Pat Blythe – Mariposa 2019 …Day One …and Music!

What an EPIC weekend!! The weather, except for a couple of 15-minute downpours on Friday, was gorgeous nicely covering all three H’s…..hot, hazy and humid. So humid I felt like a piece of flypaper…..everything was sticking to me. A dive into the lake was sorely tempting. On the flip side, with no more rain in the forecast, people, little ones and big ones, were out in droves. In fact, it was another record-breaking year for the Mariposa Folk Foundation.

Heading north with friend Sandy Bolyki as co-pilot, we departed Toronto in good time, blindly assuming we’d miss most of cottage country traffic…..sort of squeezing in between rush hour and those who decide to escape work (hopefully unnoticed) a little earlier than usual. It took just over 3.5 hours to make a 1.5 hour trek. Apparently we weren’t the only ones trying to wedge into that time slot. The congestion was everywhere, right up to Highway 11. Our 3pm arrival at the festival gates, after checking into the hotel, became 4:30pm…..Main Stage show begins at 5pm so, after marking our spot in the field of blankets and chairs with the various accoutrements we had with us, I was off and running…..and then heavens opened.                                       

Adding insult to injury, most of us and our possessions were not only soggy, but the mugginess increased ten-fold. My hair…..it was in a rage…..uncontrolled fury…..I just gave up. It looked like I had stuck my finger in a light socket more than once. Now compound this with a gazillion little gnats and “skitters” beginning to make their presence known and the lights coming on, on the stage, as the sun slid below the horizon….. You guessed it…..we were all flypaper….double-sided flypaper.

With mushy, squelchy ground and waterlogged, bedraggled bodies everywhere, the rain did nothing to quash the high spirits and enthusiasm of the crowd. Birds of Chicago opened the show and my Mariposa weekend officially started.

Birds of Chicago…..

Allison Russell and JT Nero

Allison Russell

Birthed by husband and wife team, former Montrealer Allison Russell (Canadian urban roots band P’o Girl) and mid-westerner JT Nero, this Chicago-based duo formed Birds of Chicago in 2012. After sharing cross-border gigs opening for each other in two different bands (Russell with P’o Girl and Nero with JT and The Clouds) the two collaborated on Nero’s solo project mountains/forests in 2011. Married in 2013, they hit road in early 2014 when their newborn daughter was only four weeks old. First stop was Europe followed by Canada and the U.S.

…..and the sun came out

Genre? Americana folk, secular gospel, roots, rock ‘n roll poetry…..these two have a winning way of making you forget your surroundings and just get swept away in the music. Simple, clear, soulful and rich with textures, the music is the frame that surrounds the words. There is no over-emoting; the song is laid bare with openness and honesty. Russell has been referred to an ¹“an interpreter” of Nero’s ¹“rock and roll psalms”. With three albums and one EP in their roster, the Birds of Chicago are flying high.

Tom Wilson and LeE HARVeY OsMOND….

The man….the book…..

Tom Wilson……national top selling author….Juno Award winner…storyteller….poet….painter…. but first and foremost a musician. As a solo act or with LeE HARVeY OsMOND, Junkhouse or Blackie and The Rodeo Kings, music has been his guide, his solace, his saviour…..his breath. Currently on a discovery mission to learn about, share and immerse himself in his roots as a Mohawk, he has spent the past couple of years getting to know a family he never knew he had. Not of small stature, Wilson’s deep booming voice and mane of hair belie a soft, earthy tenderness that is just below the surface….a deeply passionate and caring individual. I was thrilled to see him again at Mariposa and the opportunity to hear LeE HARVeY OsMOND, listen to Tom and of course, photograph him.

The men of LeE HARVeY OsMOND…..

l-r –Ray Farrugia, John Dymond, Aaron Goldstein

Tom Wilson photo bombing Jesse O’Brien on keys

I first met Wilson four years ago when my illustrious editor sent me to the CNE Band Shell to photograph and interview him. I hadn’t been writing for DBAWIS very long and photography was still a pretty new art form for me. On top of that, I had never, ever interviewed anybody and knew nothing about Wilson. Luckily Bob had phoned ahead and Wilson was expecting me. I photographed the show and later chatted with Wilson. I watched as he signed CDs and various pieces of memorabilia, patiently listening and responding to every question and posing for photos. No rushing or agitation, he was genuinely in the moment and took his time with everyone. I liked him from the first handshake and watching him with his fans made a lasting imprint at how appreciative and kind he is.

Tom Wilson

Although somewhat suspicious about his heritage throughout his life, Wilson had only found out in 2012 he was adopted. Remembering him in that merch tent at the CNE, busy with the Sharpie, I just now realized it was only two months prior he had received the answer to the question that had been ricocheting around in his brain for a long time…an answer that changed his life forever. Happy (then) 56th Birthday!! After reading his book and thinking back to our first meeting, I cannot begin to fathom what was going on in his mind and how upside down his life had become. Two years later we all find out in his book, Beautiful Scars.

“It’s a story about scars, about the ones that hurt us, and the ones that make us who we are.” – Tom Wilson

Introducing MOHAWK, his recent release with LeE HARVeY OsMOND, to the Mariposa audience, Wilson regaled us with stories from his book and performed a number of songs between the readings. With his unmistakable rumbling, bass voice, Wilson quickly has your attention. His words make an impact. His music has people swaying and dancing. To the incredible musicians of LeE HARVeY OsMOND Ray Farrugia on drums, John Dymond on bass, Aaron Goldstein on pedal steel and Jesse O’Brien on keyboards…..thank you for a stellar performance.

Phil Davies

I found this quote from Wilson that sums up his life beautifully. “Over the course of discovering my true identity, the intention of my writing, my music and my art is to reduce the gap between my indigenous culture and colonialists to make a more patient, loving community.” Opening every show for Wilson is Phil Davies. Both are from the same Mohawk nation and as Wilson said to me in a message, (Davies) “brings the light that guides us to every show.”

RALPH…..

Real name….Raffaela Weyman, is a Toronto-based singer/songwriter who describes her music as pop synth, disco soul, R&B influenced,” but whose main focus is the lyrics. She bopped and popped all over the stage and the “dance floor” in front of the stage was full of bopping and popping bodies, squooshing around on the soggy ground without a care in the world.

The mad drummer…..

Signed to 604 Records, she released the single Cold to the Touch in 2016 and has subsequently released several singles and a self-titled EP leading up to her first studio album, A Good Girl, last year. Every song tells a story….the videos are the visuals and her music the vehicle.  Influenced by an eclectic mix of Sade, Donna Summer and Stevie Nicks, she focuses on gender neutrality in her narrative, making her songs applicable to everyone, across all ages. Her favourite memory is about a middle-aged man seeking an autograph for his seven-year-old daughter. She couldn’t come to see the show but together they listened to RALPH’s music every morning.

Steve Poltz…..

My last act of the night. Singer, songwriter, folkie, comedian, storyteller, collaborator, Canadian born, California raised, Steve Poltz entertained and delighted the audience with stories and music. He listens to conversations intently and can make up a story and a song about it in a heartbeat. Performing what he calls, “good old fashioned sing-along shows”, I first caught Poltz’s act at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto several weeks ago. Unfortunately it was only a fragment of his show so I was pleased to hear he was performing at Mariposa.

Poltz Fans….

One man, one guitar and the rapt attention of an audience who not only listens but participates, Poltz is an artist who is best served live. His animated performances, interactions with his audiences, his quick wit, his ability to instantly tailor-make a show as he’s hitting the stage, his ability to swing the crowd from extreme laughter to almost tears….the stage is where Poltz is meant to be.

His songs and stories are about everyday life and occurrences….how you put pleather pants on in hot, sticky weather (song) or buying his father a cheeseburger as his last request the day before he dies (story) or writing a song on the spot using the words the kids in the front row had given him for song suggestions. He gamely pointed out that Air Canada had damaged the guitar he was holding, proudly displaying the three green stripes of masking tape used to put it back together. He thought the guitar actually sounded better.

Famous for the hit he co-wrote with Jewel, You Were Meant for Me, (he also stars in the video) Poltz has recorded 13 albums during the past 20 years, is founder of the Indie rock band The Rugburns and travels all over North America sharing his music, stories and special brand of humour. The best description I can find of Poltz is from an interview he did with the San Diego Reader, “Mildly demented folk rock, with a massive repertoire encompassing everything from goofy answering machine messages to love ballads both romantic and regretful.”

Poltz, his audience and a beautiful night sky

SuperLover – Birds of Chicago

Colours – LeE HARVeY OsMOND

Forty Light Years – LeE HARVeY OsMOND

Cold to the Touch – RALPH

Ballin’ on a Wednesday – Steve Poltz

Hey God, I’ll Trade You Trump for Leonard Cohen – Steve Poltz

Full Circle – Half Moon Run

A new song (a work in progress) – Half Moon Run

You Were Meant for Me – Jewel

Blue – Joni Mitchell

…..and a gorgeous ending to a fabulous day with the promise of a beautiful tomorrow….

Cheers!

All photographs ©2019 Pat Blythe, A Girl With A Camera

=PB=

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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