Sunday, November 29, 2009

Women's Blues Revue & other stuff

This month the gigs have been going away as fast as they show up. There's
band gig on the calendar for the end of January but I hestitate to advertise
it because the venue is not convinced they will continue presenting live
music. Meanwhile the Tuesday Blues Campfire at Highway 61 has been going
great. Interesting guests...many of them part-timers or hobbyists but I love
having them around the campfire and making them sound better than they ever
have. Many pros drop by too, Doc Mclean & Big Dave dropped in on their
cross-country "Century" tour, Robin Banks raised the roof, Son Roberts who I
find very musically simpatico, Roberta Hunt and Martin Aucoin have brought
their keyboards on occasion and last week I had Professor Piano himself,
Scott Cushnie. I was just watching Martin on TV with his Dylan band, The
Dylan Tree. Everybody loves the barbeque and the campfire is much less of a
"show" than other open stages. We tend to stretch out the songs and play
lots of solos, but people dig it. And there's no break. Who ever heard of a
break at the campfire? We just keep passing around the mike and the guitar
and the bass and we play for three hours then it's over

And now for something completely different: I'm currently learning a couple
of Stompin Tom songs so I can be part of a Stompin' Tom tribute night in
February. And last week I was at an agent's office and the owner of the
agency liked my beard and mentioned they were looking for Santa Clauses, but
no, I have to draw the line somewhere. Actually I probably don't have the
tempermant for it anymore. I've lately been accused of being "mean" (the
accusation comes from the ex-wife but I still take it to heart) and last
night I think was the first time I ever heard someone say "Take it easy,
Brian". Let me tell you the whole story: I arrive at the Massey Hall box
office to see the Women's Blues Revue and get tapped on the shoulder by a
west coast blues radio guy who is supposed to be on the guest list but
isn't. He's asking me to help out and I go on a mission to find the prez to
arrange the comps. I know from experience that this will not be a
straightforward operation and when I can't find the prez at the bar I head
out to the stage door to see if he's backstage. The "gatekeeper" at the
stage door at Massey Hall is a grim character called Gene who has been doing
that job forever - probably because he does it so well. Nobody gets past
Gene unless they are on *his* list. I'm sure he would turn away the
President of the United States if he wasn't on the list. Meanwhile, I didn't
even want to get backstage, I just wanted to get a message to the boss.
(even though I've ended up backstage at most of these events, sometimes on
duty, sometime not. Most of the Women's Blues Revue band current or former
bandmates). Anyway, after repeated conversations to various locations on an
antiquated walkie-talkie system where Gene had to repeat the name three
times to be understood. By then a couple of Blues Society staff had come
back to the stage door abd Gene was calling the office and when I tried to
tell him that the guests were in the box office, he said something like "I
can't do this any faster, sir" and I responded "I think you could"...well
that's when I was told to "Take it easy". I guess I'm getting ornery as I
approach old age. You have been warned.

The week before, I was also reminded that my ladder does not reach as high
as Massey Hall when I had to go through three publicists in order to
schmooze my way into the big Downchild 40th anniversary show, which in fact
was sold out, but neithe the publicist for the Hall or for the band had any
more comps but alas a wonderful youg lady at the record label came through
for me. Downchild gave an impeccable show, of course - worthy of the big
stage at Massey Hall. I was in the bacony for Downchild and I think it
sounded better than third row. The vocals sounded boxy and the bass was
Muddy. Haven't heard any comments from the band but in the past they've
thought it was too loud on stage. Can't remember if the lighting was any
better at Downchild, but the Women's Blues Revue had little or no light man.
All the lights on, all the time, and it's too bad because there were many
opportunities for lighting effects. There was one dramatic scene where
Shakura S'Aida move onto the stage - slow and cat-like while Donna Grantis
is playing a great solo. It would be great for the photographers but in
their old-fashioned way, Massey Hall still forbids picture taking and
enforces it aggressively.

Donna and Rachelle Van Zandt were the two surprises of the night for me.
These two women have raised the bar for female blues guitarists...virtuoso
players...and they got soul. Mind you, neither could do the demanding
utility job of Marg Stowe, house guitarist for the band for many years.
Everybody agreed, all the performances were exceptional. There wasn't a weak
set by anyone. Carrie and Suzie each did a song too and raised the roof. If
you hear this on the radio, you might even hear my name come up in the intro
as Shelagh Rogers read a quote from me about Carrie's performance at a
previous show. She calls me "the great bluesman Brian Blain" and I told her
I was going to use that quote!

Other stuff I've seen and plan to see: I was supposed to go to the John
Mayall show, had it all arranged, but I didn't pay attention to the start
time (7pm, WTF?) and it would have been over by the time I got there. I
heard some great reports...especially about his new guitarist (Rocky Athas?)
I remember seeing Coco Montoya for the first time when he played with Mayall
at Ontario Place. I continue to be amazed by Coco, but I'd like to see this
new guy. There were lots of other great shows on my calendar in November,
but I missed most of them. I did get out to the Sky a couple of times, and
saw Lily's band, Groove Corporation rocking the house and then last Friday
took the ex-wife dancing and where better than Paul James Band at the sky.