Pat Blythe – Toronto Indie Week…A Special Memorial….and Music!

…..and so it begins…. Signaling the finale of music festival season for another year….Indie Week Toronto 2018, a crazy, fun-filled celebration of music and the people who create it. Beginning November 6 and culminating with Best of The Fest on November 11, Toronto bars, clubs and concert halls will be filled with.…yes….the sound of music, performed by hundreds of bands and artists from all over the world. Vying for ears, eyes, and feet on the dance floor as well as your support for live music there are choices of music/genre/style to fit every music lover’s desire….let’s just say “your cup runneth over”.

For those who like to attend the conference sessions and panel discussions and possibly learn something, Indie 101 offers a wide range of topics presented by “feet were (and maybe still are) on the ground” speakers….veterans of the music business.  One that caught my eye was a session under Health & Wellness with  Joe Chisholm and Rob Laidlaw called Second Chances – Rock and Roll Recovery. Another is guest speaker is Martin Atkins (9 Inch Nails) who will be enlightening us on How to Make an Extra $100k in The Next Year in one session and reminiscing in Memories: My Time In and Out of Public Image Ltd. in his second session. You can find out more about the various speakers and their sessions by clicking here Just select a speaker and double click.

Indie Week Canada is now sweet sixteen and growing every year. It’s festivals like these that offer bands and artists the opportunity to showcase their music for the first time. For some, it is a launch pad for bigger and better things to come. At the end of this column with be another selection of some of the artists sharing what they love best….music. Click here to find out more about them

On the road yet again….

I’m excited!!!! Two back-to-back dates with the ONES Show….and this time we’re on the bus!!!! There’s nothing quite like a comfy ride in close quarters with a bunch of insanely crazy and talented musicians and crew. This is going to be interesting…..   It’s a time to relax with your only focus being well….nothingness…..or the food…..or whatever turns your crank. Maybe somebody will whip out a guitar….? Just remember, whatever happens on the bus, stays on the bus!

Soundcheck in Guelph, River Run Theatre. This was a big stage!

For this expedition (Brockville and Ottawa) I’ve decided to bring two camera bodies along with all their accoutrement, including the laptop and a rental lens I want to check out. I joke about many of the photographers out there who carry multiple lenses, flashes and camera bodies, often hanging from belts, belt loops (watch out for the butt crack) and/or a full body harness. I prefer to “travel light” with a single body and just a couple of lenses, the second in a pouch slung over my shoulder. The camera bag remains tucked away safely either behind a bar or in the green room. When shooting in large theatre settings I need to move around quickly and easily. Some of those stages are huge and, short of becoming part of the act on stage, I have to use the warren of passageways to move from side-to-side. (where’s my FitBit?) Then there’s the balconies….. Shooting in stealth mode, moving around in the dark with too much gear is a recipe for tripping (which I’ve done a few times). The new rental lens (and it’s a big one) increases my count to three so it’s going to be an interesting couple of shows.

I can’t begin to imagine……

In Memory Of……

I had the opportunity to interview professional drummer Danny Bilan (Moxy, Wild T & The Spirit) during one of the last really gorgeous, warm, sunny days of fall. We sat outside and chatted about his 20-year career as a community development worker, fifteen of those with Peel Health in the Harm Reduction Program. As Bilan explained, the program is designed to help people stay as healthy and as safe as possible while they continue using drugs. It is not a cessation or abstinence program. “It’s about treating people with respect, respecting the fact that they want to continue using drugs and providing safe equipment they can use….it’s all about preventing the spread of disease, especially HIV and Hepatitis C.” If someone does want to stop using, the program will also assist in finding a treatment regimen that best suits the individual. Harm reduction does not promote drug use, “we promote health”, states Bilan.

Opioid Crisis

Enter fentanyl

In an paper published by BioMed Central,  “Opioid Use Disorder (OUD) continues to be a health concern in Canada and the United States. The prevalence of OUD can be estimated by examining the number of individuals who seek treatment for their opioid dependence. The number of individuals enrolled in Opioid Agonist Treatment (OAT) in Ontario, Canada, has increased from 6000 patients to over 40,000 patients from the year 2000 to 2016.” The paper goes on to state, Opioid agonist treatment (OAT), and harm reduction, are critical parts of the strategy to address the epidemic of opioids. OAT is currently the standard of care and the intervention with the best evidence for long term patient safety, social wellness, and physical health benefits for the treatment of OUD.” 

When the makers of OxyContin pulled it from the market in 2012 and replaced it with OxyNEO all ten Canadian provinces decided to stop paying for both drugs through their public drug plans. Unfortunately, doctors began prescribing alternative opioids and this included fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a drug 100 times more powerful than morphine. It is produced in mass quantities in China, the lynchpin in Canada’s illicit fentanyl market. According to the Canadian Encyclopedia, When fentanyl is processed in a clandestine lab with no quality controls, it is difficult to get the dosage right, making it potentially more dangerous and leading to an unprecedented surge in deaths.” It goes on to say, “a few hundred micrograms — the weight of a single grain of salt — are enough to trigger heroin-like bliss.” During the Harper era, any mention of harm reduction was removed from Health Canada’s website in 2007. Fast forward to the current government and, as of this writing, they have reframed the opioid crisis as a public health issue and harm reduction will be a “key pillar” in the new Canadian Drugs and Substances Strategy….

Back to Bilan…..

Danny Bilan behind his drums at Peel’s Got Talent United Way Fundraiser

….which puts social workers like Bilan on the leading edge of helping addicts. Spending time on the frontlines, working with the same people year after year, close relationships develop. When fentanyl entered the market, Bilan starting rapidly losing those “relationships”…. almost 30 during the past two years and all due to fentanyl overdoses. These losses have deeply affected him.  “Not knowing what to do for myself, trying to carry on the work that I’m doing , but never knowing day-to-day who’s going to die. It’s very traumatic,” stated Bilan. As a former addict himself during the heydays of the 70s, Bilan fully understands how difficult it is to struggle with addiction.  He successfully fought and survived his when so many others didn’t. Now, “with so many people dying…’s like survivor’s guilt on some levels.” What bothered him most was the realization that many of these deaths go unrecognized and un-mourned, many addicts are shunned, drifting apart from family and friends long ago. To many, because of their addictions, they are considered unworthy of notice let alone mourning by the general public.

Midnight Blues – Wild T & The Spirit (D. Bilan on drums)

Turning to the one instrument that give him solace, Bilan decided to write a drum song, dedicating it to all those who had died. Called Heartbeat, he performed his composition at the Peel Region United Way fundraising event in a packed room. “I’m not so worried about doing this for me… matter what I do, whether I drop my sticks halfway through…..I just want to put it out to the universe and whomever is there watching that this is for those people that have died so needlessly, and through their deaths I’m grieving myself. It’s a tribute to them, a dedication to their lives.”

Danny Bilan

“The reason I’m doing this at work is I want people to know, at the Region of Peel….a big huge corporation of 5,000 people….that these people (the addicts) need to be recognized, that drug users are not lepers, they’re not bad people…. they’re a disenfranchised group. So, part of my grief is disenfranchised grief.” Bilan lost both his parents when they were in their mid-forties to substance abuse so the unexpected loss of so many of his clients in such a short timeframe brings that overwhelming pain surging to the surface.

I attended the event, a contest actually, and recorded Bilan’s performance. It was beautifully touching. Did it give him a some sense of closure? Only time will tell. By the way, Bilan won first prize. No that’s a nice touch.

Freedom Train – Wild T & The Spirit (D. Bilan on drums)

A rather appropriate song for the times we’re in…..some things never change…..

Let’s Work Together – Canned Heat

More from some of the musicians performing at Indie Week Toronto…..

Closer – Eleven Past One

Muscanetcong – Waiting For Henry

If You Want To Navigate – The Tins

Desolation Sound – Daysormay

Tarang – Urvah Khan

Until next time,


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


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Please scroll down and leave a comment. Thank you.

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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