Pat Blythe – New Discoveries and a little Musical Therapy….

New discoveries, right in my own backyard. Two of these in town, the third in Brockville. The cast and “crew” of the ONES show stumbled upon this gem after the evening’s performance.

So, first up is my St. Lawrence Market discovery, the Candy Apple Jazz Band.  I was out collecting the Thanksgiving turkey (yep, that long ago) and these guys were playing on Market St. It sent me straight back to New Orleans and the street musicians performing that special kind of Dixieland jazz in the French Quarter. It’s so spirit-lifting…..puts a big smile on your face and song in your feet as they start to tap to the beat. The music was fun, lively….the little ones were shaking their tiny booties….and the performers were so animated, obviously having a good time introducing their music to a wide variety of passers-by. Even the diners sitting at the picnic tables were enjoying the tunes as they were serenaded while enjoying their meals. The market was packed with everyone picking up last minute items for “the big meal” but so many stopped, even briefly, to enjoy a musical interlude in their chaotic day.

The quintet, together since 2015, includes Ben Lee (vocals/banjo/ puppeteer), Kasey Dean Sikora (trumpet), theatre-maker Sasha Theodora (vocals/washboard/bass drum), Andy Dolgin (vocals/trombone/sousaphone), Gabriel Kerekes (clarinet), and when available, Ben Barrett Forrest (viola). To find out more click here

Promo Vid – Candy Apple Jazz Band

Performing in Bulgaria – The Candy Apple Jazz Band

This year’s big surprise….

Belle Matthews

Now it’s not often one is totally gobsmacked by a band….in a bar. There are so many bands (and bars) to choose from and loads of great and noteworthy artists, but it’s also a lot of “noise”. I was not expecting what I heard at the Rockpile West last Friday. A bar where the atmosphere oozes hard core rock, a bit rough around the edges (the food and especially the fries, by the way, are awesome) and a somewhat jaded “been there, done that” crowd. The median age of the regulars I’ve seen is “been around the block way more that once” and they take their music very seriously. This particular evening I mindlessly watched as five very young performers took their places on stage and thinking it was rather odd that somebody’s kids were about to perform a song or two. Apparently so did everyone else as the chattering and clinking of glasses continued. In the middle of the stage was a female singer who I figured, from my vantage point, was a newly minted teenager (read thirteen….ish). The lights dimmed and she, very demurely, stood in front of the mic and began to sing. Well… flabber was gasted. The song, At Last by Etta James. Requirements….vocal power and control. This singer’s voice…..waaaaaay bigger than she was. The entire place went silent, their attention immediately swinging to the stage. Several in the crowd started to move forward to get a better look at where that voice was coming from. I forgot I had a camera in my hand and sat in stunned silence. With a solitary spotlight on a the singer, we were all so mesmerized, I think most of us forgot there was actually a band on stage. What a PERFECTLY BRILLIANT beginning because now the band had everyone’s undivided attention.

At Last – Belle Matthews (Etta James cover)

The band…Vinyl Ambush….the ‘ambush’ part being highly appropriate. The singer, Belle Matthews.

As Matthews held the final note of the song, the band started up, holding and “feedbacking” that note, getting louder and louder until they blasted into their next song. The entire room was knocked for six. Whoever came up with this scenario is a creative genius. For the rest of their set, Vinyl Ambush performed all original material.

The band….

Vinyl Ambush is Anthony Caetano on lead guitar, Jack Laing on drums, Pedro Alvarado on guitar and Corwin Bjelic on bass,.

Bjelic has been playing bass most of his life and performs with his high school jazz band and an orchestral ensemble. According to his bio “he likes his bass lines busy and heavy”. He considers the bass lines in The Jackson 5’s “I Want You Back” and Queen’s “My Best Friend” some of the best ever written. Although I am a huge, unabashed Queen fan, Bjelic should listen to Henrik Linder, the bass player in Dirty Loops. Bjelic’s other passion is boxing. Hmmmmm boxing and bass…..punchy bass lines! (sorry couldn’t resist)

Corwin Bjelic

Lost In You – Dirty Loops (wait for the bass solo in this one)

The only way to describe Laing’s drumming is ferocious. I was worn out just watching him. His meter is dead on and although he looks like a madman when he plays, he know exactly what he’s doing.  I don’t think my kit could survive him. (I wonder how many drum sticks he goes through during each performance?) No surprise Laing has a black belt in Go Ju Ryu Karate and his biggest influence is John Bohham. Attention Danny Bilan, you and Laing really need to tee up.

Jack Laing

Inspired by Dave Grohl and James Hetfield among others, Alvarado is the perfect balance for Anthony Caetano’s screaming guitar solos.  Alvarado’s sounds are melodic and smooth, his unassuming presence on stage belying a heavy rock chord master. Studying business management at college, I can foresee that band requiring that particular talent as well in the near future.

Pedro Alvarado

Guitarist and songwriter, Anthony Caetano has opened for a list of well-known artists including Honeymoon Suite, Lynch Mob, Killer Dwarves and Jaun Croucier of Ratt. Currently endorsed by EMG pick-ups, Sinister Guitar Picks and SIT Strings, Caetano was already performing in a number of bands by the time he was fifteen. I first saw him in a band called Aliens Ashore, opening for Moxy, at the Rockpile in October, 2016. In addition to working on Vinyl Ambush’s new album, Caetano has already completed one full length studio album with Aliens, recording all of the guitar tracks. Other bands he’s performed with include Dirty Little Secrets and Guided By Senses. I was impressed by the way he hung around for Gene Pool to take the stage, positioning himself at the feet of Gene Scarpelli, watching very closely as Scarpelli’s fingers did the talking on his guitar.

Anthony Caetano

And finally, singer/songwriter Belle Matthews. According to her bio Matthews “has been singing since she could talk” which doesn’t surprise me one whit. Writing songs since the age of eleven, Matthew is blessed with a powerful voice that fluctuates and segues easily from one genre to the next. Rock queen, chanteuse, punk , jazz….I’m sure there’s no genre she can’t cover. I went over to introduce myself after their set. Composed and rather shy considering her stage persona, she supplied the name of the band (there was no introductory announcement) and then sat in rapt attention while Gene Pool performed. I noticed she very graciously listened and chatted to a number of folks vying for her attention. On stage, a total transformation takes place as she prowls around, her voice easily carrying above the instruments. But that opening number…..I still can’t get it out of my mind. It took a minute or two, then the camera swung into action. I know many artists despise comparisons but…..Deborah Harry?…..maybe?

Belle Matthews

Talk Sick – Vinyl Ambush

Vinyl Ambush is a band to watch out for. Only together a couple of years, these youngsters (and they ARE youngsters) are already recording their first album, have piqued an interest from a label, their music has hit the Indie charts and they’ve managed to form a tightly knit group of very (already) accomplished musicians who appear to be perfectly in synch with each other. This from Vinyl Ambush themselves, and I quote, “…the album is fully independent and it’s being recorded in various places. Drums are currently being tracked on a film mixing stage, very large quiet studio with a lot of open air. It’s called Urban Post Production. Guitars are being tracked at an old school house studio in Milton. We’ll also be doing some tracking at the Royal Theatre on College Street, we like big open spaces with a lot of character to experiment with mic placements….We’ve licensed some of our demos to a television series and the music supervisors are looking for more material so we have 12 original songs on this upcoming release.” With writers, arrangers, film sound designers and mixers in the family all helping out, Vinyl Ambush have an excellent head start. Watch them run! Check out their website for more videos here

Curiosity – Vinyl Ambush

Burn – Vinyl Ambush

Band number three…River City Junction

Betcha they think I forgot about them. Nope. I’ll always get to you…..eventually.

The ONES Show performed at the Brockville Arts Centre September 28. After the show, a number of us decided to hit one of the local clubs which also happened to have live music and serve food. One is always slightly peckish after a show. The band was a three-piece, set up on the lower level of the bar. When they came back from break and started playing it was obvious they were experienced musicians with a FEMALE DRUMMER who was also the vocalist (see note on drummers further down the column). From RCJ’s website, “River City Junction is a Canadian blues/retro-rock power trio, long steeped in the traditions of blues and rock ‘n roll. A rich blend of old school Chicago Blues, Motown and classic rock…”

Based out of Montreal, band members are Caroline Addison/vox/drums, Jason Fryer/guitar/vox and Tommy Joanisse/bass. Not new to “the scene”, but certainly new to us, RCJ have been around a while, having performed with Jerome Godboo, Jerry Mercer, Eric Shenkman, Al Wood, Leigh-Ann Stanton, Greg Morency and so many others in blues festivals all over Ontario.

Marty Morin on drums with Caroline Addison, (l) Jason Fryer & (r) Tommy Joanisse

Their music, and especially the vocals, drew us in. When the band found out the “cast” of the Beatles show was in the bar Addison immediately offered her stool to Marty Morin, who, with some encouragement, took the sticks offered him while Addison grabbed the mic and stood up front to sing. Morin was in his element behind the drums and I think Addison really enjoyed just singing for a change. After a couple of songs, Morin relinquished the stool and by this time David Love, Frank Zirone and Greg Wyard had joined us. When the guitar player broke into a Beatles song Love grabbed the mic and began singing. He was soon joined by Zirone and Wyard. I love when scenarios like this happen organically. The band was thrilled, the boys from ONES had a great time and the evening ended on a high note (pun intended). Impressed by Addison’s skills, I love that she plays wearing a dress. Much respect to you Ms Addison.

The boys in the band with the boys in the band

L-R – Frank Zirone, Greg Wyard, David Love

If you get the chance, check out River City Junction. Great vocals, great musicianship, loads of fun….you can’t miss. Check out their website to find out where they’re playing next.

Holland Bloorview Rocks!

A dear friend has been through hell and back recently. Very shortly after losing her father, her son had an accident, suffering a fractured skull and brain bleeding. Thanks to the fast acting skill of a neurosurgeon at Sick Kids Hospital her son was able to celebrate his 17th birthday at home with his family just two weeks later. I swear there are angels sitting on shoulders out there performing miracles when they are most needed. Where does Bloorview come in? Well, Holland Bloorview is Canada’s largest children’s rehabilitation centre. From their website, “We pioneer treatments, technologies, therapies and real-work programs that give children with disabilities the tools to participate fully in the life. We see children with cerebral palsy, acquired brain injury, muscular dystrophy, amputation, epilepsy, spina bifida, arthritis, cleft-lip and papate, autism and other developmental disabilities.”

After finding out my friend’s son was scheduled to go there for a couple of weeks for some therapy I decided to find out more about them on line. Almost immediately I came across information regarding a benefit concert in support of their musical therapy program. Called Holland Bloorview Rocks, I was all eyes. I called the contact number, spoke to a lovely young lady by the name of Paige who invited me to come and check out the show. I had originally called to offer my services as a photographer, albeit at the last minute. Of course they already had one. I decided to check it out anyway and so very happy I did. First I ran into percussionist/drummer friend Topher Stott. We were both very surprised, almost shocked, to see each other there. Talk about displacement. I had just photographed the ONES Show in Milton the previous night and Stott is the percussionist in the show. I found out he volunteers at Bloorview in the musical therapy program and was a judge along with Sharon and Bram (remember them?) and Rudy Blair.

Performance setup

The ambient feeling of “wonderfulness” and positivity was almost overwhelming. It was a packed house, standing room only. Whoever put the opening video together did a fantastic job. Beautiful piece of work! The children who were about to perform were excited and eager to get “on stage”. Three groups — The Rockerbees, 8 Rocks and Superstars — would be judged. I was there just long enough to hear the first band, The Rockerbees, perform three (or maybe it was four) songs. Drums, guitar, vocals, etc. all appeared on stage with their respective players, and with a little assistance from their helpers, the kids had a great time.

You can find out more about Holland Bloorview on the website here If you find it in your heart to donate and/or participate, let them know. I will be next year when they ramp up for another concert. Kudos to Topher Stott for lending his talents to a very worthwhile cause. There are many of you out there, semi-retired, with talent oozing out your pours. Might want to think about it.

Music plays such an important part in our lives. It’s life-giving, soul-saving, heart-healing. Music encourages us to sing, to laugh, to dance and to cry. It helps us move forward, soften the pain, heal wounds and to never forget. It remains a part of us until we draw our last breath. Used as therapy, it gives children a chance to participate in something that gives them joy, helps them cope and learn. It reaches parts unknown inside the brain, sparking awareness, awakening an almost primal urge to “do something”, move, pay attention, wake up. Science is only just beginning to find out how music….listening, writing, playing….affects the human psyche….for the good.

They say drummers are the truly intelligent ones in the band because they not only have three appendages in synch, keep a steady beat for a band to follow, but they also have to pay attention to the other band members, looking for, and recognizing, the different cues. A singing drummer…….well that just takes the cake! But, it’s the machinations of the brain that keep these drummers going and scientists are finding it quite fascinating.

…..and just for shits and giggles…..

Take Me To The River – Damnation Of Adam Blessing

Here’s Where The Story Ends – The Sundays

I’ll Be There – Jeff Jones

Jackie Blue – Ozark Mountain Daredevils

Hit Me – Dirty Loops


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! 

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