Pat Blythe – Words….Monowhales, Drop Top Alibi, The Crooked….and music….

I read a meme today that inspired this column.

Words. We use them to text, sing, message, write, speak and sign them with our hands. We mime, read, stutter and whisper them. Words. We teach how to pronounce, annunciate and spell them. Words. We tell stories, write books, impart information, use them on signage and give directions with them. We, create, translate and memorize them.

Words. The brain automatically interprets for us when we ‘speak’ words with our eyes or the expressions on our face, when we see pictures or, in social media when we use emojis or emoticons. Words. We use them to soothe, comfort, inspire, coo, emote, commit, express joy, awe, love and hope.

Words. We also use them to hurt, scorn, mock, intimidate, denigrate, lie, bully, threaten, obfuscate, gaslight and inflict emotional pain. We use them cryptically, as ‘sidebars’ or twist them around. We break hearts with words (and mend them too). Words. We use them in anger to scream, yell, shout, swear, even mumble. We ignore them. We use them to express fear, alarm, worry and anxiety. We use words as weapons.

But…..what would we do without words?

Only humans have the vocal chords and brain capacity that provides us with the capability of speech and expression. Words. Our primary form of communication, whether they are spoken, written or conveyed by touch or hand signals. According to Knowable Magazine, speech is the original and most basic mode of human communication“.

Etymology…it is the study of the origin of words and how their meaning has changed over hundreds if not thousands of years. With sometimes fascinating sources (and results), words from different languages can combine to form another, sometimes completely different, brand new word. The word avocado for example. (read this one to the end)

From +Babbel Magazine, The word avocado comes from Spanish aguacate, which in turn comes from the Nahuatl (language of the Aztecs) ahuacatl, meaning testicle. Surprised? Perhaps, but the more one thinks about it, the less surprising it gets — they do rather resemble a man’s soft spot, and this resemblance becomes even more pronounced when you see avocado duos dangling clumsily from trees… Indeed, the –mole of guacamole is derived from the Nahuatl molli, which means sauce. It’s a good thing the origin of this word has been obfuscated on its way into the English language, otherwise guacamole (Nahuatl: ahuacamolli) probably wouldn’t be as popular as it is. (Nahuatl is still spoken today by approximately 1.5 million people native to Central America)

Hmmmmm……..….Fart, as it turns out, is one of the oldest rude words we have in the language: Its first record pops up in roughly 1250, meaning that if you were to travel 800 years back in time just to let one rip, everyone would at least be able to agree upon what that should be called.”

A list of the oldest words known (so far), were compiled by University of Reading’s School of Biological Science. Estimated at 15,000 years old the words are “all common to seven “proto-Eurasiatic” ancient languages”. The short list of only 23 words is not long, but it’s important to note these words are still ones we use today….and their meanings remain the same.

They are “thou, I, not, that, we, to give, who, this, what, man/male, ye, old, mother, to hear, hand, fire, to pull, black, to flow, bark, ashes, to spit, worm.”

Although linguists generally agree a language doesn’t typically survive any longer than 8,000 to 9,000 years (languages blend with each other, get replaced or morph into new ones), these timeless words prove this isn’t always true and that some words stand the test of time…..a very, very, very long time.

I love words. I love language…..any language…..although I’m proficient in only one. The history of words and language fascinates me. English, grammar, spelling and history were always my top subjects in school. Math…..not so much.

In today’s world of social media, texting and even emailing, too often words are used carelessly, recklessly, thoughtlessly and inaccurately. (lotsa “lees”) People hide behind their words, unwilling to confront. There is no discussion or conversation, no dialogue. They are frequently tossed around like garbage, sometimes intending to assuage the wordsmith or inflict hurt on the recipient. They cut to the quick, often with no real explanation. We’ve all, at one time or another been on the receiving end of this, sometimes like a bolt out of the blue.

We have to be careful with how we use words, particularly if they are not spoken face-to-face. Words can be misunderstood, misconstrued or just downright confusing. They can be taken literally when their intention was to joke, thus the popularity of LOL and proliferation of emoticons. Even the latter can be misinterpreted.

Words. They can be forgiven, but never forgotten.

Monowhales…..and their ginger ale…..

Downtown Toronto on a Saturday night is challenging enough. On this particular evening anything on two or more wheels was in heavy competition with the thousands of pedestrians attending Nuite Blanche. However, I was intent on wending my way to Rolling Pictures on John St. to a special screening (invitation only) of the Monowhales latest “pièce de résistance”, Really Wanna Let You Down.

Monowhales – l-r – Jordan Circosta, Holly Jamieson, Sally Sharr, Zach Zanardo

This band never ceases to amaze me. Their creativity is limitless. Pop/rock with a touch of new wave, the “Monowhale style” is unique and uniquely theirs. Catchy tunes that leave you with an earworm, great lyrics to match….I’m not sure what comes first but it works every time…..and best of all they love what they do. It shines through I their music and their videos. Together for six years, this quartet always keeps one step ahead of themselves. From Ginger Ale & The Monowhales to the new, more “grown up” Monowhales, they are forever evolving. Thing is, I find their music rather timeless.

It’s called The Toss and is, so far, my most favourite photo I’ve taken. Sally in mid toss, the passion and the moment written all over her face. To me it speaks volumes.

Sally Shaar – Horseshoe Tavern, October 2017

I met vocalist and lead energizer bunny, Sally Shaar just over four years ago, perched on a stool at Cherry Cola’s. She was quick to introduce herself and we chatted for quite a while. We always keep in touch and I have followed the band ever since, catching their rare gigs in Toronto. Shaar is one of the most spirited and lively front people to watch. Let me add brave. The woman has no hesitation throwing herself off stage into the waiting arms of the audience. Her distinct voice continues to ring crystal clear and she never misses a beat.

Sally surfing the crowd at the Phoenix 2018

Working hand-in-hand with Holly Jamieson (keyboards/vox), Jordan Circosta (drums/vox) and Zach Zanardo (guitar/vox) Shaar and her bandmates are continually coming up with original and innovative ideas and concepts. Very hands on, they are fully involved with every aspect of their career even directing their own videos. Their last three have been a collaborative effort with videographers Phil Kluba and Dan Slater. I love the Monowhales….their energy, their passion, their dedication to their craft and especially for their crazy love of music. Catch them on their first Canadian tour. To all my readers, you really don’t want to miss the Monowhales…..and tell Sally I said “hello”.

Canadian Tour Dates

Enjoy the road guys!

Whooping it up!

Party night at Lee’s Palace! Four bands, one bill, ear plugs at the ready, camera in hand. The added bonus of seeing so many of my music friends in the audience and on stage made the evening that much more exciting. Even my friend and always at the ready “gear guard” Peter Montreuil, came out to support some fab Toronto talent. What a night!!

Live Action…..

Opening band Live Action literally blasted into action. This seriously rocking trio launched into their first song with guitars blazing and a kick drum that was attempting to escape the drummer. Okay, I had to chuckle but they really were a fab start to the unfolding evening…..

Drop Top Alibi…..

I have been booked almost every time I get notice these guys are performing. FINALLY!!!! I wasn’t about to miss the launch of their latest single. I ran into lead vocalist Brandon Gregory at The Bovine a few weeks back and promised I would be at this gig. Promise kept. Drop Top Alibi will rock your socks off.

Brandon Gregory belting one out

Rock ‘n’ roll vocals. Check. Rock ‘n’ roll riffs. Check. Killer rock ‘n’ roll drumming. Check.  Thundering rock ‘n’ roll bass. Check. Rock ‘n’ roll about sums these guys up. With Dylan Wykes on lead guitar and vox, Luc Ricci on bass and Jeff Cox (who managed to keep that renegade kick drum under control) on drums and backup vox, DTA took over the stage with a vengeance.

DTA were just about to “drop” their first self-titled EP when I met Gregory in 2017 at the Toronto Hideout. Working with See Rock Live Magazine, I was conducting brief interviews with the bands taking part in the The Bout, a band competition sponsored by the Hideout. The EP featured their first single Holding the Gun. Fast forward to 2019 and they’ve since won 97.7 FM’s Rocksearch and completed their first summer tour, all this year.

Luc Ricci on bass, Brandon Gregory on mic

Brandon Gregory from side stage with a hint of Dylan Wykes

The Crooked…..

The Crooked

It’s true. Everybody knows J.C. simply by his initials. With a storied background in serious rock bands, J.C. Sandoval has kicked ass with Secret Broadcast, Die Mannequin, Dearly Beloved and Savannah but he’s found his “home” with The Crooked. Joining J.C. in this irreverent, dirty-sounding quartet are fellow rockers Neelesh V. on lead guitar, the crazy-assed Russ Shipman on bass and Dell Orso on drums.  Wild, sexy, most assuredly LOUD and cocky, these guys own any stage they grace. I find it laudatory they include their friends and locals in their videos. Don’t go looking, I haven’t been in one but I recognize many familiar faces.

J.C. Sandoval

Russ Shipman

Shipman’s bee-hind and drummer Dell Orso

Neelesh V.

The Crooked were also releasing a new single, Villian. They describe it best. “Villain is the most “crooked” song yet. It’s a madman behind the wheel, pitched against a twilight sky. It’s a drive across delusions and mania. Desperately trying to help someone who has declared you his enemy.

Whether you want to or not, sometimes you need to play the role of ‘villain’ to help someone. This song’s about that. It’s melancholic. It’s aggressive. It’s loving, albeit in a twisted way. It’s crooked.

I missed the final band. Previous engagement.

…..and there you have it. It’s cocktail time and dinner too. Gotta get this to the big cheez so y’all have something to keep you occupied before you turn out the lights tonight.

Really Wanna Let You Down – Monowhales

Let It Go – Monowhales

Holding the Gun – Drop Top Alibi

Villian – The Crooked

Sweet Emotion – Aerosmith

It’s My Life – Bon Jovi

SOS (Sawed Off Shotgun) – The Glorious Sons

Orchid – Black Sabbath (extended instrumental)

Queen – A Hammer to Fall

…..and apparently I have “random” locked down. You figure it out!


All photographs ©2017-2019, Pat Blythe A Girl With A Camera except otherwise noted

Photograph of the Monowhales ©2019  Victoria McEwan

Photograph of Sally Shaar for tour poster – photographer unknown


Pat’s column appears every Wednesday.

Contact us at:

dbawis-buttonIn “real” life Pat Blythe has spent the past 32 years as a consultant and design specialist in the telecommunications industry. After an extended absence Pat is now heading back to the GTA clubs, immersing herself in the local music scene, tasting what’s on offer, talking to people and writing once again — sharing her passions and her deep love of music. Together for 34 years, Pat also worked alongside her late husband Christopher Blythe, The PictureTaker©, who shot much  of the local talent (think Goddo, Frank Soda Little Red-headed dancing girland the Imps, Plateau, Buzzsaw, Hellfield….) as well as national and international acts,  Currently making her way through 40 years of Chris’s archives, Pat is currently compiling a photographic history of the local GTA music scene from 1975 to 1985. It continues to be a work in progress. Oh…..and she LOVES  to dance!

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