Pat Blythe – The year the music died…..the pandemic interviews…..and music

Tuesday, July 21…..the column writing begins. I sit here staring at four walls desperately missing the music, the people, the clubs and the noise. At least four nights a week I was out prowling the various music venues in the GTA, Hamilton, even London until the wee hours of the morning. The music was always happening somewhere. Now it’s eerily quiet. Yes, there are a few outdoor shows scattered about. Suzi Kory produced and presented her first hugely successful drive-in country music festival called “Love Revolution” in Cavan, Ontario. Country artists Joe McCaughley, Colin Amey, The Housecall, Bree Taylor, Nicole Rayy, Alessia Cohle, Brian John Harwood, MacKenzie Leigh Myer and of course Kory herself all performed. Where was I? In Hamilton and St. Catharines on other business. Damn!!!

Love Revolution also happens to be the name of Kory’s latest release, and a timely one it is. Give it a listen below in the “music section”.

Cruise-In Concerts Drive-In was presenting a two-night blues show at the Purple Hill Country Opry in Thorndale, Ontario. Renowned blues performers included singer Cheryl Lescom, guitarist extraordinaire Bill Durst, Tim Woodcock Band and the Chris Trowell Band. Unfortunately the show has just been cancelled due to poor advanced ticket sales. There were no “walk up” ticket sales in these “COVID times” so the show had to rely on pre-sales. Possibly the ticket prices ($99-$140 per car) were far too high considering the current environment? It’s all perception…..

Pretzel Logic performed their first gig in almost five months. A driveway party in Vaughan and the outdoor gig was a huge (if not sweaty) success.  If only I could fit these guys on my back deck!!! Also, Sarah Smith and her “traveling one-person acoustic show” has been performing in around London, Ontario out of the back of a pickup truck, on the beach, outdoor patios….anywhere this incredible performer can share her talent and love for music

Yes sireee, there’s no stopping the music. Musicians and fans alike are finding ways to fill the air with song and appreciation, doing their best to support each other. Now if our governments could do the same thing……. It seems the gig economy is being left in the dust to fend for itself. You can argue there are jobs to be had, but keep in mind, dedicated, lifelong musicians write and perform because THAT IS THEIR JOB, not just their passion, it’s their craft…..it’s what they do. So ask yourself this, if you were told you could no longer work at a job you love and there was nowhere else to turn, what would you do; especially if you had been working that job your entire life? Hmmmmm….not so easy to answer is it? Damn! You can’t even go back to school because they’re closed too! Just to pour salt on this already festering wound, those who are part of the gig economy also teach, bartend, work as servers, etc….all areas of business shut down tighter than a cat’s ass, and the reawakening is extremely slow to non-existent (not to mention the many closures). Oh and they can’t sing and you can’t dance. Ouch! That hurts!

I’m certainly not depressed, but holy fuck I’m frustrated!!! Going through photographs increases the longing even more. Beautiful reminders of what was…. and what isn’t. Shooting a live show is as exhilarating for me as it gets, short of actually being part of the show. I’m stage right, stage left, back stage, behind the drummer, in the pit, in the balcony, weaving through crowds, playing with the performers and my camera, capturing the moments and the music. I am in my element. That energy keeps me going for days. I just love it!

The Pandemic Interviews – Conversations in a Changing Time

I have spent the past four weeks interviewing artists in parks, on back decks, front porches, in living rooms, by lakes, in studios, on couches, perched on stools…..wherever they are comfortable. With all the press about how COVID is affecting the music business as a whole, I realized no one seemed to be reaching out, connecting and talking to artists themselves about what they’re going through, how they’re coping, how they see the future of music, etc. After checking my idea out with a few friends I decided make my list and reach out.

These interviews are on a more personal level. No politics. These are conversations about the artists on a more personal level, struggling to do the best they can in a world where they have been shut out and shutdown, literally. Their perceptions, their anger, their anxieties, their hopes, their thoughts, their aspirations……

I have put some serious mileage on the vehicle heading to different cities, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. This was originally supposed to be a small series for my column, but it has grown arms and legs of its own. With 32 interviews already “in the bag”, the next few weeks will be busy listening to more stories and capturing their voices. It’s been both cathartic and therapeutic for the artists and for me. It really is all about connections.

Here we go……

It’s also grown beyond the simplicity of my column. One word…..podcast, unknown and uncharted waters for me. I’ve never considered myself a “podcaster” or even an “interviewer” and have actually refused to consider even it. I’m more of a conversationalist. My list of questions (I prefer to call them reference points) has grown from eight to 19. I don’t always ask all of them since not all are pertinent, depending on whom I am conversing with. They are also reminders for me since my synapses are not always firing on all cylinders.

So my new journey is trying to figure out the world of podcasting, voice editing and simply just winging it to see where this goes. I’m excited, overwhelmed, curious and wondering if I’ve bitten off more that I can chew. Some days I think I must be nuts but then the response has been so positive I need to get these voices heard. With two avenues of communication, connection and storytelling…..my column and podcasting…..I keep wondering what’s around the next corner (or maybe it’s a hairpin curve) with curiosity and trepidation. DO NOT say videographer!!!

The boys of Brass Transit

I have loved getting to know these people away from the stages, the fans, loud clubs and bars, chattering venues. It’s been refreshing to sit and talk about anything and everything, not just my list of questions. To reflect, to hope, to think and rethink, to catch up and begin to understand what lies beneath the skin in their hearts and minds and find out what makes them tick. They have all been simply marvelous….patient, understanding and boy, do they have things to say. I am very fortunate to have met, and now have the chance, to get to know such wonderful people on whole different level. I believe the word is grateful!

l-r, top to bottom – Tom Cochrane, Sara Smith, Alex Black, Evan Bowker, Paul DeLong, Jeff Jones, Sonia Klimasko

I shoot about 20,000 frames a year. Yes I counted which is why I have 18 terabytes of hard drive storage. That includes festivals, conventions, big concerts, soft-seat theatres, clubs and bars and anywhere else a live band is performing. That’s a lot of artists whose voices have been silenced. The series represents only one small microcosm of all this as do the previous two photo montages.

Chris always use to say, “I’m at the inquisitive age,” meaning he was always curious. So, I guess I’ve officially moved to that “age” and will find out where all this leads. Another saying of Chris’s, “opporknockity tunes but once.”

The following video is a bit hokey (but it’s a first attempt) and the music won’t be to everyone’s taste but it will make you smile!

Calvin and Hobbes Just Dance

Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen

Cheryl Lescom: ‘Piece of My Heart’, Southside Shuffle

Love Revolution – Suzi Kory

25 or 6 to 4 – Brass Transit

Ballad of a Young Troubadour – Julian Taylor

Cheers!

All photographs ©2017-2020 Pat Blythe A Girl With A Camera

=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! 

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