Pat Blythe – It’s March, it’s Music, it’s Mayhem…..
What in tarnation is going on with the world?! Just which planet is in retrograde this month??? We have Orange Man spewing idiocies south of the 49th; supposed Russian collusion in the White House; Samsung (one of South Korea’s largest companies and Apple’s biggest competition) working the PR (and denial) machine as their chief-cook-and-bottle-washer Lee Jae-yong is about to be indicted for bribery, embezzlement and corruption along with four more Samsung executives; a right cock-up at the Oscars; an extremely temperamental and indecisive Mother Nature here in Ontario (shorts and sandals one day, snow the next); friends falling like bowling pins to a rather nasty flu/cold bug creeping around, (and this one comes back to haunt you if you’re not careful); an accused abuser wins a Best Actor Oscar.
Kellyanne Conway has her feet on the Oval Office couch (quelle horror); no snow in Chicago….not even a single flake….for January AND February (but there’s snow in Vancouver), and…..most importantly, the burning question on EVERY Canadian’s mind….when the hell is Trudeau going to legalize pot??? For crying out loud Justin, get on with it! I think we all need a toke or a decent brownie. Something, anything to quiet this madness. My brain hurts. This line from a favourite movie, is just as pertinent today…., “stay sane inside insanity.” I’ll try…..
I Believe The Whole Damn World Is Going Crazy – John Gary Williams
…and now on to more serious topics…music
Shhhhhh…it’s a Secret…Secret Broadcast that is….
L-R – Will Bennett, Keith Heppler, Matt Lightstone, Curtis Harding
Matt Lightstone on lead vocals and guitar, Will Bennett on lead guitar and lap steel, Curtis Harding on bass, vocals and keys and last, the pounding thunder that is Keith Heppler on drums. These are the singers/songwriters/musicians that comprise Secret Broadcast. It’s been quite a while, months even, since I have seen these guys on the circuit. Now I know why. They’ve been busy in the studio creating and recording their new record. So….twice in as many weeks, I have heard what that creativity is generating and it is so, so, so good. A sneak peek (or in this case listen) to the new tunes that will be filling the grooves on that new album. Thirty minutes at the Handlebar on Feb. 9 (intimate and very quietly promoted) and, two weeks later on Feb. 24 another 45 minutes at the Supermarket. Yup….gonna be real good. The crowd didn’t stop dancing at the Supermarket. This special show came replete with backup singers and a bit of pizzazz….a horn section filling out the sound quite beautifully.
Matt Lightstone and Curtis Harding
A very focused Keith Heppler (at the Handlebar)
Sexy sax and the horn section with Chris Harding far right
The band once called Calgary home and are now firmly rooted in Toronto and the Toronto music scene. They have opened for Tokyo Police Club, Matthew Good; performed at JunoFest; cruised through Canadian radio in the top 40 for Canadian rock, alternative and the college radio charts and have performed at many of the clubs around town including the Horseshoe, Cherry Cola’s, The Bovine Sex Club as well as the aforementioned halls of music. Catch them one more time before they disappear back into the studio….this Saturday, March 4 at the Phoenix Concert Theatre along with Bleeker, Mushy Callahan and headliner Luke Austin. http://secretbroadcast.com/
…a force of music and personality coming at you with both barrels loaded. Passionate, so full of life, she exhibits a strength and determination way beyond her years. So on Feb. 21 I zipped (those who drive with me know exactly what I mean) out to the west end to see Brilla for the first time at The Painted Lady, apparently her favourite club in Toronto. Invited by Jessica Glover from GLO Communications I was extremely happy I had accepted the invitation. Brilla was showcasing her third album Human and the bar was jammed from front to back. She has a rather large and very vocal fan base and they were in attendance in full force. With a touch of Maria Muldaur and Amy Winehouse, a pinch of Joni and Nelly Furtado…..she’s another artist who truly connects with her audience, even inviting them up on stage (ala Sarah Smith) or encouraging them to join in on the choruses of many of her songs.
L-R – Chris Rouse, Adam Bowman, Maxwell Roach, Alysha Brilla, Alison Young and Jesse Ryan
Backed by the Brillion Dollar Band — Adam Bowman on drums, Chris Rouse on keys, Alison Young and Jesse Ryan on sax and Maxwell Roach on bass — a crack group of musicians. I loved the little “cubby” Bowman and his kit were placed in behind the band (although not easy to photograph). The drum sounds that emanate are amazing….deep, solid and full. After playing “tilt-a-camera” for at least three tunes, I finally managed to capture all the band members in a single shot without including the bobbing heads on the dance floor (I should have been wearing stilts and no, my gear is way too heavy for a monopod). Individually, each of these musicians have their own extensive careers in the music arena. To find out more, check them out by clicking on their names.
L-R – Chris Rouse on keys with Maxwell Roach and his finely tuned bass
Alison Young and Jesse Ryan
Most of Brilla’s pieces have a message, a deeper meaning and many are both personal and poignant but, just like Brilla herself, they are also playful and joyful. A little salsa, a little reggae, a little jazz, a little blues….a lot of dance. Her songs and music touch a chord (and a whole lotta’ feet) in many. Each song begins with a story or narrative and ends with swaying hips and the entire audience singing. It was doubly challenging to photograph and dance. I had to put down my camera a number of times.
Born in Mississauga and raised in Kitchener, Brilla is strongly connected to her heritage, and refers to herself as Indo-Tanzanian-Canadian. Influenced by her mother’s love for “Canadian” folk and “American” jazz alongside her father’s Afrobeat/Indian music, Brilla also developed a deep love for the blues. She formed her first band in her mid-teens, Alysha and The Alleycats, playing gigs in and around Southwestern Ontario. Brilla’s list of accomplishments are long and varied….from TedX speaker to trained yoga instructor (in Rishakesh, India); singer/songwriter/producer to arts educator. She has her own “in-house” recording space and has produced and recorded all three of her albums there through her production company Sunny Jam Records, Inc. Her first two, Womyn (2015) and In My Head (2014) were both nominated for JUNO Album of The Year. Gorgeous smile, animated, warm and inviting, this is one lady who also takes her craft very seriously.
No More Violence – Alysha Brilla
Immigrant – Alysha Brilla
This is one of my favourite Brilla songs. She performed it in both sets and had the entire club singing.
Bigger Than That – Alysha Brilla
Note: A BIG thank you and shout out to Remy at GLO Communications for providing the information I needed quickly. It was much appreciated.
THE Electric Black Man….
Eric Mercury enjoying the moment
Eric Mercury tribute — Protest to Promise — was held at the brand new BAND (Black Artists Network Dialogue) location on Brock Ave. in Toronto. The tribute to this Toronto-born talent was part of Black History Month, co-ordinated and arranged by Michael Williams of Michael Williams Presents. I have to confess, right here and now, I had never heard of Mercury prior to this engagement. Shame on me!!! This man’s contribution to music in both Canada and the U.S. is mind-blowing. A tall, stately man with a wicked handshake, Mercury was in storytelling heaven, sharing insights, experience and history of black music, its impact and contributions both in and to Canada. David Clayton-Thomas, Brenda Russell and Gary Katz all called in to chat with Mercury. There were performances by Liberty Silver, Eddie Bullen (keys), Billy Newton-Davis, Ian Green (drums), Roger Williams (bass), up-and-coming artist Jasmine and the man of the hour himself in a duet with Silver.
Liberty Silver and Eric Mercury duet with bassist Roger Williams in the background
For me and many others it was also very educational. Mercury and his band performed in many Ontario venues that I was quite familiar with including the old Wonderland Gardens in my home town of London, Ontario. I sincerely hope Mercury enjoyed this waltz down memory lane as much as the audience did. It was a packed house with standing room only. Everything came together for a most enjoyable afternoon.
Electric Black Man – Eric Mercury
The space was so tight to move and shoot around in, particularly when filled to capacity, that Director Earl Modeste made sure he stood behind me so I didn’t back right out the front door. Thank you Earl for having my back! Also, thank you to the BAND volunteers for providing yummy delights and beverages. Again, names elude me except for Tasha. To find out more about BAND click here
L-R – Roger Williams, Liberty Silver, Ian Green and Eddie Bullen
L-R – Billy Newton-Davis, Jasmine, Liberty Silver, Eddie Bullen
L-R – Eric Mercury, Eddie Bullen and presenter Michael Williams
L-R – …and laughing uncontrollably is Roger Williams, Eddie Bullen, Eric
Mercury, Liberty Silver and Ian Green
L-R – Billy Newton-Davis, Roger Williams and Eric Mercury
L-R – Eric Mercury, Roger Williams, Ian Green, Eddie Bullen, Liberty Silver and Michael Williams
A couple of B.A.N.D. volunteers
Lonely Girl – Eric Mercury and The Soul Searchers
A few brief notes on Mercury….home base is currently NYC; joined The Pharaohs with Jay Jackson, realizing his future career was in music; formed Diane Brooks, Eric Mercury and The Soul Searchers (featuring future member of Motherlode); left Toronto for a solo career releasing Electric Black Man in 1969 followed by three more albums in 1972, 1973 & 1975; began writing for Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway; worked on the stage production of Jesus Christ Superstar; collaborated with Mandella, Stevie Wonder, Thelonius Monk, Brenda Russell and many others….and the list goes on.
Take Me Girl I’m Ready – Eric Mercury
I have more to share but will stop here. I’m late with this yet again. One final note, March is going to be an extremely frantic month as I have a rather large telecom project due by the 31st. I may be absent from these pages as I buckle down to complete this task but telecom is my bread and butter. There are a number of concerts and shows I will be attending during the next few weeks but I may have to press the ‘pause’ button. Filling you in on all the wonderfulness that is music may be a tad delayed. I apologize in advance but April I’ll be back with a vengeance. CMW starts up and I’m looking forward to the beginning of festival season and summer in Toronto!!!
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“Music and photography….my heart, my passions.” After an extended absence — 33 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry — Pat has turned her focus back to the music scene. Immersing herself in the local club circuit, attending the many diverse music festivals, listening to some great music, photographing and writing once again, she is eager to spread the word about this great Music City of ours…..Toronto. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who, beginning in the early 70s, photographed much of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda and the Imps, BB Gabor, the first Police Picnic, Buzzsaw, Hellfield, Shooter, The Segarini Band….) as well as national and international acts. Pat is currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, 20 of which are a photographic history of the local GTA music scene beginning in 1974. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES to dance!