Nadia Elkharadly: Adventures in live music

Nadia LogoSometimes the best musical adventures happen by accident.  While I try to stay on top of the musical goings on here in Toronto, things definitely slip past my notice from time to time.  I know, it’s a low down dirty shame, but I am only one person!  There is so much to keep track of, so from time to time a little help from my friends (and the persistence of a few public relations professionals) leads to me having an impromptu night of really great music.  This is the story of how I accidentally snuck into Folk Alliance, without even realizing.

This year, the International Folk Alliance took place right here in our fair city.  I must be a terrible music journalist because I had no idea it was even folk alliancehappening right under my nose.  If it wasn’t for the lovely Courtney at Audioblood Media informing me, it probably would have passed me by completely.  I’d been asked to interview Nova Scotia native Ben Caplan on Wednesday night, and when I arrived at the Delta Chelsea it hit me; the abundance of acoustic guitars and banjos, the lanyards around people’s necks, the…bohemian scent in the air – there was folk music afoot.  An annual festival that normally takes place in musical Memphis, Tennessee, the organizers decided to move their headquarters to Kansas City in 2014.  2013 became the transitional year, and Toronto the city to host the transitional conference.  The who’s who of the folk world were in attendance, and the aura around the hotel was one of happiness and camaraderie, and there was music literally everywhere.  In the hallways, in the lobby, in the restaurant bar – you couldn’t escape the music, nor would you have wanted to.  And thanks to my perfectly scheduled interview, I had managed to land right in the middle of all of it just in time to experience some pretty great live music.

After my fantastic chat with Ben Caplan (check back with my Examiner page in a week or two to read it!), my music buddy Emy, of my previous Soundgarden related adventures, and I wandered down to the Delta Chelsea’s Monarch Pub for some bevvies and a bite to eat.  The bar was the busiest it’s probably been in its history, as the lack of staffing seemed to samantha martinindicate.  The slow service actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise.  A quick trip to the ladies room resulted in a surprise run in with singer-songwriter Samantha MartinI’ve had the pleasure of seeing Samantha Martin and the Haggard perform a time or two before, and have seen Samantha sing on her own, and as a guest star in another performer’s set.  Whether alone or with a band, Martin always shines on and off stage and her voice is unforgettable.   As we said our hellos, Martin leaned towards me with a twinkle in her eye, and she told me to stick around.  As it turned out, she would be taking the stage shortly and it was going to be a good one. Was she ever right!  Her performance at the crowded pub was extraordinary.  Backed by a nine piece band, including Derek Downham from the Beauties and two powerhouse, gospel-esque backup singers, Martin was truly in her element.  Her voice was whiskey and smoke roughened, but smoothed with that honey sweetness that is her signature.  The harmonies between Martin and her backup singers brought a shiver to my spine – I felt like I was transported to the old south, the bluegrass gospel music warming the cold Canadian air around us.  Most of all the passion and spirit emanated from the stage was irresistible; I was literally dancing in my chair for every moment that I wasn’t struck dumb by awe and admiration.  The performance was the best I’d seen from Samantha Martin and the Haggard, and the two first timers I was sitting with were just as impressed as I was.  Folk Alliance was the perfect forum for her to showcase her talent, and I’m very hopeful that great things will be coming down the pipe for her!

The nature of any music festival is one of familiarity and community.  Everyone is present for the same reason; the love of music.  It’s an event where you’re bound to run into people that you know, and by the constant over-the-shoulder and side eye glances going on around me, it’s a fact that was well known by everyone present.  My favourite run in of the night was with the lovely Chloe CharlesChloe was first brought onto my radar by my dear friend, the extremely talented singer songwriter Nate Daniels (  Nate had reviewed her latest album Break the Balance for one of my newest writing endeavours Addicted Magazine, and had insisted that I attend the album’s release party just a week or two ago.  I was so glad I complied.  While Chloe’s album is a beautiful piece of recorded music, she, much like Samantha Martin, truly shines when playing live.  Her songs evoke emotions and sensations that are practically tangible – every sense is engaged.  She creates an aura and mood from the stage that just draws an audience in.  Her stage presence is definitely magnetic, but it’s her voice that wins you over.  Her voice has a chameleon-esque quality; it’s different for every song, and had I not seen her sing live myself I would have wondered if it was the same singer on every track.  It’s truly mind boggling.  Chloe has already found success in Europe, and Canada is beginning to get with the program.  While I did not attend her Folk Alliance showcase, the feedback she received was positive, and rightly so.  Chloe Charles is a true talent, and I highly recommend checking out her music for yourself.  Here’s “God is a Toad”, my personal favourite from her cd release:

My mini reunion with Chloe wrapped up just in time for me to walk into a very intimate showcase with the one and only Ben Caplan.  The bearded wonder’s already deep and booming voice was roughened by sickness, and was somehow all the better for it.  With a charisma that is both innate and amplified by his musical theatre experience (a fact about the singer that is not surprising in the least), Caplan’s voice and personality filled the small hotel room that was his venue and echoed into the hallway, passersby bencaplanfollowing their ears and filling the small space even more.  It was in that moment that I realized the true spirit of Folk Alliance – it’s kind of like a big university residence party, only with more adults of the hippy persuasion.  Acoustic instruments in every corner, music filling the air, accidental harmonies coming together in hotel hallways; it truly is folk music at its finest.  So thank you to Ben Caplan and Audioblood for putting this event on my radar.  It was a great way to spend a Wednesday night.

Until next time,




Nadia’s column appears every Tuesday

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DBAWIS ButtonNadia Elkharadly is a Toronto based writer with a serious addiction to music. Corporate drone by day, renegade rocker by night, writing is her creative outlet.  Nadia writes for the Examiner (.com) on live music in Toronto and Indie Music in Canada.  She has never been in a band but plays an awesome air guitar and also the tambourine.  Check in every Tuesday for musings about music, love, life and whatever else that comes to mind.

2 Responses to “Nadia Elkharadly: Adventures in live music”

  1. I would have been there, Nadia, but I have an aversion to places where they serve “bevvies”. Attract chicks who scare me to death. I’m more comfortable where the women are more like truckers and two fist their drinks to choruses of “Barkeep, nudder burr.” Still, if the music was as good as you made it sound…..

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