Pat Blythe – Summerfolk…Listen!!!…and Music!

Nothing like a good, crackin’ thunderstorm. As I write it rages outside. A torrential downpour. Rain is hammering against the windows. The ferocity and intensity of the wind creates a horizontal sheet of water. Powerful gusts of wind generate waves, pushing them up Kingston Road (which I find amazing since Kingston Road slopes down toward the lake). It will blow through quickly….it’s a violent inversion. Lower temps are in the forecast….and the now the sun comes out.


I can’t resist commenting on this pic Harpdog Brown posted on FB a few days ago. ( I may be preaching to the choir, blowing smoke, falling on deaf ears…..add any cliché you can think of). I’ve just attended two major folk festivals this year and spent a fair bit of time watching (and listening) to the crowds. It astonishes me how much money people will pay to have a screaming match over a pint (or whatever you drink) while an artist or band struggles to be heard over the din. Actually, it infuriates me.  Although at the music festivals audiences tend to be more attentive (and participatory) there are still those who insist on having full-blown conversations while the band plays on. Too many are not even watching or paying any attention to the stage. Why????

In small, intimate gatherings, audience members respect each other and who’s on stage. If they don’t, people aren’t afraid to hush them up or give them the hairy eyeball. Move to a larger venue and it’s a free-for-all. Many times it’s impossible to hear the music, let alone understand the lyrics.

I’m confused. So what exactly did you pay for? The experience….of what I’m not sure?

Bragging rights? “Ya, I was there and saw Pipsqueek and The Squeekers….was a rad night”.  But if I asked you what song The Squeekers opened with could you tell me?

Oh….I know… went for the music? Not likely since you were acutely focused on the gossip of who did what to whom, for how long and what a douchebag he/she is. Gossiping at peak volume is far more interesting.

Had to see them one more time? That one more time was wasted (and so were you) as you couldn’t seem to stop your gums from flapping through the whole show….and those songs that evoked (or dredged up) days gone by or a past event? Hold that jaunt down memory lane until intermission or, in the case of a single set, when the band finishes.

…..and then there’s the picture/video-taking, I’m gonna be the first one to post, stick your arm in everyone’s way, audience member(s).  Personally, my most extreme experience yet is the woman who rooted herself to a spot at a Gowan concert I attended last year. After defiantly planting herself directly in front of me (damn near stepping on my foot doing so) she proceeded to hold her rather large phone in the air to, I kid you not, record the entire show. The best part…..when she went to the ladies room. Without missing a beat her husband stepped in and took her spot, continuing to hold the phone in the air. I didn’t know whether to laugh or feel sorry for hubby who was constantly fetching nibblies and libations for the wife throughout the performance. I still can’t figure out how she managed to hold her arm in the air for two one-hour sets without flinching. Sigh……

Hands In The Air – The Holderness Family

Show some respect for the performers and your fellow audience members. It’s really a no-brainer. Take it outside or shut the f**k up. We all paid good money for our entrance fees and I really don’t care when Cutie Pie started walking or want to hear your comments on your lousy boss or the last time you were out on a date…. Folks, you’re better off to donate that money to a worthy cause and stay home to listen to the music and stop disrupting everyone else’s listening pleasure. If you’re going to spend money to lose your hearing, might as well enjoy the journey.

Well…..the ladies took it home this year. Suzie Vinnick, Tanika Charles, Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar, Sarah Harmer, Treasa Levasseur, Dani Nash, Mama’s Broke, Susan Aglukark, the women of Calen (Alice French, Bethan Rhiannon and Angharad Jenkins), Rose Cousins, The Lifers and The Polky Villiage Band (Ewelina Ferenc, Ala Stasiuk  and Georgia Hathaway) to list just a few. Not to leave out the guys…..Stephen Fearing  (co-founder of Blackie and The Rodeo Kings with Tim Wilson), Fred Penner, Mike Celia (who performed with Tanika Charles), Kunle, Beppe Gambetta and Adonis Puentes among others. Another gorgeous three-day festival on the shores of Georgian Bay in Keslo Park, Owen Sound. The food, the water, the sun, the music filtering throughout the park, the harmonies, the artisans…..laid back charm, picnics, snoozing under the trees, a swim in the bay, camping, singalongs, a choir (made up of audience members)….the perfect summer weekend.

This is the second summer festival I’ve attended this year and I’m thoroughly enjoying my time outdoors and traveling around Ontario. Brought you by the Georgian Bay Blues Society, Summerfolk offered more incredible artists to hear and meet. The Food Court included my favourite Indian Taco “guy” Shawn from the Pow Wow Café in Kensington serving up his fabulous Indian Tacos with fresh homemade bannock, my potato “go to” Angel Wing chips, ice cream, ribs, apple fritters and my all time yum….funnel cakes with strawberries and lashings of whipped cream. Calling all carboholics!!! Yes….there were healthier options but festival time is time to indulge. A family even, there’s a children’s area, General Store (merch tent), a great beach, six stages, loads of picnic tables and the largest beer tent I’ve ever seen.

The pièce de résistance however is the Amphitheatre… a word…..jaw-dropping. It is both imposing and inspiring. The only other amphitheatre I’ve seen is The Globe in London, England. Beautifully designed for seating and sound, Keslo Park’s amphitheatre is by far the best outdoor concert venue I’ve ever experienced. Visually impressive, the stonework is magnificent. Filled to capacity and overflowing every day and night of the festival there’s room on each side of the stage for the dancers without blocking the view of those “on the green” in front reclining on their blankets, stadium seats and tarps. A great deal of thought, consideration and design went into this with rows of tiered stone creating perfect seating with wide grass “walkways” at each level so you’re not constantly trodding on toes. Kudos to the soundman!

This photo doesn’t do the Amphitheatre justice and I was unable to find a single photo showing the entire site.

Saturday was spent introducing my ears to new artists or ones I knew but hadn’t yet heard. Bouncing among the various stages I listened to veteran performing artist Fred Penner for the first time. Sharing the stage at The Wine Bar with Penner was Andrina Turenne. A proud Francophone/Metis, singer/songwriter Turenne hails from St. Boniface, Manitoba and has been featured on 18 albums during her career. I was pleasantly surprised when one of the songs she sang was Melanie’s Brand New Key, a tune I don’t think I have ever heard anyone else sing live. It’s been a while but surprisingly, I remembered all the words!

Fred Penner and Andrina Turenne

Brand New Key – Melanie

A little Sunday morning gospel along with that coffee….perfect. Hosted by Treasa Levasseur with Tankia Charles, Suzie Vinnick and Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar. Voices were just soaring….including the audience’s. Later in the day was the Summerfolk Choir, again led by Levasseur. The choir is made up of festival attendees who wish to join in. There is one rehearsal prior to a late afternoon performance. The Summerfolk Choir has become a festival custom and everyone looks forward to it….both the audience and the participants. Accompanied by Samantha Martin and a few members of Delta Sugar as well as Mike Celia on guitar and Levasseur conducting, roughly 30 choir members enjoyed their moment in the limelight, singing their hearts out.

The Summerfolk choir on stage.

Some of the youngest member of the Summerfolk43 Choir (Treasa Levasseur far right)

Dancers were taking advantage of the great gospel music as well…..

Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar

Samantha Martin (Dani Nash on drums in the background)

Toronto-based singer/songwriter Samantha Martin was born in Edmonton and raised in Lions Head located half-way up the Bruce Peninsula perched on Georgian Bay. A short “Martin” chronology — she released her first EP in 2004; moved to Toronto in 2008 and released her second recording, a full-length album entitled Back Home; formed Samantha Martin and the Haggard in 2012 which segued into Delta Sugar.

With the gravel of Janis, the passion and power of Aretha and a captivating stage presence, Martin’s emotionally charged, at times gut-wrenching performance takes you on a journey of heartbreak and heartache to release to pure joy, sometimes all in a single song. The voices of Mwansa and Marshall offer the perfect balance to Martin’s vocals, blending together to create gorgeous, rich harmonies. The recipe…..soul, R&B, gospel, jazz and blues, stir, pour and you have Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar…a performance that is one of the most standout shows my ears and eyes have experienced this year.

According to Martin’s website Delta Sugar scales up and down “depending on circumstances….” The group can be as small as a six-piece ensemble or expand to and 11-piece to include keys and brass. To see the latter makes the hair on the back of my neck rise….there is nothing like the sound of brass.  The performers of Delta Sugar I saw at Summerfolk include Martin/lead vocals, Mwansa Mwansa and Sherie Marshall/background vocals,  Alan Zematis/keys, Ian McKeown/bass, Dani Nash/drums, Curtis Chaffey/guitar, Emily Ferrell/trombone, Tom Moffatt/trumpet and Andrew Moligun/sax.  You can catch her at Roy Thomson Hall in the courtyard Thursday, August 23 at 5pm in downtown Toronto.

Suzie Vinnick

Blues and roots singer/songwriter/guitarist Suzie Vinnick was another featured artist I hadn’t had the pleasure of hearing prior to Summerfolk. A much sought-after collaborator Vinnick shared songwriting duties with Samantha Martin for Martin’s latest album. An award-winning vocalist, songwriter, bassist and acoustic guitarist, Vinnick has won ten Maple Blues Awards and has been nominated for three Juno’s. Her songs have used by Tim Hortons, Interac, Tetley’s Tea, Shoppers Drug Mart, the film A Touch of Grey and various television series.

A lover of the Blues since her teens, Vinnick is a solo performer….her partner and constant companion is Mabel, her parlour guitar.  Vinnick’s voice is evocative, melodic and somewhat soothing. She sings with an ease and grace of someone who is completely confident and comfortable in her own skin. Sitting or standing, Vinnick’s makes playing the guitar seem almost effortless. Her most recent album release, Shake The Love Around, has an interesting back story. “Shake The Love Around was the end of a mealtime blessing in rural Saskatchewan where Vinnick grew up — everyone around the table shook hands before digging in. Vinnick said she wanted to use that analogy to do an album of happy songs as an antidote to the darkness in the world.” — TBS

As an aside, I had the pleasure of meeting Vinnick’s partner, photographer James Dean (yes that’s his real name), whose lens is usually focused on blues and roots performers. I had originally met him at Mariposa  and was pleasantly surprised to see him at Summerfolk. He is a well-known and well respected artist who uses his camera to, as he says, make time stand still.


All Night Long – Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar

Night Money – Dani Nash

Crying A River For You – Suzie Vinnick

The Cat Came Back – Fred Penner

Apparition – Calan

Every Soul’s A Sailor – Stephen Fearing

Ghost Town – Nick Sherman

Nick Sherman, a voice part Bob Segar, part Bob Dylan and a dash of Bruce Springsteen. Simple, captivating and honest. A storyteller through his music Sherman weaves tales of his home and family through his songs. Souix Lookout should be proud.

I leave you with this, a beautiful Indigenous dancer…..


All photographs 2018 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera “The Picture Taker”


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

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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 – Summerfolk…Listen!!!…and Music!”

  1. Peter Montreuil Says:

    Bravo!!! I second your points about rude concertgoers, btw, and love that Holderness Family video. Great column, as usual.

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