Pat Blythe – CMW and Playing Catchup with JRLMA, Hot Lips and more…..

It’s May!!!! Festival season has begun with Canadian Music Week (CMW) and there is something for everyone. From the neophyte to the cynical lifer, CMW includes seminars and panel discussions covering Tech, Music and Radio; Mentor’s Café; Film and Music Festivals, always something to learn.  ….and then there’s the networking…..better known as schmoozing…..done to a fine art. Once again the downtown Sheraton Conference Centre is command central and the heartbeat of CMW. It’s where all the conference sessions take place, the trade show for all things shiny and new is ensconced and of course, much meeting and greeting is done in the lobby bar.

Thousands of people from all over the world descend on the city hoping to learn something by day and find great music by night. With over 40 participating venues across Toronto (open until 4am) much drinking, listening and yes of course, more schmoozing ensues. Awards are handed out, achievements celebrated, kudos wished to many, afternoon soirees and fancy dinners, much liquid refreshment imbibed ( it’s cocktail hour somewhere), handshakes and deals made, interns and volunteers run off their feet, new connections and re-connections made, photographers and journalists dashing about….all of this mayhem and madness combined make CMW one of Canada’s most entertaining, music filled and informative extravaganzas of the year. Did I mention the schmoozing…..and especially the FUN!!

With butts perched on barstools, toes tapping to the beat, bodies gyrating across dance floors, Toronto’s club scene will be filled with music from all over this planet. CMW presents the opportunity to hear some fabulous music imported from South America, Europe, Great Britain, Eastern Europe, Southeast Asia and the U.S.  right here in your own backyard, all mingled in with some superb local talent. Sit up, pay attention, listen and learn. This is what live music is all about. I’ll fill you in when I come up for air.

We here are DBAWIS are a tad behind….at least I am….with all the happenings, since early April. With the unexpected passing of Frank Gutch Jr. we’ve all had to stop and catch our breath. To all those artists I’ve had the pleasure of meeting and watching perform…’re not forgotten. You’ll be in these pages soon enough. Hot Lips, ExcusesExcuses, Cosmic Ray with Sam Taylor, Steve Grant, Harpdog Brown and Sugarman at the Gladstone,  the rest of Jack Richardson London Music Week and the JRML Awards show and performances, ONES, Wild T and The Spirit, Quisha Wint, Gilda’s Club, a day at Eddie Bullen’s Thunder Dome  Sounds…..which all leads up to….now!

Karly Forget

So, backtracking to April 6 and the official launch of Hot Lips’ new single and video Limelight. Written by keyboardist and lead singer Karly Forgét a few years ago, it’s a powerhouse song…. almost grunge rock, with a melody. The video is dark, compelling, almost violent, intimate yet in-your-face….you can’t stop watching. It matches the song perfectly as does Forgét’s vocals. The commanding Alex Black on bass, Keith Heppler, one of the fiercest drummers I know, along with Forgét, make up this impressive, mind blowing trio.

Keith Heppler

May I suggest to those clubs who think those colourful lasers are “kinda neat”….they’re not! they’re for dance floors, not live shows. They play havoc with any photographs, many time ruining them….and no, I don’t use Photoshop nor does anyone have the time remove those damn “spots”!

Alex Black….one with the crowd

Limelight – Hot Lips


The following night was ONES at the Regent Theatre in Oshawa. First show of the year with a full house. I always have such a good time photographing these guys.  The music and the memories always gets the audience going.

Producer Frank Zirone making a valiant attempt to take a picture of me while I photograph him. (I was too fast….camera was front of my face)

….and now for Part 2 of my fast and furious week attending JRLM Week and Awards.

Where were we……ah yes…. It’s Thursday, May 12 and time for a little Swagger and opening act Carly Thomas. The location was Anderson Brewery in London’s east end. What a fantastic setup for a private, intimate event. Overlooking the vats and barrels of beer, the small indoor “deck” holds about 35 people. Relaxed, fun and the sound was great. Anderson Craft Ales is a independently-owned family business. Check them out here

Carly Thomas

I have been looking forward to seeing Thomas perform again for quite some time. Initially introduced to her and her music three years ago, I’ve only had the opportunity twice, maybe three times to see Thomas since then. This was a private, invitation only, event but through the kindness (and a cancellation) of Darla Stratton (lead singer of Swagger), I managed to get a seat.

Backed by Chris McCready on electric guitar, Thomas performed a lovely acoustic set with Swagger bassist Melissa Ogden (better known as Mo) joining them for a few songs. I love Thomas’s voice and the simplicity of her lyrics. Her music is melodic with hints of rock blending with folk and country and can just carry you away. A world traveler of sorts, Thomas was born in Thailand and raised in Argentina, France and North America. Now settled in London, Thomas won the Jack Richardson award for Contemporary Singer/Songwriter in 2015 and again for 2018. Her fourth album, Versions, has just been released. To listen click here

Explode – Carly Thomas

Into The Rain – Carly Thomas

This was a Swagger event and what a hoot! Band members include Darla on lead vocals, Mo on bass, keys and vocals, Dwayne on lead guitar and vocals and Gary on drums.

l-r – Mo, Gary, Darla and Dayne

Darla at full throttle

The end of the night. I had to stand on a bench to capture some of the audience members and the band

A favourite London-area cover band, Stratton’s hard-driving vocals carry songs sung by Johnny Cash, Bryan Adams, Cheap Trick…even Meatloaf. Her version of Ex’s & Oh’s by Elle King is fabulous. Covering a wide range of genres and years, Swagger are indeed the perfect party band. Beginning with an acoustic set, the band was itching to get off the stools and “let ‘er rip”. Mo in particular had a difficult time sitting still. I soon found out why. Released from the “confines” of the stool, it was like she was fired from a cannon. The woman just takes off and doesn’t stop. It was a fabulous party, with folks kicking up their heels on the dance floor and a rather large group shot to end the evening. Thank you again Darla. Everyone had a blast!

Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King

Each year voters nominate their favourite musicians for the Jack Richardson Fantasy Band. This year both Darla (vocals) and Mo (bass) were chosen. Last year Swagger was also chosen as Fan Favourite and have been nominated two years running for Favourite Cover Band.

A lovely and rather nostalgic end to Thursday evening when I met up with long time good friend Greg Simpson who was in town for the awards gala. We decided to hit the local ice cream/dessert parlour for sundaes and coffee and good natter. Classic vanilla and lashings of chocolate. Mmmmmmm……..

Friday….it’s April 13 and time for Battle of The High School Bands. But…..just before I met up with Tara Scott at London Music Hall I stopped into see Lorraine Klaasen at Aeolian Hall.  I had bumped into Ian Davies, friend, local promoter and Programming and Creative Co-ordinator of Sunfest. Allow me to digress for a brief moment.

From their website, Sunfest is a “London-Ontario based, non-profit community arts group whose prime mandate  is to promote cross-cultural awareness understanding of the arts across a range of disciplines such as music, dance and the visual arts.  …..the /Sunfest Committee tries to present thoughtful, innovative global arts programming….to reflect the diversity and vitality of London’s burgeoning multicultural population.” Founded in 1994 by Alfredo Caxaj, Sunfest is now in its 24th year and is one of the most popular and largest free world music festival in Southern Ontario, attracting almost 300,000 visitors last year to the three-day event.  To find out more about Sunfest and their affiliated programs go here

Lorraine Klaasen and her band

Back to Aeolian Hall….. Klaasen’s performance is nothing short of both captivating and stunning. She has a wonderful sense of humour and comedic timing, a hilarious wit and is a marvelous story teller. This is a powerful woman. Her commanding voice reaches the far corners of the room and all eyes and ears are riveted on her. She stands tall and proud and is extremely nimble in those three-inch heels. Her brightly coloured head scarf and gorgeous (and I’m sure hand-woven) belt, collar and bracelets contrasted starkly with her black ensemble. Encouraging audience participation throughout her show, Klaasen becomes everyone’s friend, teacher, mother….a consummate performer.  Klaasen is appearing with June Garber, another South African compatriot, at  Lula Lounge on Thursday, May 17. I strongly suggest you attend. You won’t forget it.

Lorraine Klaasen

Now I’m on the run so after meeting and chatting with the amiable and vivacious Klaasen, I dashed to the car and headed downtown to meet up with Tara Scott who was busy running around corralling high-schoolers….which is something akin to herding cats. Eight bands performed for the award and every one of them should be extremely proud of themselves. What a room full of talent! I only hope they persevere.

Mina Nawe – Lorraine Klaasen

The grand prize, or should I say prizes — perform at the JRLMA Gala; one song professionally produced, engineered, mixed and mastered for digital release; a live studio session video filmed and edited in full 1080p HD; a “spin” of the band’s song on a Corus radio station in London and a great start to a possible future career.

Mason Otte

The winning band, M.A.D! hail from St. Thomas Aquinas High School in London. Mason Otte (14) on lead guitar and vocals, Adam H. T. Swallowell (12) on drums, and Dinith Nawaratne (14) on lead vocals/bass. Swallowell had my flabber gasted. It was difficult to believe this young (forgive me Adam) pint-size drummer was such a force behind the kit. Holy crap!!! The original piece they played blew everyone right out of the hall. If your back was turned you would swear on your mother’s life that whomever was performing were seasoned, experienced musicians. I was too busy picking my jaw up off the floor to catch some of the action with the camera.  M.A.D!’s second performance at the awards gala surpassed their winning performance the previous evening ( if that was even possible) and received a standing O from the entire audience….all 600 attendees. If only I could have captured all of the stunned looks on some of the more seasoned musician’s faces as M.A.D! performed. I will be sorely disappointed if these three “youngsters” don’t continue on this path.

Adam H. T. Swallowell

Dinith Nawaratne

“The Battle” performance list included The Shady Bunch from Catholic Central High School, Sarina Haggarty, The MacKinlays, Populusque Romanus from Beal SS, Corbin Hawkins Road to Elysium also Beal SS, Ashes of Creation (whose lead singer Maya Sturgeon has all the moves AND the voice) and Astriction from Arthur Voaden High School in St. Thomas. There are so many passionate, gifted and brilliant young singers, songwriters and musicians whose love of music should be encouraged, supported and promoted. Not everyone will be a ‘rock star’. It’s a tough and sometimes cruel row to hoe. Providing a healthy environment for them to grow and learn and a solid base while they continue down this path is paramount. Hopefully, no matter what, they never, ever stop.

Then the ice storm hit……


To quote Caxaj, “a community without live music is a community without soul.” I couldn’t agree more!

All photos ©2018 A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker


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 – CMW and Playing Catchup with JRLMA, Hot Lips and more…..”

  1. Matthew Sullivan Says:

    D. Marvan is a living legend

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: