This past June our music community lost an extraordinary talent—Paul MacLeod. Remembered by his friends and collaborators as a kind and deeply generous musician, Paul was a multi-instrumentalist, a prolific songwriter, and an exciting performer. His loss was deeply felt throughout his community in Kitchener-Waterloo, and there was an outpouring of fondest memories on social media from friends across the country.
A memorial concert was planned and, in honour of Paul, no musicians were announced. The poster was designed to appear as Paul’s show. The show sold out so quickly a second had to be added on the same day, with the exact same line-up. All the musicians show up for Paul not once, but twice.
Paul’s friends wanted to create a line-up that reflected Paul’s musical history. Paul grew as a musician through years of playing shows with Danny Michel, so he was first to step up to play and to assist in the planning. The Skydiggers were next to join, closing both of their sets with a cover of Jesse Winchester’s “Biloxi”, a song that Paul was known for singing with the band. Paul’s own band, Hibakusha, headlined with a different vocalist for each song (Danny Michel, Lindy, Lucas Stagg and Matt Weidinger) and Hibakusha closed the night with a previously unheard version of a song that featured a live vocal track of Paul’s. Although the microphone set centre stage was unmanned, Paul closed out the night himself with his band and his voice.
The memorial show also featured Steve Breen, Ryan Breen, Lindy Vopnfjörð, Lucas Stagg, Derek Hines, Tyler Shaw, Shawn Kellerman and Bryan Wright. Danny Michel, who wrote a song for Paul that he debuted at the memorial show, sold the single “Lifeboat” with proceeds going to Unison.
All of the bands donated their time and Waterloo’s Starlight Social Club covered the majority of the costs. After the amazing night was finished, the organisers generously choose to donate the $10,000 raised to the Unison Benevolent Fund in Paul’s honour.
Paul MacLeod played music for over thirty years. After the release of a cassette in the early nineties, he went on to release Tell The Band To Go Home in 1998, a live album recorded at the Sidetrack Cafe in Edmonton while on tour with the Skydiggers. He followed that up with Close and Play, an album recorded with Hawksley Workman, in 2000. He went on to release Bright Eyes Fade in 2008 and Gauge in 2011. Beyond his solo output, Paul was also a member of Hibakuha, who put out their debut self-titled album in 2005. Paul also played with the Skydiggers for years, appearing on three of their albums: Desmond’s Hip City, There and Back, and Bittersweet Harmony.
After years of touring, Paul took up weekly residences in both Kitchener and Guelph and became a champion of his local music scene.
The Unison Benevolent Fund is tremendously grateful to Paul’s friends for including us this celebration of his life and music.