Roxanne Tellier: Home Grown

Roxanne DBAWIS

Sometimes it seems like you can’t throw a rock in this city without hitting a musician. (And if you’re throwing a beer, the musician in the crowd will be the one to catch it.)

musicians with beer

We’re everywhere! In every town and every city anywhere you travel, there are people who live to create and perform music, of all genres. Whenever I visit a new city, the first thing I do is pick up the local entertainment rag and check out where the cool kids go.

Live musical entertainment is a gift that the owners of bars and clubs bestow on the patrons of their establishment. Some of these club owners are particularly good in not only understanding what will bring in the crowd, but also in treating the players with dignity and respect. It’s a joy and an honour when that happens, a perfect symbiosis that can lead to great times for both the payer and the player.

Musicians gravitate to where they are accepted and appreciated. In Toronto, we are blessed with a wide variety of entertainment; pockets form where likeminded players and listeners can congregate, knowing that within a short walking distance they’ll find the music they enjoy, and others who share their tastes.

In the Queen West area, you can pop in to The Brooklyn Bar, Czehoski, The Hideout, Nocturne, The Rivoli, or Tota Lounge, before rounding out your night at Cherry Cola’s, where Cherish works her magic in choosing great music, and running a room so cozy, you feel right at home.

cherish cherry colas

On the Danforth you can catch an act at the Danforth Music Hall Theatre, or visit any of the pubs in the area to catch great local singer-songwriters, serving up their musical souls at The Eton House, The Linsmore, The Old Nick, Dora Keogh, and that venerable bastion of Danforth and Broadview – The Black Swan.   

The Swan is one of the oldest bars on the Danforth, and one of the few places to still have a tavern licence. Six nights of the week, you’ll find talented, seasoned professionals playing their own material, and often inviting other players to get up on stage and join them in a tune or two. Owner John Pachis has chosen his musicians with care, to ensure that his patrons, many of whom have been coming to The Swan since they hit drinking age decades before, are well entertained.


Besides the live music, the main floor also caters to darts aficionados, and there’s a pool table for those who fancy a game. On the second floor, special events and themed comedy and poetry nights keep the place fresh. Best of all, the beer is priced to suit my pocketbook.

All of these factors, and the synchronicity of my friend Peter Verity’s birthday falling on a Tuesday – his regular night to play his original songs, along with some well-chosen covers – made The Black Swan the perfect place for his many friends to gather to wish him well.

peter and linda bday 2014

Peter’s been a professional musician since he was just a kid in Ottawa. To quote his bio, “He’s an award-winning Toronto-based folk/roots singer songwriter who has been on the scene for many years, playing folk clubs, coffee houses, theatres, house concerts and festivals across Canada and the U.S.

Peter’s experience performing in alt country and rock bands has helped hone his skills as a solo artist and crowd pleaser; playing guitar, harmonica and mandolin, he has crafted his own unique expression in writing about life and love.”

(there is a compendium of his songs here – have a listen. Peter on CBC –!/artists/Peter-Verity)

And Peter was also a member of Delta Tango, and wrote eight of the twelve songs on the eponymous CD. We go even further back than that, though, as we actually met in 1981.

So, his birthday was a terrific opportunity to celebrate his life to date, and his musical friends. Black Swan owner John Pachis kicked in two massive pizzas, I made a cake, and the friends piled in.

arthur and trevor 2014

Starting at 9pm, the music and the libations flowed. Peter gave a short first set, before ceding the stage to one amazing player after another. This song, written by Kieran Kane, and recorded by John Prine, is a staple in his repertoire.  (peter playing bday 2014.jpg)

peter playing bday 2014

Peter Verity “In A Town This Size” 

Sebastian Agnello, seen in that clip, shares the same birthday, and he and Peter frequently perform together. Seb plays The Swan every Monday night. He rocked several of his tunes, and his lovely daughter Joanna also performed.

Seb Agnello “She Rather Be Homeless Than Here At Home With Me”  

It was a real treat to see and hear Mark Ripp play. Mark’s another veteran, whose work with The Bel-Vistas back in the early 90’s segued into several albums recorded as Mark Ripp and the Confessors.  His latest CD, “Quiet Again,” debuted last year.  I begged him to play my favourite tune off his album “Long Story Short.”

Mark Ripp “My Miserable Life

Peter has also collaborated many times over the years with the multi-talented Arthur Renwick. Arthur is a recognized force in the world of fine arts, with work exhibited everywhere from Toronto’s Power Plant to the National Gallery of Canada. He also plays a mean dobro and cigar-box guitar! His songs reflect his First Nations background, and his experiences within the community.

Arthur Renwick – “I Tow The Line”  

I’ve only recently met James Sloan, but like most of us, he’s been around forever. His songs, inspired by Canadian life, are uplifting and thoughtful.

James Sloan – “That’s When Love Will Shine”   

Herb Dale has been performing in Toronto for over two decades. Over the past several years, he has started writing and performing his own original material, and hosting many open stages in the Toronto area. “Uncle Herb,” as his fans call him, also graced the stage for a few toe-tappers.

herb and fran w Arthur 2014

Herb Dale and Fran McCann “Just Like Good Old Willie Nelson” 

We had yet another birthday boy, Ron Baldwin, perform for us. Ron writes and performs his own material, but also covers songs that particularly resonate with him.

Ron Baldwin, cover of Collective Soul’s “December”

Throughout the evening, Linda Saslove photo documented the festivities. When we spoke, I discovered that she is also a fine musician. I coaxed her to send me one of her demos. I was touched by her voice and her lyrics, and made this collage slideshow for her song, The Last Goodbye.”

Trevor Jones is another talented musician whom I’ve only met in the last few years. He covered Peter Verity’s song, “Healing Rain,” a few years back. His newest CD includes this lovely song “Wild Berry Blue.

A few weeks ago, I heard that Rehan Dalal, whom I’ve mentioned here before, had a new CD, and a hot single.  Rehan covers Noah Zacharin’s “Red Red Bird.” The song is terrific, and has also been covered, in Spanish, by Laura Fernandez. Noah’s performance, with his evocative voice, and songwriting talent, held the crowd spellbound.

So there you have it – hope I haven’t missed naming any other players. I was so drained after baking that cake that I had to revitalize with numerous pints, so my memory may be a tad faulty. It was a terrific evening, full of love, and remarkable talent. Kudos to Swan Owner John Pachis for encouraging and nurturing the gathering together of musical friends.

peters cake Oct 2014

Let’s do it again next year!


Roxanne’s column appears here every Sunday 

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DBAWIS ButtonRoxanne Tellier has been singing since she was 10 months old … no, really. Not like she’s telling anyone else how to live their lives, because she’s not judgmental, and most 10 month olds need a little more time to figure out how to hold a microphone. She has also been a vocalist with many acts, including Tangents, Lady, Performer, Mambo Jimi, and Delta Tango. In 2013 she co-hosted Bob Segarini’s podcast, The Bobcast, and, along with Bobert, will continue to seek out and destroy the people who cancelled ‘Bunheads’.

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