Pat Blythe: NXNE 2015, Bring on de Funk, and MORE
A plethora of entertainment abounds in the Big Smoke this summer. NXNE rolled into town on June 17 for four days of non-stop music, film and comedy. I opted for the music since a body can only be in so many places at once. A shout out and big thank you goes to Damien Nelson, FLIP Publicity & Promotions, for providing the media and photo passes. Your assistance was much appreciated. By the way, the website was awesome. Easy to maneuver around and find what you’re looking for.
It’s Wednesday, June 17 and it’s almost an exercise in futility, attempting to find parking. Since I had already been out running around during the day and knew I’d be popping among venues between “now” and “then”, I figured I’d drive rather than hoofing it. Queen and Spadina…. the centre of the universe….where NXNE have decided to locate command central. I lost count how many times I had to circle the block. Finally noticed a rather obscure, tiny parking lot to the north of Queen and squeezed into the last spot. Parking paid, I raced to sign in and obtain “the lanyard” and literally ran into my editor. My mother always told me to “look up” when you’re walking.
Okay, off to The Hideout for a CIMA gathering and some industry schmoozing. Met some wonderful people including CIMA Marketing & Events Co-ordinator Emy Stantcheva. I loved her one-piece plaid. (It’s the Scottish in me) I was also introduced to singer/songwriter Pat Kelly of Ambers Dragon. I have fallen in love…..with his music and Amber’s voice. I’ve include two of his songs throughout this column. More on Kelly next month when his latest tune and video is launched. A few drinks and some shots (camera not alcohol) later and it’s time for a bite. I have no idea why I get so famished at these events but I do. Restaurant of choice….A&W.
Pat Kelly and Bob Segarini at The Hideout
The Theme for 50 Shades of Grey – Ambers Dragon
One burger later I grab the vehicle and head over to the heart of Little Italy on College St. It’s dessert time. I treat myself to the BEST cannoli I have ever had the pleasure of devouring, the calories gleefully finding their own parking spots on my hips. This luscious, creamy delight was accompanied by my favourite caffeinated beverage, a cappuccino. The location, the Sicilian Sidewalk Cafe, Toronto’s oldest gelateria.
Opened by the four Galipo brothers in 1959 after immigrating from Sicily, the tradition of making “the best gelato anywhere,” using the family’s secret recipe, continues with the second generation. The frozen cocktails also come highly recommended but I’m driving. I’ll be back to check out the Cosa Nostra — Carolans Irish cream, Khalua and Banana liqueur blended with banana ice cream. I’m a banana freak and this sounds heavenly. ….and just maybe another cannoli. It’s a gorgeous evening out on the patio so time to relax for a minute or two.
The Mod Club is just steps away and, although early, there’s a lineup already forming. As “media” I am ushered in right away (thank you again Damien) . A choice of seating…anywhere… the club is virtually empty except for the bar staff. A comfy couch and tonic (with lemon) in hand and I’m set. The act I’m here to see….
Emilie and Ogden….
Matchmake a classical harp named Ogden with bass and drums….add in a voice that is both pure and sweet with a touch of folk, and you have created a performance that is completely mesmerizing. The graceful and gentle beauty of the harp’s song weaving in and out with the heavier sounds of the bass and the drums was magical. “She doesn’t just play the harp, she brings it to life. With her voice winding around every sonic turn and pluck of the strings, Emilie spins songs so catchy that it’s easy to overlook their immense complexity.” — Aux.tv Emilie’s voice has a quirky, little girl sound that to me was slightly reminiscent of Harriet Wheeler, lead singer of the British band The Sundays. It is perfect with the music.
Emilie & Ogden
Apparently Taylor Swift is one Emilie’s favourite performers. Ever heard an acoustic version of Out of Style….on the harp? Superb! The audience was totally captivated by the entire one-hour set. At the end of each song you could almost hear a pin drop as the crowd hung there waiting silently for the next note. By the end of Emilie’s set, we were all just a little sad to see her go. Unique, exceptional, one-of-a-kind. Watch for Emilie and her harp Ogden. They make a beautiful music together. Her first album is due out in the fall of 2015. Look for it.
Shows to Go – Emilie & Ogden
What Happened – Emilie & Ogden
Headed over to the Handlebar to see Carly Thomas for a 10pm show only to discover Augusta Ave. is closed for a movie shoot….great! I parked illegally anyway but missed the first half of Thomas’s set. Damn!!! Ken Ross, whom I had seen playing with Sarah Smith in London a few weeks prior, had joined this quartet to play in Toronto as part of NXNE. It was wonderful to see him again and meet his new bride.
A little bit of country, a dash of folk, a pinch of pop and a tinge of rock all contribute to this singer/songwriter’s musical recipe. Explode…Thomas’s newest release. Explode is also the title song of the album. The drums snap and kick in all the right places (Matt Varey), the bass is beautifully subtle and keeps the backbone going (Ken Ross), lead guitar is nicely played — yep double entendre — (Pat Dryburgh) and Thomas’s voice carries the show. This song went on repeat while I was typing this.
Explode – Carly Thomas
Thomas has led a very cosmopolitan life. Born in Thailand, raised in Argentina, began singing in Paris at the age of 16, New York bound at 17, and now residing in Canada. Her music is a reflection of her life….personal….close to the heart….her lyrics painting the pictures of her life. I look forward to catching Thomas again and this time I’ll walk….and I won’t be late.
L-R – Ken Ross, Tyler Turek, Matt Varey, Carly Thomas
Thursday, June 18 and again traveling with the personal transport machine I wend my way up to The Danforth.
After “checking in” at the Danforth Music Hall and getting the requisite hand stamp, I had time to unwind from a busy day with….yes….a cappuccino. Enjoying an outdoor patio and people-watching is a favourite pastime. Soon enough I will be part of a very young crowd….a very, very young crowd….and they’re all hear to see Willow Smith. Yes her…..daughter of Will and Jada.
Willow Smith first caught the public’s attention in 2010 with her first single Whip My Hair. A second single in the same year, 21st Century Girl, heralded Smith’s arrival on the music scene. Keep in mind folks, this was five years ago….the girl was not yet 10! She has since released six singles and her debut EP, entitled 3, was released in 2014. Smith’s latest endeavour is F Q-C #7 (frequency number seven),was released this year. She wrote the song, self-produced the video and co-directed. Her acting experience include I Am Legend alongside her father, and in the movie Kit Kittridge: An American Girl.
EP 3 – Willow Smith
Born on Hallowe’en, in the first year of the 21st century, this young dynamo bounded on stage, in full flight, belting out her first number, and she didn’t stop moving during her 30-minute set. Not quite 15 years, Smith was the consummate professional. Accompanied by a drummer and keyboard player, Smith is very comfortable on the stage, taking control and commanding it, prowling and pirouetting from one side to the other. Making eye contact with her audience, reaching out to touch them or crouching to sing directly to someone, rendering the performance particularly personal for many. It’s in her blood. Smith has two of the best coaches (and supporters) in the business — her parents. She merges all that teaching, with her own spirit and innate talent, making each song, each performance, her own. I was astounded and impressed to say the least. I had no preconceived notions, no expectations, and what this young artist presented was amazing. I’m sold! Yes, her music has wide appeal to a much younger generation, but just listen to the lyrics….wise beyond her years. She is both socially and environmentally conscious and both Smith and her brother Jaden are young ambassadors for Project Zambi, an organization providing assistance to children orphaned by AIDS.
Smith closed the show with a live version of her first hit Whip My Hair. As the music continued to play, Smith said her goodbyes, quickly gathered up the scarf and coat she had dropped on stage earlier and was gone. Whisked away in the blink of an eye. Smith is a creative force in her own right. It will be fascinating to watch this young lady develop into her full potential.
Female Energy – Willow Smith
F Q-C #7 – Willow Smith
TGIF, June 19….Nathan Phillips Square and the Toronto Jazz Festival is in full swing. Itas time to let loose and dance in the sun.
Dumpstafunk, Morris Day & The Time followed by George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic were all performing. It was the perfect day for some outdoor activity and to get some daylight shots. Listen up all you bar and club owners….it’s extremely challenging shooting constantly moving targets in low light conditions….which covers most of the clubs and bars in this city….and what’s with all the red and green lights? They are terrible for taking no-flash pics, leaving your performers perpetually bathed in the primary colours of Christmas. They look cheap and tawdry. I am now hearing performers request they be turned off. …and by the way….blue is just as bad, if not worse….and yellow makes one look jaundiced.
I digress….back to the funk….
The crowd was cheering, dancing and swaying. Loving every minute of the music. It was fun to take pictures and dance…click….dance….click….dance…. Here are a few shots from these performances.
Dancing in the daylight….
Morris Day and the Time….
I cannot emphasize enough the abundance, the profusion, the wealth of entertainment and activities this marvelous city-by-the-lake offers. We are so very fortunate to have so much at our fingertips (or toetips if you like to dance). The most difficult challenge is choosing….choosing who to see….where to go…..when to see them….. Young talent, mature talent, new talent, local talent….rock, punk, country, classical, folk (and yes opera)….comedy, tragedy, drama….and the food….it’s ALL here. Get on out there, have fun and enjoy! Happy Summer!!
I leave you with this….
Ambers Dragon – Like I Wish You In My Dreams
CBC Music, YouTube, Wikipedia, Facebook, days and nights of roaming the streets, bars and clubs of Toronto
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!