Pat Blythe: On The Road Again – The London/Toronto Scrapbook
It’s Scrapbook time!! So far, May and June have been busy months for a little bar-hopping between cities….checking out new places, acquainting myself with the local talent, hitting the dance floor and meeting up with friends. So, keeping everything in chronological order I’ll begin with my hometown of London, Ontario, famously known as The Forest City. (need you ask why?)
London, Ontario – May 26-28
Trying to connect with my friend Tara Scott first night in town and finally caught up with her at FitzRays Restaurant and Lounge. She is the savvy social media lady for FitzRays, keeping us all abreast (and aTwitter) of all the happenings there. ….and look what Ms Scott just happened to be wearing…. more on Xprime later in the article.
Had a quick drink with Tara and caught Jeffy B. (guitar) and Becky Walker (bass) jamming together on the patio. Becky has recently joined The Black Holes, a local rockabilly band fronted by lead vocalist Vince Braca. Formed in London, Ontario, these guys have been around since the late 90’s and are still happily introducing their audiences to classics like Johnny B.Goode and Tallahassie Lassie.
The Black Holes – L-R Tom Hilborn, Sean Anderson, Becky Walker and Vince Braca
Jeffy B. (Jeff Bialkowksi) is the founder of local band Dustbin Flowers. Formed in 2013, they won the Jack Richardson Music Award (JRMA) for Fan Favourite. Their most recent 4-track EP, Dustbin Flowers II, was released in the summer of 2014 and according to the reviews, is an intermingling of indie-pop and punk. The band is planning to release their double-album this summer, blending even more genres together for another diverse mix . Dustbin Flowers band members are Jason Drury on lead guitar, Darcy Maudsley on bass, Dave Gervais on drums, and of course, Jeffy B. on guitar and vocals.
A huge thunderstorm rolled in, the wind went from breeze to hurricane force in seconds with the sky turning an ominous shade of green/black. I ran for the vehicle and barely made it back to my mom’s in time to watch the heavens open. Sheet rain, lighting and thunder were the entertainment for the rest of the evening. However, I didn’t leave before Tara informed me Sarah Smith was playing on the Thursday (May 28) and I MUST come and catch her show. Okay….I’ll fess up….I had not heard of Sarah Smith and apparently I was really missing something since everyone I talked to (including my own two sisters) love her, had seen her perform and where the hell had I been hiding!!!??? Apparently getting out two or three nights a week to various clubs and pubs AND covering CMW is still not enough….come on, give a girl a break! Consider Thursday night booked. I have been advised to come as early as possible since the place will be jammed. Tara has left my name +1 on “the list” so I’m all set. Christine and Sarah….see you later….
Sarah Smith & Christine Campbell
I arrive at 7:30pm, “the band” doesn’t go on until 9pm, so I figure I’m early enough. Ha! All the tables closest to the stage (pretty much 50% of the room) have “Reserved” signs on them. I’m told Smith has a huge fan base in London. No kidding! I scored a high table for two dead centre of the pub with a clear run up to the stage. Not bad (unless you end up with a six footer who insists on standing right in front of you). The waitress is aces and secures my rather large handbag behind the bar leaving me free to prance (I’m wearing my heels) around with the camera. Food, drink, match….we’re ready. I recognize Sarah and stroll over to introduce myself. We chat for a minute but there are many fans demanding her attention. We’ll catch up later. First on the stage is Christine Campbell who hails from our glorious East Coast.
Christine Campbell – FitzRays, May 28, 2015
WOW! This women was born with a guitar in her hand…forget the silver spoon. She strokes and strums like it’s her baby (it probably is), picks, plucks and slides….that guitar is her third arm. Her playing is effortless. …and she has a voice to match. An entirely acoustic set, just Campbell and her guitar. However, she remains seated throughout her performance, something I am not accustomed to seeing in a bar with a dance floor. FitzRay’s is not huge but not the most intimate of settings either. (Anybody remember Smales Pace coffee house?)
CLUB RANT…..Humour me for just a moment. The entire lounge is noisy with the hum of continuous yipping, yapping and guffawing in the background, all in perpetual competition with the single performer on stage. It makes me wonder sometimes — no it infuriates me — why people bother going to a club to “listen” to live music. The musician strikes the first chord and it’s like a cue to pull the “talk” string on Chatty Cathy. Where’s the off button!?! Folks, if you’re just looking for background music, stay home and put on the stereo. Otherwise, shut the f**k up and pay attention to that hard-working performer, who just traveled from God knows where, drove hundreds of miles, took time to set up and sound check….all to entertain you. I experienced this at CMW where our event host actually asked the audience to button it….and embarrassingly, they didn’t. (I thought this happened only in Toronto) This is NOT a five-piece concert band, it’s an intimate performance so have the respect and decency to listen….or take your conversation outside. Okay, I’m done….rant over.
By Campbell’s third or fourth song, the audience finally decided to pay attention. Now engaged they started clapping in time near the end of the piece. Unfortunately, Campbell missed that cue and ended the song too early. It took a few more tunes before folks started paying attention again. As an observer I will add this….if you’re up on your feet, even in a small club (and they’re the best kind) and looking at your audience, you will not only connect with them, once you’ve captured their attention, they’ll follow your lead to wherever you go. FitzRays was the perfect venue to take them on that trip.
Christine Campbell – All Mine
I loved listening to Campbell live and there were two songs in particular that stood out for me. Her rendition of Me and Bobby McGee was beautiful. But the big surprise….The Immigrant Song on acoustic guitar….it was fabulous! Apparently Campbell’s dad was a big Led Zeppelin fan and she grew up listening to their music. She was very gracious after her set and took time to talk to people, autograph her CD (looks like she sold quite a number of them) and patiently pose for a number of “selfies” with fans before she had to leave. Campbell had a three-hour drive ahead of her. Keep that in mind next time you feel the urge to blab. Christine, I’d go back to see you again….with pleasure.
Christine Campbell – Immigrant Song
(Note: This was shot last year and is missing 20 seconds of video .The picture quality is not great but Christine’s voice more than makes up for it)
The main attraction….
Where do I begin. A powerful, passionate voice, and a very persuasive stage presence…magnetic, engaging, fun, open….just the whole package all rolled up in one dynamo. She plays, laughs, sings, jokes, plays some more and connects with her audience….I haven’t seen that kind of interaction since I saw Rick Springfield perform last January. (Ya’ll can stop snorting and snickering into your sleeves now….Springfield puts on a hell of a show and his band is top drawer) Smith is the consummate professional. Her years in the business have fine-tuned her senses and she “feels” her audiences. Her music is her “conversation”, an ongoing dialogue with her many fans. It’s natural, effortless and synergistic. She also understands she’s there to entertain and knows precisely how. There are only two other performers that come to mind capable of this (that I’ve actually witnessed) — Freddie Mercury and Rick Springfield. In the palm of their hands baby….Smith “gets it” and it was such a pleasure to watch. She even got me up on stage to take some shots of the audience….me and my 3-inch heels. Thank heaven for helping hands.
Facing the audience (half of them anyway) from the stage
Facing Sarah and Ken
Smith’s voice led The Joys for almost ten years, touring all over North America. Many accolades, awards and concerts later The Joys decided to take a much needed break. Smith went solo….and she hasn’t looked back. From my hometown of London, Ontario and still based there although the road is her home these days, Smith plays, at minimum, 250 shows a year. No question she is “one of Canada’s hardest working musicians”. Smith’s voice has just the right amount of gravel to rock out but you can sense her heart, her soul and her passion. Yes, she is reminiscent of Melissa Etheridge, her influencers are Etheridge, Bruce Springsteen and Janis Joplin. That fits, but listening to Smith you quickly forget about Etheridge or anyone else. You hear only Sarah Smith, a woman who thrives on music, performing and people….and she has fun! Her smile just lights up the room. I thoroughly enjoyed every minute of her show and would love the opportunity to see her again. Hey Sarah….maybe a Toronto gig?
Sarah Smith – The Stars
So Sarah Smith, I sure as shootin’ have heard of you, and heard you, now.
….and after all that, Smith was not alone on stage….fab bass player Ken Ross, who just got hitched (and Smith was the “best ma’am”), was the perfect accompaniment. Ross and Smith performed together in The Joys and it’s obvious they connect on stage. We are fortunate they both continue to entertain us. Happy Wedding Day Ken. You do play a mean bass.
Sarah Smith – I Need to Know
My Sarah and Ken Montage….I had so much fun with the camera that night….enjoying the photography part of this gig.
All photos of Christine Campbell, Sarah Smith, Ken Ross and Tara Scott taken by Pat Blythe at FitzRays Restaurant and Lounge, May 26 & 28, 2015
Back home in Toronto….
June 4, 2015 at The Great Hall….
David Celia held his official album launch celebration here for his new release, Double Mind, to an enthusiastic crowd. The lower level was packed (the balcony level basically off limits, especially with a beverage in hand). Once I relinquished my G&T, I was allowed to prowl the upstairs looking for picture angles. Great views of the audience and the stage.
I had never been to The Great Hall before and was amazed by the grandeur of the venue. Spacious, gorgeous stage, impressive staircases….she’s a grand old building. Celia’s fourth album, Double Mind, is an interesting and eclectic collection of songs, each one telling a different story. Folksy, bluesy, a bit of pop and fun. It’s about life….lovers, wives, family, kids and relationships….success and failure, holding back and letting go…. tongue in cheek with an wink and a nudge….inciteful….and all very personal.
David Celia – Welcome to the Show (acoustic)
Musician/singer/songwriter, Celia regularly tours Europe and his many travels influence his music and lyrics. They are a witness to everyday life and all the craziness that goes with it. Welcome to the Show both opens and closes the album — first in English and then in German — and was performed in fluent German at the album launch. The zaniness of Drunken Yoga (escape from the kids), the gleeful freedom of Go Naked! (or at least in your underwear), the liquid sexiness of Tongues (not going there….especially the lyrics….), the up-beat, “poppy” Thin Disguise (the opening immediately puts me in mind of the Pink Panther theme….for about 10 seconds) gets my toes tapping. Double Mind has something for every musical taste and off-the-wall lyricist.
Keep an eye out for Celia at the Cameron House in the front room on Friday nights between 6 pm and 8 pm. If he’s in town, that’s where you’ll find him. An intimate setting that is perfect for Celia’s music.
David Celia – Thin Disguise
David Celia rocks the Great Hall
All photos of David Celia and his band taken by Pat Blythe at The Great Hall, June 4, 2015.
June 4th, The Rivoli….
It’s almost 11pm so it’s time to head over to the Rivoli and the official launch of Xprime’s new EP titled Xprime PM. I’ve written a number of articles about these young lads and the first word that comes to mind is….DANCE. You cannot contain yourself. It’s impossible to sit still. …and you haven’t heard harmonies like this since the days of CSNY. Cue Helplessly Hoping or Suite to Judy Blue Eyes. …and Xprime can do it on the spot….at the drop of a hat. There is no “lead vocalist”, they all sing. Multi-talented, they easily swap instruments (except the keyboards). Neil Carson on bass (or maybe it’s Steph Mercier), Phil Taylor on drums (Neil too), Neil on guitar, Gab Sid on guitar, harmonica and keyboard. It’s a musical merry-go-round and they easily segue from one song to the next. I love their spark, their talent, their passion for music and performing. I admire their dedication and hard work, their quirky creativity and willingness to take risks. …and above all else….they are truly nice people. ….and fun….oh so much fun….
L-R – Steph Mercier, Neil Carson, Phil Taylor, Gab Sid
As for Xprime PM, I’m listening to it as I write this. I have a permanent earworm with the chorus of All To Myself. Roxanne and I couldn’t stop singing it on Friday night. We had no idea what the next line was but we knew “I want you all to myself” really well over and over again. It’s infectious. The ending is beautiful and makes me wonder what the softer side of Xprime would sound like. Ambedo gives some good advice, “don’t let this time pass you by, for once in your life” and I’m listening…and the bridge is perfection. The entire EP is rock, pop, dance, a hint of R&B and life all rolled into a wonderful blend of music and words.
Listen, dance, listen, dance….repeat…. Do it here> http://www.xprime.ca/music
Neil Carson and Steph Mercier
Steph Mercier (now on bass) and Neil Carson (now on guitar)
Neil Carson (back on his bass)
All photos of Xprime taken by Pat Blythe at the Rivoli, June 4, 2015
Now, for this Scrapbook’s finale….She loves you…..
It’s June 6 so it must be Beatle’s Night. I have been waiting months for this production. I saw my first YEAH, YEAH, YEAH show back in December 2014. The bar was jammed. The show was sold out. Fast forward six months and once again, a larger venue…. still jammed. Another sold out show! This event is getting larger and more popular, drawing in Beatles fans from all over. These five accomplished, first-rate musicians perform the top 40 Beatles tunes to perfection….note for note….beat for beat… word for word. They are Frank Zirone on guitar and vocals, Frank (Fringo) Russell on drums and vocals, Bruce Nasmith on keyboards, guitar and vocals, Don McLean on guitar, harmonica and vocals, and Kevin Rolston on guitar and vocals. The behind-the-scenes sixth member is Jain McMillan, responsible for all audio/visual show and effects, media, and in a pinch, she does lights. The seventh member(s)….audience on vocals.
Roxanne was my date for the evening and my good friends Peter and Jennie would be meeting us at the Rally Sports Bar & Smokehouse. Again I arrived early…really early. This time I managed to score a good-sized booth, with a great view of the band and easy access to that dance floor. Perfect!
YEAH, YEAH, YEAH is not a tribute band. They don’t dress like the Beatles, they don’t talk like the Beatles. They don’t present like the Beatles. They are consummate musicians who play and sing the music of the Beatles. They are accurate to every note and nuance of each song, all played in chronological order from 1964 to 1970, accompanied by a beautifully choreographed screen show designed and executed by McMillan. The vocals are shared among the band members, each one taking his turn at the microphone, each voice chosen and matched to a specific song. There is care, love and a deep respect for the music and their creators that goes into the rehearsals, prep, design and performance of each YEAH, YEAH, YEAH show. The band builds the atmosphere slowly and purposefully, specific songs chosen and timed until no one can resist the power of the dance.
Rox, Jennie, Peter and I cut a rug on the dance floor and, on two occasions, in a group grope….the four of us with our arms around each other slow dancing in a circle and laughing hysterically. The Twist, the Mashed Potato, the Pony, the Jerk and the Swim were all incorporated into various dance moves. We had FUN!!!! A rollicking good time.
The YEAH, YEAH, YEAH Picture Wall (with a little music)
Frank “Fringo” Russell
…and they sound like this….
Yeah, Yeah, Yeah – You’re Gonna Lose That Girl
Yeah Yeah Yeah – Sgt Peppers and Help From My Friends
The next show will be Christmas 2015, probably mid-December. If you get the chance, buy your ticket(s) early. Once they’re sold out….that’s it. If you miss it….well, there’s always next year. In the meantime, the YEAH, YEAH, YEAH Duo (Frank Zirone and Don McLean) continue to play regularly at clubs, pubs and festivals in and around the city. Check out their website at http://www.yeahyeahyeah.ca/
Yeah Yeah Yeah – Press Kit 2015
Did anyone notice today’s theme — FUN!! Enjoy life and have fun. There is some fantastic music to be had out there….you’ve just gotta get out and taste it.
All photos of the Yeah Yeah Yeah band taken by Pat Blythe at Rally Sports Bar & Smokehouse, June 6, 2015
Wikipedia, YouTube, personal experience, CBC, liner notes on the CDs, Facebook
Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.
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In “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 and 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!