Pat Blythe – Thoughts & Tyler Simmons, Beach Jazz Festival & Riverboat Mondays

My heart is heavy and my brain is trying to digest what has happened because it doesn’t make any sense. But then, suicide never does, at least not to the living.  ….and so I start with the first new column in five weeks talking about a topic that has been highlighted in the news far too much lately……but the famous are not alone in their despair. I know, I know, not a very uplifting subject but it’s one that has hit precariously close to home…..twice in exactly one week.

Two young men who went to a place most of us can’t even imagine, down a hole so black there seemed no way out, a depth of despair so overpowering and unfathomable, they felt compelled to take their own lives. Those they leave behind will be searching for a reason and condemning themselves for the rest of their lives. What if……what if…….why didn’t I see…….what did I miss…….I didn’t see that coming…..the questioning and the rehashing will be endless, spinning around your brain like a hamster on a wheel. The fact is, we will never ever know or fully understand what drives people to take their own lives….what exactly the breaking point was. There are no definitive and obvious tell-tale signs. There are no phone calls of warning, no fond farewells or last goodbyes, a final toast.  We are unsuspecting…..totally blindsided, shocked, horrified, numbed, paralyzed, somewhat in denial and dazed by such an act. The body ache and the heartache we feel is endless…..but so was theirs. Their brain hurts. Then the heart hurts, then it reaches the soul. A blackness so penetrating it’s impossible to follow the shadows.

Good Mother – Jann Arden

I am not a medical professional or a spokesperson for mental health. What I offer here are personal opinions and a feeling of profound sadness. I do not profess to understand what makes the brain tick… all…..period. None of us can infiltrate the mind. What I truly believe is this….in most cases we simply don’t see this coming. Those in pain, whether it’s physical or mental, learn to compensate, don the appropriate mask to suit the situation and soldier on. There are millions of masks to choose from. Regrettably some are unable to come out from behind them. The mask becomes permanent.  Jann Arden put it best in her song Good Mother, “cardboard masks of the people I’ve been. Thrown out with all the rusty, tangled, dented goddamn miseries. You could say I’m hard to hold but if you knew me……” Worn so we don’t disappoint, depress, piss off, worry or otherwise hurt those around us. Gradually, the ability to be yourself is lost. If there is any cry for help it vanishes soundlessly in the noise that surrounds us. Those of us on the outside ride on hope, anxiousness, fear and the superficiality of the mask. Over time we lose the ability to see beyond the mask. In reality, our own brains are simply unable to cope with, or comprehend, what’s behind the mask and so our brains compensate. Everything seems fine. He/she are doing great. We are supportive. We do what we can. This too shall pass…..

Carry Me Home – Julian Taylor

I’m heading out this afternoon to a memorial/celebration of life for one young individual who went down that black hole. There will be a second one to attend in the coming days. Two young lives lost in hopelessness and no one saw it coming…..because you just simply can’t.

Otherside – Red Hot Chili Peppers

It’s all about the music………

It’s been five weeks of busyness. Five weeks of being eyeball deep in a telecom project by day and music by night. The Women of Blues filled a few holes but now it’s “back to business”. The telecom project is not yet complete but it’s time to come up for some musical “aire”. There’s a ton of catching up to do. Toronto was also missing a couple of major festivals this year…..Bestival (which apparently lost a wad of cash last year) and TURF. I attended both last year and enjoyed both. I’m sorry to miss them this year. However, I attended London Bluesfest this past weekend for the first time. LOVED IT!!!  Shout out to Chris Campbell for the media pass. More on Bluesfest in the next column. Right now the latter part of July is in the spotlight.

So, let’s start with The Beaches International Jazz Festival.  Founded by local Beacher Lido Chilelli  29 years ago, the festival has ballooned from a local, intimate jazz festival held over a weekend in Kew Gardens to a month-long  event that takes up most of July. No longer in Kew Gardens, the closing finale weekend now takes place in Woodbine Park. Kew just can’t handle the crowds which have topped out at close to a million over the three-day Streetfest. Queen St. E. in the Beach is closed off to vehicular traffic and bands line the sidwalks while vendors share the road with pedestrians and food trucks. Personally I liked the weekend festival that actually celebrated jazz music. Streetfest is highlighting  more blues, rock, pop, Latin, 1920’s style “chanteusing”, South American and everything in between music. Jazz is a distant third cousin. This was, however, the first time I attended all three evenings of Streetfest. Friday was lovely, the crowds not too crazy. Saturday and Sunday was packed with the spectacular weather drawing people out in droves. This year I knew a number of the players so here goes…..

Queen St. looking west….busy first night and this is light….

Quincy Bullen and the ever so humble Eddie Bullen. Eddie, a Juno-award winning jazz pianist is a master of the keyboard. Son Quincy (Q for short) gives dad a run for his money tickling the ivories. I’ve witnessed their Dueling Piano’s show and if you get the chance, I highly recommend it. Quincy is also a multi-instrumentalist, singer/songwriter who has just released his first album Poise Debris….and he plays ALL  the instruments. Skilled on both the bass and guitar as well as the drums and apparently anything else he puts his mind to, Quincy jazzed and rocked it up a bit, offering some Jimi Hendrix and Stevie Wonder as well as some original pieces. The crowds love him and both Bullens have a huge following which was evident all three nights. Younger son and brother Tre-Michael is himself a drummer and budding photographer who was busy capturing all three evenings on video.  Talented family.

Fire River – Quincy Bullen

Quincy Bullen taking over Queen Street

L-R – Eddie Bullen on keys, Quincy on guitar

Work With That – Quincy Bullen

….and a very rare pic of A Girl With A Camera on the other side of the lens. L-R – Tre-Michael Bullen, Quincy Bullen, Pat Blythe, Rosalind (sister of Eddie Bullen), Eddie Bullen

Following are a few pics of Streetfest.

Elise LeGrow

Who Do You Love – Elise LeGrow

You Never Can Tell – Elise LeGrow

Singer/Songwriter and everybody’s favourite entertainment lawyer Paul Sanderson performing with Blue Room

Johnny Max  of the Johnny Max Band

Dancing to the music at the Beaches International Jazz Festival at Streetfest

July 25 found me at The Piston to see young singer/songwriter (he’s all of 17) Tyler Simmons and the debut of The Tyler Simmons Band. I almost missed them (I actually arrived early) after the sound man told me they had performed earlier that evening. Thank heaven I messaged Tyler as I was leaving. He and the band  were actually hitting the stage a tad late as the entire show was running a bit behind. I’m not sure what the sound man was on about? This was the very first time Simmons and the band  would perform together on stage but you wouldn’t have guessed it. Anybody walking in would have thought were old hats at this. That made an impression. All songs except for one (Sign of The Times by Harry Styles) were Simmons originals and it’s that particular song/video that originally peaked my interest in Simmons. You can check out his website here.

Tyler Simmons (with Callum Maudsley peeking out from behind)

It was an excellent set and I thoroughly enjoyed it. Tight, confident, talented, skilled  musicians all. (Callum Maudsley/lead guitar, Kyle T/bass, Chris MacFarlane/guitar, Chad David/drums) Comfortable on both guitar and keyboard, Simmons has a strong, clear, wide octave-ranging voice that hits all the highs and lows spot on. There is no problem hearing him above the din of chatter. His passion for music is palpable and he holds centre stage with the ease of a seasoned front man. His performance resume includes Koerner Hall, The Opera House, Danforth Music Hall and House of Blues in Las Vegas. In the summer of 2015, Simmons was the only male vocalist to receive a Rock Scholarship to attend Berklee’s five-week Rock Workshop program. After hearing him live, I can “see” why. A young talent to watch for. Now if The Piston would do something about that damn smoke machine that had everyone choking……..

Loving on the Down Low – Tyler Simmons

Sign of The Times – Tyler Simmons (Harry Styles cover)

July 31 and August 8 was Riverboat Monday’s at Dora Keogh’s Irish pub. Hosted by Julian Taylor and Tyler Ellis, it offers a “home” for young artists to test out their talent (vocals, instrumental or both) and a chance to connect with experienced musicians. Both nights my lovely “daughter” Colleen Thornton performed with and without Sam Taylor and Julian accompanying her.  ….crikey! Two Taylors and a Tyler. Keep track of that one…. Riverboat Monday’s is open mic night and it’s extremely popular with regulars and new faces. People start arriving early to put their name on the chalkboard and the list is typically a long one. August 8 had Matt Swift, Drew Winters, Annette Shaffer, Frank Zirone, Kid Carson, Sam Taylor and Maia Van Raes either gracing the stage or simply enjoying the show. It was a blast!!! Here’s a link to the FB page and lots of pics.

L-R Tyler Ellis, Colleen Thornton, Julian Taylor

NOTE: Monday, September 25 Julian and Tyler will be hosting a jam session. It’s also, conveniently, my birthday. Beautiful music and beautiful people. Couldn’t ask for better than that. Everyone is welcome. Please join us for fun night of singing, laughing and of course, great music….. Would love to see you there.

That’s it for July. August will take two more columns…..and September’s almost here!


All photographs copyright A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker” unless otherwise noted.


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

dbawis-button7“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 little-red-headed-dancing-girlalso 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! 

One Response to “Pat Blythe – Thoughts & Tyler Simmons, Beach Jazz Festival & Riverboat Mondays”

  1. Edythe Gerrard Says:

    It is so sad to think of young lives lost. At 77 you realize each moment should be lived and if you do make it to 77 and I hope you do you do find the pain might cut just as deep but you do know, you know it will pass and you will find that door. This time of my life reminds me of ‘September Song’. That quote from the bible ‘seek and ye shall find, knock and it shall be opened unto you’ is true. I guess sometimes even trying to knock on the door is just to painful. Sometimes you have to listen very hard to hear even the faintest knock on your door.

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