Pat Blythe – Christmas Thoughts, J.C. Sandoval, Crown Lands, Gowan and Music….

…and the countdown has begun. Three weeks to Christmas day. Three weeks to wrapping paper, boxes and debris strewn from one end of the house to the other, stuffed turkeys and stuffed tummies, early morning stocking discoveries, late morning coffees and mid-afternoon naps (for young and old), for family gatherings, carol singing and clinking glasses of cheer. A time of year celebrated all over the world. The entire season from Christmas Day to New Year’s Eve is probably the most electric time of year.

Even the drums get all duded up

It is also the most unforgiving holiday we celebrate. It enhances the disparity between the haves and the have-nots, it creates a hypersensitivity to being alone and loneliness, it cuts people adrift to float in their seas of depression and despair. It puts a unique pressure on those who do not wish to celebrate….for whatever reason. Christmas, the most joyous of holidays can also be the cruelest. Now, I don’t mean to put a damper on the festivities or harsh anyone’s mellow. It is, after all, my absolute favourite holiday. But this year, for some reason, I feel it weighing me down more than usual….struggling some days and feeling like an excitable five-year-old on others. Frankly, I prefer the five-year-old.

Yes, I miss Chris, more this year than the past four Christmas’s combined. Why? I have no idea but the more I decorate the more I miss him. There’s something both cheery and cozy and comforting with all the Christmas bibs and bobs around the house. My own memories of Christmas growing up are nothing short of magical and those memories run deep. Chris’s memories of childhood Christmas’s were not fond ones so my goal for years was attempting to make Christmas a happy time for him, in the process building up a stock of Christmas decorations that would put any store to shame. There was always something bright and shiny that caught my eye (they still do) and in the shopping cart it would go…..and then there were the “after Christmas” sales! Six plus Rubbermaid containers later (not including some stuff that wouldn’t fit into a container) and I am swimming in holiday paraphernalia. Chris would complain about being smothered in Christmas froo froo year after year until one year I went minimalist and he promptly asked when I was going to decorate. Hrrumph!! That’s when I realized it was working its magic. So, here we are….’tis the season…..and I’ve finally decided to wage war with those containers and really decorate this year. I’m finding there are so many memories wrapped up in those decorations….. I will get back to that place of magic at some point. I’m nothing if not determined…..and there are two containers currently MIA……

Now, on to more pressing matters…The Music….

J.C. Sandoval

The hands of Alex Black

Back to mid-November and it begins with Secret Broadcast and J.C. Sandoval at Baby G’s, the “baby” sister to The Garrison. Sandoval is a member of Die Mannequin, has a new band The Crooked as well is keeping busy with a solo career. I’ve seen him perform with both Die Mannequin and Secret Broadcast, but this time it was a simple setup with an acoustic six-string and his voice…..and man, what a voice!!  Having never heard Sandoval sing, I was (and I love this word) gobsmacked! He has a beautiful voice, one that should be heard far more often. Having known Sandoval as a accomplished guitarist, I never would have guessed…..the voice…. For one song, currently untitled and performed for the very first time, Sandoval was joined by surprise guest, violinist  Alex Black who is also the bassist for Hot Lips. With both Sandoval and Black “adlibbing” throughout the song, Black provided both a lively and sometimes beautifully haunting background to Sandoval’s vocals and guitar. There’s nothing better than music that happens organically.

Matt Lightstone

Gene Hardy

Up next was Secret Broadcast…and I’m still patiently waiting for the album release. It’s not often these guys perform so every chance I get, I’m out to get my fix of the new songs. With the added bonus of  saxophonist Gene Hardy for a song or two, it’s always a great performance by Matt Lightstone, Keith Heppler, Curt Harding and Will Bennett. Now…about that album….

The Dreamboats

After a fab beginning to the evening at Baby G’s, I headed over to The Cameron House to catch The Dreamboats in a far more informal, rather snug setting, keeping in mind the last time I saw these guys was at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. I walked into the front room with space to move about and, perched on a stool at the bar, watched singer/songwriter Rob Szabo. I noticed The  Dreamboats — Chris Hummell, Bryan Fligg, Matt Best and Johnny Fiaconni — lugging their gear in so walked up to say hello. In the time it took for greetings and hugs to be shared, the place started rapidly filling up. By the time The Dreamboats got on stage, the room was jammed so tight a fart couldn’t squeeze through. By this time I had relocated to one side of the stage where I could both shoot from and an keep an eye on my bag. One of the most energetic and talented acts out there, The Dreamboats know how to get a party started and asses shaking. Professional, tight, vocals and harmonies that are, well, music to the ears, songwriters, accomplished musicians and just plain fun.

Kevin Comeau                                 Cody Bowles

The following night was the Phoenix Concert Theatre and Crown Lands. I had apparently “won” a ticket to the evening’s event, as had fellow scribe Peter Montreuil, courtesy of Crown Lands. After a challenge by security, I obtained my media pass (so I could use the “professional camera”) and positioned myself up front stage left. On tour with One Bad Son, Kevin Comeau and Cody Bowles who make up the duo that is Crown Lands, put on a blistering, high-energy, hair tossing show (and between them there is a lot of hair). Close your eyes and you would think there were several musicians on stage the sound is so full. Blues, rock and prog rock are all part of their vocabulary. Add to that one of the most distinctive and unique presentations I’ve seen and it all adds up to a memorable experience. Bowles, who visually presents like a flower child who just walked through a time machine from the 60’s, does double-duty as drummer and vocalist, and he fills these two roles beautifully. His skills with the sticks is uber impressive and he appears to do it all so effortlessly. Multi-instrumentalist Comeau is the hair-tosser extraordinaire while madly dancing around and tearing up the stage, riffing on his guitar and playing keyboards (and managing his bass pedals) with his feet. You gotta see these guys to believe. Extremely talented, a feast for the camera and ears they do more that sweet justice to Rush who have obviously been a huge influence, and Bowles voice is a perfect fit. Bowles mom was in the audience and introduced herself to me after she saw my camera. She was glowing with pride and such pure joy to see her son on stage. There’s nothing more satisfying or more wonderful that a watching an excitedly proud parent watch their offspring. Crown Lands recently released EP, & Rise Over Run, is available now. Yes, I would love to see these two again.

Kevin Comeau

Misery – Crown Lands

On to Milton and the ONES show. Again, brilliantly performed, a completely full house on its feet, moving and grooving to the songs of The Beatles. The final show of 2017, ONES is a unique, theatrical experience. A multi-media presentation with an 11-piece ensemble complete with strings and brass….a delight for both the eyes and the ears (not to mention the feet and hips).  A sold out year, Frank Zirone’s production is a salute to the number one hits of The Beatles from 1964 to 1969 with some inside scoops and a peek behind the scenes of  what made these four lads from Liverpool such a powerhouse. Look for the show in 2018.

ONES Show/Milton

We Can Work It Out – The Beatles

November 21 and I’m on the highway headed west. Like Dick Whittington’s cat, I’m off to London to see the Queen (my mom that is…..not THE London with THE Queen). I’m also excited to see Gowan perform at the London Music Hall. Through some behind-the-scenes help with a friend, I managed to obtain a media pass (I paid for my ticket) so I could photograph the show as a professional (read….not using my phone). I hadn’t seen Gowan perform since the days of Rhinegold back in the late 70’s so for me, this was a real treat. The Gasworks, Nickelodeon and Piccadilly Tube, I saw Rhinegold at all three of these venues in downtown Toronto. None of them exist today. Lead singer for Styx now for almost 20 years, Gowan has also released a number of albums as a solo artist. Chris photographed Rhinegold in 1977/78 and I was thrilled to bring it full circle by shooting Gowan 40 years later.


What a show! What a kilt! The ladies at the front of the stage spent more time trying to peek up his kilt than they did watching the show. Ladies, ladies, ladies…(sigh) Gowan, ever the gentleman, was very gracious, sometimes joking about it, but throughout it all he made sure that Scottish skirt of his stayed in place at all times. Funny what sticks in your mind….

My camera, his boots, “that” kilt, beautiful sporran

Three thousand people crammed in the hall on both the main floor and the upper balcony.  Everyone anxious for Gowan to make his appearance, and he certainly did that…magically appearing in a puff of smoke (what I call a fog machine) at his beloved keyboard, perched upon a circular dais. My camera was about lens-to-nose with his boots. It was quite the vantage point. Yep, stage left again…seems to be the sweet spot. Having just celebrated his 61st birthday the day before, Gowan’s boundless energy keeps him moving non-stop, constantly crisscrossing the stage, bounding up and down from the piano (standing on the piano), leaning into the crowd to shake hands and sign autographs, spinning the dais like a turntable, like a whirling dervish, he doesn’t stop. He is nothing but affable…smiling, laughing, joking, a true showman, he gives the crowd what they want with aplomb. He’s also as sharp as tack. Nothing slips by him. His acute sense of timing has the show running like clockwork. Watching this man work, especially through the lens of a camera, was an education in quiet professionalism. …and it’s worth repeating…Gowan is a true gentleman.

Moonlight Desires – Gowan

Your Stone Walls – Gowan

SATE was honoured guest as backup singer and Gowan’s band, comprised of top notch musicians included  brother Terrence Gowan on bass; Todd Sucherman, who displayed his talents with a jaw dropping drum solo, was of course, on drums; guitarist Bob McAlpine who held the audience spellbound during a number of guitar solos and finally, Ryan Bovaird, his Celtic roots on full display with that  crowning glory of ginger hair, who moved effortlessly between keyboards and guitar.

Gowan and SATE (Bob McAlpine & Terry Gowan in the background to Gowan’s right)

It was a hell of a show! A small note to thank Jeff Heintz, Gowan’s tour manager, who took care of arranging my media pass and who also provided his cell number just in case I had a problem picking the pass up at the box office. I introduced myself to Heintz after the show and was greeted with a warm smile and a friendly handshake. He asked if I had enjoyed the show and would I like to speak to Gowan? He then proffered an “after show” pass and led me backstage, returning to check to make sure I had managed to speak to Gowan. Mr. Heintz, (and I say that with respect) you are undoubtedly the nicest tour manager I have ever had the pleasure to meet and I thank you for your thoughtfulness. (I wanted to speak to Gowan briefly regarding Chris’s archives, the photos of Rhinegold and what the plans were).

A Criminal Mind – Gowan

As for the man himself, when I finally got the chance to introduce myself, I was astounded he remembered my full name, filling in my last name before I could. After a 90 minute, two-set show and crowds of people vying for his attention backstage, actually remembering my full name and knowing exactly who I was…yep, I’m impressed!  ….and many, many thanks to my friend who worked magic to get me that initial pass.

Today’s mix….

Magnet and Steel – Walter Egan

(my new favourite)

Pink Shoelaces – Dodie Stevens

Quiet Storm – Eddie Bullen

Ball of Confusion – The Temptations

The Body Go Round – The Wackers

Adaline – Nostalgia

Next week is the final column of the year with a wrap-up of 2017 to follow early in the New Year. Even the DBAWIS writers get a little time off for the holidays!


All photographs ©2017 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! 

2 Responses to “Pat Blythe – Christmas Thoughts, J.C. Sandoval, Crown Lands, Gowan and Music….”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Pat, you did it again! Great column.

  2. David Love Says:

    Great photo of me Pat.

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