Pat Blythe – The Mariposa Experience…..Part Two…..Stories and Music

I’ve had several people tell me I have so many stories….if you point something out in my home or mention the jewellery I wear, there’s always a story. Well…..here are my stories behind some of these incredible performers at Mariposa. Some I never thought I’d see, some were pleasant surprises and some were performers I had missed at other festivals or venues around Toronto.

Friday, July 6….

Sandy and I arrive at Tudhope Park, sign in, pick up our passes and lanyards, chat with Mariah Saunders, a long time volunteer and close friend of Sandy’s and then head for the field in front of the main stage. Blankets placed in a key positions with a good view, it’s time for Sandy to take me on a tour of the park. Every second step she’s introducing me to the myriad of Mariposa volunteers she has made friends with over the years. (this is Sandy’s 25th or 26th Mariposa and she seems to know eeeeeeverybody for which I am grateful). Once we get things figured out it’s time for us to “take our positions”. We are off and running…..in two different directions. Me backstage (and front and side and, and…..). Sandy hits the blanket.

Valdy is on first at 5pm.

There are some performers you listened to as a young teenager never thinking in a million years you’d ever see live. You were happy to spin their music on the turntable and quietly sing along. Maggie Bell was one such artist. Over 40 years later I get a phone call and the opportunity to see this blues artist perform, thanks to Greg Simpson who originally introduced me to her music. Valdy was another such performer and Mariposa was giving me the opportunity to not only hear and see him perform, but to photograph him…..up close and personal.

Valdy

Oh my…..the memories. Many, many moons ago a group of us used to hang out and chill listening to his music and discuss Lopsang Rampa and his book The Third Eye. (I know I’m dating myself). Valdy was a favourite of my good friend Peter L’s older brother Tim. (I know you’re reading this Pete) Tim would actually pick up his guitar and start playing, singing some of Valdy’s tunes and if memory serves, some of his own. A folky then I wouldn’t be surprised if he still is. Thing is, it made a deep impression on me. I was with people I loved listening to great music. It was, for a short time, a very happy place. I grew to love Valdy and his music and it was a treat to listen to Tim play. So fast forward 45 years and Valdy is still performing and Peter…..he’s still a good friend even though we haven’t seen in each other in years. We keep in touch and I know he reads this column. Love ya Pete.

Rainmaker – Valdy

Experimenting….shot through the fence – Carlos del Junco & Valdy

I don’t think Valdy has changed in all this time. His voice is still the same and perfect for his music and the stories he tells with his songs. The two-time Juno award winner, Order of Canada recipient has still got it! He continues to tour across Canada (recently performing in my hometown of London, Ontario) and enjoys entertaining the crowd.  Joining Valdy on stage was Cuban-born Carlos del Junco, eight-time winner of the Maple Blues Award for Harmonica Player of the Year and two-time gold medalist at the German Hohner World Harmonica Championship. Primarily a blues harmonica player, del Junco seamlessly segues between blues and jazz or any other genre you present him. For his performance with Valdy, folk was the call of the day and del Junco blended easily with Valdy’s folksy, laid-back performance with some show-stopping solos. It was obvious they were enjoying themselves and so was the audience.

Love Valdy’s socks & shoes set

I met Valdy after the show and he is as charming and personable as he appears. He had time for everyone and was happy to pose for pics with anyone who asked. He still performs some of those songs from “way back when” and I can still sing and hum along with them. It was a performance that conjured up many memories of the past while bringing it all forward into the present. I think he was the perfect opening for this folk festival.

Rock and Roll Song – Valdy

Iskwé

My good friend and pal, Lisa MacIntosh photographed this lovely lady for her book Music Makers: Portraits At The Great Hall. I recognized Iskwé’s name in the programme during CMW and tried desperately to be in two places at once. Didn’t happen…. I missed her again at Yonge/Dundas Sq. for Indigenous History Month (I was in Oregon) so I was extremely pleased to see she was performing at Mariposa.

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Portrait of Iskwé ©2017 Lisa MacIntosh Photography

Pronounced iss-kway, it means “woman” in Cree. Of Dene, Cree and Irish decent, Iskwé combines all three cultures into her songs producing some powerful lyrics, music and vocals. Also influenced by artists such as David Bowie and Bjork, Iskwé’s music has been profoundly affected by the loss of so many indigenous women, particularly the story of Tina Fontaine. Her intensely gut-wrenching performance of “Nobody Knows” had everyone’s attention riveted to the main stage. As I looked around I don’t think I saw anyone even blink.

Nobody Knows – Iskwé

(This song is dedicated to each of the women we’ve lost and to the people who love them)

Iskwé is a compelling and passionate singer. Visually captivating no matter what stage she was performing on, her presence grabs your attention but her voice draws you in. Backed by a band who are on point and in tune (pun intended) with each other makes the performance a joy to watch. From Winnipeg to her current home-base in Hamilton, Iskwé’s career has covered everything from jazz to R&B to electronic pop and unabashedly crossing boundaries and merging styles. I also managed to catch her first thing on Saturday morning (11am) on the Estelle Klein Stage with Fränder and just over an hour later she was part of Songs of Inclusion with flutist Anh Phung and The Heavyweights Brass Band at the Pub Stage. Iskwé encourages audience participation and during her first night on the main stage she had everyone of all ages dancing, singing and chanting to her latest release The Unforgotten. I hope to see Iskwé on stage again…..soon.

Dancers

The Unforgotten – Iskwé (live performance)

……AND THOSE SHOES!!!

There were a number of artists I was unfamiliar with and Mariposa provided the opportunity to experience them all in a single location. Molly Tuttle, Tami Neilson and Cécile Doo-Kingué were three of those artists. Here are their stories……

Molly Tuttle

Next on the big stage was bluegrass and roots performer Molly Tuttle and The Molly Tuttle Band  comprised of Duncan Wickel on violin/fiddle,  Wess Corbett on banjo and Haselden (Hasee) Ciaccio on stand-up bass. Wickel plays a killer fiddle while Walsh’s fingers simply flew up and down the neck of his banjo. With a true country twang, Tuttle’s distinctive voice along with her skills on the six strings makes her the perfect vehicle to spread the country/roots “gospel”. Ciaccio, the most petit stand-up bass player I’ve ever had the pleasure of hearing, provided the perfect balanced vocal harmonies and rocked on that bass!

Hasee Ciaccio

Duncan Wickel

Playing since she was eight, performing by age eleven, first album at thirteen…..Tuttle has grown into an award-winning  vocalist and songwriter known for her clawhammer, flatpicking and cross-picking guitar expertise. Just as comfortable on the banjo as she is on the guitar, Tuttle was also the first woman to win the International Bluegrass Music Association’s Guitar Player of the Year award.

Save This Heart – Molly Tuttle

I was running to take a brief break between acts (my stomach thought my throat had been cut) when I heard Tami Neilson’s voice clear across the grounds.  Stopped me dead in my tracks. Food was forgotten as I watched, almost mesmerized, as this Canadian-born, New Zealand-based artist strutted and parlayed across the stage in her hot pink outfit belting out one tune after another.

One Thing – Tami Neilson

Tami Neilson

What a voice! It’s been described as equal parts Etta James, Patsy Cline and Mavis Staples by McLean’s magazine and I can hear why. Powerful with a slightly raw edge and a look that’s part Parisienne chanteuse and part 1950’s it all fit together seamlessly. Neilson has won Best Female Artist three time and Best Country Album four times band at the New Zealand Music Awards.

Holy Moses – Tami Neilson

Another artist new to my ears was Cécile Doo-Kingué. She performed on the main stage Friday evening and on Saturday joined Toronto band Birds of Bellwood on the Barnfield Stage. Later in the day Doo-Kingué joined Larkin Poe and Kevin Breit on the Mariposa Pub Stage.

According to the Vancouver Sun “this lady can shred and her energy was infectious”. All true. Doo-Kingué blends afro-roots, soul and blues with a hint of jazz and folk. It all coalesces into a unique sound that is distinctly Doo- Kingué’s.

A first generation American, her parents immigrated from Cameroon to NYC where Doo-Kingué was born and raised. She later lived in France and has now adopted Montreal as her home after a suggestion by some friends that the bilingual, multicultural city would be a cost effective alternative to the pricey tuition fees of U.S. universities.

Her brother J.C. presented Doo-Kingué with her first guitar at age 12 or 13 along with some T-Bone Walker and Freddy King to listen to. Today, Doo-Kingué is considered one of Canada’s finest guitarists and has shared the stage or opened for with Bernard Purdie, Jim Byrnes, Michael Jerome Brown, Canned Heat, John Prine, Angelique Kidjo to name just a few. With three solo albums under her belt Doo-Kingué performs across Canada doing about 200 shows a year. With an energy fed by her love of music she commands the stage and moves with the guitar as simply another extension of her body. With a quiet roughness, her deep, laid back voice adds another layer to her bluesy, soulful songwriting. To watch her from afar and up-close was a lesson in strength, versatility and ease.

Animal Kingdom – Cécile Doo-Kingué

….and finally, to cap off an exceptional evening, Walk Off The Earth. The grounds had filled to capacity with the really young, MOR young and the mature young, all waiting excitedly for this Burlington-based band to hit this stage.  ….and when they did it was explosive.

The five-piece ensemble burst on to the music scene in early 2012 with one of the most creative, eye-catching and ear-catching videos to hit YouTube in a very long time. Their live cover of Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know”,  with all five members playing the same guitar, garnered over 175 million views in four months and received the approval of both Goyte and his co-singer Kimbra.

Somebody That I Used to Know – Walk Off The Earth

Formed as group in 2006, the band was signed to Columbia Records by February 2012 and by December 2012 released their first album of original songs, Gang of Rhythm. March 19, 2013 they released their second album R.E.V.O. which Rolling Stone Magazine had streamed eight days prior to its release. WOTE has covered a number of songs during their career including “Payphone” by Maroon 5, “Hello” by Adele, “Rude” by Magic! and so many others. One of my favourites…. their Christmas rendition of “Feliz Navidad”, again with everyone performing on the same guitar.

Band members are Sarah Blackwood (ukele/guitar/mandolin), Gianni Nicassio (bass/guitar/ukele/banjo), Ryan Marshall (guitar/bass/trumpet/harmonica), Mike “Beard guy” Taylor (piano/keyboards/organ/vocals) and Joel Cassady (drums/percussion/cajone/bongos). All are multi-instrumentalists (this just partial list) and all are superb vocalists, all blending in perfect harmony. Blackwood’s sweet almost baby-girl voice is the perfect complement to the male voices that surround her.

The crowd burst into frenzied applause and loud cheers as the stage lit up and show blasted into action with Blackwood, Nicassio, Marshall and Cassady appearing behind a table of various instruments…..and it didn’t stop from there. Unconventional, high energy the show keeps you captivated and totally engrossed with a positively thrilled audience singing (or mouthing) every lyric of every song. Definitely worth the ticket price to the festival….just to see this, and a show I’d love to see again.

l-r – Sarah Blackwood, Gianni Nicassio & Ryan Marshall

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l-r – Joel Cassady, Gianni Nicassio, Sarah Blackwood & Ryan Marshall

Nicassio & Cassaday segue into a “seat swap”

Bearded guy

Blackstone is the one that captures your attention the most. Blonde hair flying, constantly in motion, bending, kneeling, reaching out to the audience and crooning to her daughter as she sat cross-legged in front her at the lip of the stage. We were in the palm of her hand.

Blackwood singing to her daughter

NOMAD – Walk Off The Earth

oh….and in this video Blackstone was in labor as it was being filmed. Three hours later she gave birth to a bouncing baby boy (Luigi Colombo).

I Can’t Feel My Face – Walk Off The Earth (featuring Scott Helman)

One final note…..Toronto singer/songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire David Celia and his new wife Marla (congratulations!!) are releasing a new album entitled Daydreamers, their first compilation together. Marla has a sweet voice that both blends with and compliments David’s while also being a pretty wicked guitarist herself. They met when David produced her first album and the duo have done a number of tours across Europe over the past few years (Marla is originally from Germany). The release celebration is being held at the Burdock on August 15. David also performs regularly at The Cameron House on Friday nights @ 6pm usually with drummer Cleave Anderson and bassist Tim Robinson and if you’re lucky, Marla will be joining him. Here’s the first single off their new album.

Heart Like a Dove – David & Marla Ceila

Cheers!

All photographs ©A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker” 2018

=PB=

Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at: dbawis@rogers.com

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 – The Mariposa Experience…..Part Two…..Stories and Music”

  1. Hey Pat Blythe, Thanks for the informative article, and for the fine coverage you gave Carlos and I. I love opening slots: no comparisons!! Cheers, Valdy

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