Pat Blythe: Toronto Scrapbook – Chapter Two

pblythe

Well…. This was supposed to be Part Five of The Women of Rock. However, I’m going to take a break and fill you in on some of the sights and sounds of this dynamic city I call home….Toronto…. Hogtown… Muddy York…. The Big Smoke…. Tdot…. where I’ve been going, who I’ve been seeing, what I’ve been drinking (G&T w/lemon if you must know. Bombay Sapphire is the chosen one.) AND update you about an exciting event that’s coming to Toronto. Yep….it’s another Toronto Scrapbook!

Bombay Sapphire

Working my dates backwards, let’s start with the most recent, April 18….the Horseshoe Tavern (fondly known as The ‘Shoe).

A little Horseshoe history….The building was erected in 1861 and originally housed a blacksmith. Its next incantation was the 87-seat saloon Country Roots n’ Rockabilly Music Tavern. It’s been the Horseshoe Tavern since 1947. Blues and folk played in the 1960s, reggae, mod rock and punk in the 70s progressing to new wave and alternative rock in the 80s….and so on…. The Stones, the Police, Etta James, The Ramones and the Talking Heads have all appeared at The ‘Shoe. Now well into the 21st century, The Horseshoe is still going strong, supporting Canadian talent by showcasing new bands while also hosting well-known crowd favourites.

Hoseshoe old

….and now for the music….The Horseshoe played host to three similar yet diverse acts – A Primitive Evolution, Secret Broadcast and headliner, Die Mannequin. The place was jammed and the entire evening was so high energy you could peel some folks off the ceiling.

First up was A Primitive Evolution

A-Primitive-Evolution

Current members are Brett Carruthers (lead vocals and guitar), Stephany Seki (backing vocals, bass and cello) and Stu Dead (drums and percussion). The standout for me was Stephany on bass. She plays the instrument like it’s an extension of her body, biting the strings and making them twang, pop and snap in just the right places….sounding nasty and raunchy, just like a bass should sound. Loved it! The skull/skeleton character they had for the closing song was wild and unexpected and the phone cameras were popping like mad. You can see it in this video.

A Primitive Evolution – I Feel It All

Prior to heading out, I took some time to listen to a number of their songs on YouTube and what I heard was vastly different to their live performance. These are not your run-of-the-mill videos….a lot of work went into producing them, both visually and musically. I Feel It All and Lord of Reason (among others) are clear, well constructed melodies. The extreme vocals I heard live were more of a stretch and strain on the vocal chords than actual singing and didn’t come close to “lining up” with what I heard in the videos. I’ve been to enough shows and concerts and sat through enough recording sessions to know the studio production and what you hear live is going to be different. However, I was expecting more than what I heard….at least something recognizable.

A-Primitive-Evolution Live at the Shoe

Brett and Stephany at the Horseshoe, April 18, 2015

Brett has a strong, passionate voice and it deserves to be heard. As this is the first time I’ve seen this band I’ll be keeping my eye out for more opportunities to see them live again.

A Primitive Evolution – Lord of Reason

Next up was rock and roll band Secret Broadcast.

SECRET-BROADCAST1

Secret Broadcast’s Matt Lightstone and Keith Heppler 

Original….great music…they were having fun on stage…three key ingredients (to me anyway). They opened with one of their hits, covered Nirvana (to the audiences absolute delight), the vocals were spot on — both Matt and Curtis complement each other in that department — the drumming had the right amount of “kick” (pun intended) without being overwhelming, the guitar — melodic yet dirty, without being too over-the-top. I’m not a lover of long and messy guitar solos. These guys had it right.

secret-broadcast-the-horseshoe-95121

J.C. Sandoval & Matt Lightstone @ the Horseshoe

Their new album, Filthy Souls, was released last year. The album was recorded in the same Seattle studio Nirvana used to record their last song, “You Know You’re Right”, just prior to Kurt Cobain’s death. Originally from Calgary and now calling Toronto home, Secret Broadcast  band members include Matt Lightstone (vocals and guitar), Keith Heppler (drums), Curtis Harding (bass & vocals) and Will Bennett (guitar). During CMW they will be appearing at the Drake Underground, May 6 @ 8pm. I look forward to catching up with these guys again.

Secret Broadcast – More Than Friends

Secret Broadcast – Don’t Feed the Crows

….and now for the starring band of the night (and the hour)

Die Mannequin

Die Mannequin

RIGHT UP MY ALLEY….another female-fronted rock band! Together since 2005, Die Mannequin is no slouch in the touring department. They have opened for Guns N’ Roses, Marilyn Manson, supported Sum 41 and toured Europe (twice). Current members include Caroline “Care Failure” Kawa (vocals, guitar and bass), Kevvy Mental (bass backing vocals), Keith Heppler (drums, percussion) and J.C. Sandoval (guitar & backing vocals). Both J.C and Keith do double duty in Secret Broadcast, and J.C has another project, Savannah.

I took in their show on the strength of their YouTube videos and a few recommendations. Care has a very distinctive voice in the videos — strong, clear and forceful. It’s perfect for the alternative rock/punk these guys play. The whole band is tight with a strong, defining sound and a perfect balance of vocals and instruments. One reviewer described their album FINO + BLEED as invoking the “Yeah Yeah Yeahs at the height of their powers….by turning in performances that are equal parts lusty gasp and swaggering stomp, thus guaranteeing to make anyone….weak in the knees.”

Die Mannequin – Sucker Punch

Die Mannequin – Bad Medicine

On stage live…. all I heard was LOUD. Care’s vocals were buried in the mix. I could barely hear her. Her voice seemed to get swallowed up as everything else jumbled together and overrode her. The bass was mean and angry and the drums held a solid, kick-ass beat. The bass drum, in particular, got me right in the gut…where it should.  Sandoval, was awesome. The place was jammed and the audience obviously adores them. But I was looking forward to hearing Care.

I finally left the showroom in the back of the Horseshoe, and found a stool at the end of the front bar, ears still tuned to the stage in the back room.

horseshoe front bar

Drums, in particular, sounded even better at the bar. (what’s that telling you?) Care’s voice was still just a whisper above all the noise. Once in a while you could hear a couple of high notes. Quite a number of people moved into the front bar due to the volume. The sound man needs to dial it down a bit and bring Care’s voice forward more. No singer should have to compete with the instruments.

What I found really interesting was the age range of Die Mannequin’s audience.  It’s quite diverse with an almost 40-year span, anywhere from mid-twenties to early sixties, and every one of them are big fans of the band. The sound guy needs to suss out both the size of the room while gauging the audience and keep both in mind when working the soundboard. All bands (and audiences) like to rock out (or in this case “mosh out”) but extreme volume is not the answer.

On another note, my younger son tells me most people his age (20-somethings) head to the clubs for the high energy and the noise. They can’t hear the music or the singers, just the thumpa, thumpa of bass and drums. Hmmmm…. Maybe I’m wrong but in my opinion great singing (albeit with some screaming), with great playing….that’s what most audiences crave. If you’re going to put that much energy into writing, creating and performing, wouldn’t you want your audience to hear it?

I still had eardrum problems the next morning and I haven’t had that since my last Nazareth concert many, many, many years ago.

Die_Mannequin Lead singer

Care Failure

Having said all that, I would definitely head out to see Die Mannequin again just to hear Care’s voice live (although I’ll steer well clear of the mosh pit). Their music is both hard and punchy, while some tunes are decidedly catchy and danceable (my feet were always moving) but none of them required the volume to be turned up to eleven. I’ll bring my earplugs next time.

I’m Just a Girl is from their most recent album Neon Zero, released in 2014. Some additional electronics, still with the Die Mannequin punch and attitude, but a departure from the other songs I have listened to. The album has been called a “pop-dance-metal-punk sort of sound.” I leave you with….

Die Mannequin – I’m Just A Girl

Meanwhile, back on April 10….

 The Tranzac

Tranzac outside shotl

I was introduced to the Tranzac Club by my fellow writer Roxanne Tellier (who is also a fabulous vocalist). Every Friday night from 5pm to 7pm Annette Shaffer hosts a wonderful jam session called The Foolish Things. As Roxanne says, “it grows organically” throughout the two hours. “You really have to get there at the beginning.” She’s right. I was unfashionably late for my first visit due to unexpected circumstances….and….late for the second (Toronto traffic and construction!!) but not as unfashionably. Next time….ON TIME!

Our Host Annette Shaffer – Counting Flowers

According to their Facebook page, “the Tranzac is a non-profit, member supported community organization with a focus on promoting arts, music and theatre.” It is an unconventional space with two rooms – 200 seats in the back and 40 seats in the front — and was originally started as a social club. The acronym TRANZAC stands for Toronto Australia New Zealand Club. The club also works to promote and support Australian and New Zealand culture.

My first visit was unfortunately short but I had the chance to hear Roxanne sing. Oh man!!! She started with Money and boy can she can belt it out. But she really caught me with Stand by Me. She just pulls you in and swallows you up. This was one of my husband’s favourite songs and he would have loved listening to Rox. It was beautifully and soulfully done.

roxanne1

Roxanne Tellier

My second visit on April 17 provided me the privilege of listening to Hugh Oliver. Hugh Patrick Hoblyn Oliver was born in 1929 Epsom, England. He emigrated to Canada in 1966, at the height of all that was happening in the 60’s including the invasion of all things British. He fit right in.

hugh-oliver

 Hugh Oliver

Oliver is a musician, poet, novelist and sculptor. He has worked with Glyn Johns to write songs which were recorded by some of the bigger labels including Decca, EMI and HMV, and the Beatles themselves contributed to some of the musical backing. Upon his arrival in Canada he worked as Editor-in-Chief of OISE Press at the University of Toronto but the music and poetry never stopped. At one time he hosted a weekly poetry reading at the Tranzac Club where he also performed jazz standards with his band The Foolish Things.

Oliver is now confined to a wheelchair but that does not stop him from getting out and enjoying life. His body may not be what it once was but the mind is as strong and as fruitful as ever and his famous wit and wry sense of humour are intact. He sang a number of songs with his band, Hugh Oliver and the Twists, while sipping his wine, thoroughly enjoying himself. It was an honour and a pleasure to see and listen to him. If you get the chance, catch him whenever and wherever he performs.

The following video was taken with my trusty “not so smart” phone. Everyone was having such a good time, particularly Hugh and Annette. Light-hearted and just plain fun.  Enjoy.

Hugh Oliver and the Twists – Tranzac, April 17, 2015

The Dakota

On March 20 I headed to the Dakota in the city’s west end, conveniently very close to Honest Ed’s, to see Melissa Payne

 Melissa-Payne-high-res

 Melissa Payne

One of my fellow writers (we call him Frank) made a comment on Facebook stating that if he lived in Toronto, he would go and see her….so I agreed to go on his behalf. It was the end of March, the weather was still lousy and I was running a bit late (seems to be an ongoing theme with me) but managed to catch the last half of her show. She’s a country girl with a tinge of folk. Her voice is honest with a bit of raspy twang. The lady is quite a fiddler too!

Payne is from rural Ontario, the small town of Ennismore (look it up on the map). She started fiddle lessons at the age of four, by age 18 had taught herself to play guitar which, of course, lead to writing songs. She released an album of demos in 2009 and Seventh Fire Records signed her and released her debut album in 2012. Payne’s new album, High and Dry, produced by Greg Keelor (Blue Rodeo), was released last year. According to the Seventh Fire website, High and Dry departs from the “mellow, acoustic sounds of her previous release, she experiments with more guitars, synthesizers, keys and percussion, resulting in a contemporary, indie folk creation.”

Payne was gracious enough to talk to me after her show and provide me with some information as well as a copy of her new CD. I’m listening to it as I write this and really enjoying it. She brings to mind Reba McEntire and Kim Carnes. I will keep my eye out for this young lady and try to catch her live again. She obviously enjoys what she does and it shines through in her music and her performance. By the way, my friend and follow writer down in Oregon, Frank Gutch Jr. gives her two thumbs up. He’s lovin’ High and Dry.

Melissa Payne – Bring Me Back (from the album High and Dry)

Melissa Payne – Take Me Away (2012)

Melissa Payne – Fiddling Around (this is a video I shot when she played at the Dakota March 20, 2015)

After the Dakota, I headed over to the Orbit Room….but that’s another story.

Canadian Music Week (CMW)

CMW BANDS

OMG!! I am SO excited!! I have been so busy the past few months reconnecting with old friends and acquaintances in the music business and now I have the opportunity to actually see some of them for the first time in years at CMW. Thanks to the faith my editor has in my writing skills, not only do I get to offer up my favourite music tidbits once a week, but I’m going to cover CMW. Press and photo pass (check), sessions and times calendared (check), bands picked out at venues around the city (check), camera (check), a supply of writing material (check), cell phone charged (check)….I am so READY!  Did I mention I’m excited!! All I need now is The Flash’s powers to zip around at lightening speed. So much ground to cover with only two feet.

I know it will be overwhelming…there will be so much happening and so much to take in. This isn’t “just get my toes wet”, this is “dive in and see where the waves take me.” I’ll get my bearings and steer course somehow but oh gawd, it’s going to be so much fun!!  I feel like a 16-year-old who’s just been handed the keys to daddy’s classic Mustang. I am definitely going to enjoy taking this baby for a spin.

sheraton_centre_toronto

 The Sheraton Centre

Now in its 34th year, CMW has become the music industry’s go-to conference, and it all happens right here in Toronto, Canada. CMW runs from May 1 – 10, headquartered at the Sheraton Centre in downtown Toronto. Digital Media, Radio and the three-day Music Summit – and that’s just the conferences. There’s music, film, comedy festivals and special events – and they’re happening all over Toronto. For all you newbies, there’s Mentor Café.

CMW Mentor's cafe

Check in out at cmw.net.  Sooooo many bands, acts, clubs and venues to choose from…. Early mornings and very late nights…. This is gonna be a blast! ….and I am so gonna need a vacation after this….

Cheers!

Sources

Aesthetic magazine Toronto, YouTube, Facebook, Wikipedia, Soundscapes, cmw.net, my mind

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

dbawis-buttonIn “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much  of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda Little Red-headed dancing girland the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts,  Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance….

 

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