to pursue.
Hindsight Revelation #4: I've talked to Wade several times about his Black Lungs project and I did get the idea that he was looking to stretch his horizons more than he could do within the confines of either BL or AoF. But to leave the band for another? Never. Unless, of course, Dallas was going to go first...
Was the break-up amicable? Not really. Was it necessary? Probably.
Hindsight Revelation #5: If there was tension within the band, I didn't hear about it. Did you? They sure hid it well. Professional. Classy.
But then I started thinking back to last November when and chat I was having with their label's president was interrupted by a phone call. When he finished, I'd never seen him more excited.
"We put City and Colour tickets on sale today for a show at Royal Albert Hall in April. We figured we'd sell a couple of hundred out of the gate and then eventually get close to capacity. But the gig sold out in three hours! Royal F-ing Albert Hall! And the show is five months away!"
Uh-oh. How can you have a single member of a collective have so much individual success without it affecting the dynamics within the group?
As for myself, Jordan and Christopher, the future is largely unwritten. I would say this is my retirement of playing music, but that feels too much like famous last words. Keep your ear to the ground...We talked about several special releases around our 10-year anniversary
Dammit, this is sad but in hindsight, inevitable. If these farewell shows do happen, better see as many as you can.