As the winter finally started to ease off, there's been a flurry of blues activity, usually all clustered together so you'd need a teleporter to get to all the shows. Tonight it was Steve Strongman's CD release than a race over to the Dominion on Queen to hear Morgan Davis. And just up the street was George Thorogood and Trampled Under Foot at Massey Hall.
Terry Gillespie and Raoul Bhaneja both had gigs at Hugh's Room during CMW (while I was in Quebec) but I doubt that it was by design. The mainstream music industry does not pay much attention to blues - never did. And even if you're a mainstream artist, most of the industry folks at these conferences have already decided who they want to see - usually because they've heard the CD and now they want to see the act live (I wonder if YouTube has changed that...)
Quincy Jones was also in town for a celebrity interview – I surely would have checked that out!
I usually hear a whack of new bands, mostly generic rock but every once in a while somebody would stand out. But what do I know? I've lost track of how many times I've dismissed a band at some showcase only to see that a few years later they have hit records and are touring the world. What those bands had was persistence and a team. I don't think you can do it without a team. And of course, they were all great players – flawless is the word that comes to mind – but that's not what I'm looking for. I actually prefer "flawed"...
The week before, I had one night where I heard five groups one after the other. I started around the corner where my friend David Hines was playing with his group, Last Forgiveness. They had a great knack for bringing back to life some old and not-so-old pop favourites. The group before them were a good lookin' bunch of kids who loved to harmonize but it wasn't really developed. Then off to the Jazz Bistro to hear Beverly Taft's CD launch and she had an A-list of Toronto sidemen. Everybody loves Beverly, and she really showed her love of the audience - she even made some cue cards for the audience to sing along with. I told her I had never received such a comprehensive promo package as hers (and I get plenty of them). There was a CD and a bio and a poster and a postcard and one-sheet with descriptions of the songs for radio broadcasters and another sheet that told the story behind each song....and then at the Bistro when I mentioned this to the manager, she asked me if I got the matches and brought forth a book of matches with the CD artwork. Yowzer!
Here's a 15-sec Instagram clip of 3 othe shows I saw that night:
After Beverly, it was over to the Horseshoe Tavern where I caught the eccentric Bloodshot Bill, one of the openers for catl, who have been on the cutting (bleeding) edge of the blues in Toronto for a few years. This set saw them building up to the same energy levels but without as much thrashing as they used to do. Bloodshot Bill (from Montreal, I think) was still thrashing a bit on the guitar, and kicking a big ole bass drum. It's his growly vocal that captures you - I guess that's his signature.
And it has been such a pleasure watching Steve Strongman develop from the time he showed up at one of our late-night jams in a hotel room at some music conference. He didn't have a guitar so I let him play mine and I played bass and we were rockin'. We played until security shut us down and unbeknownst to Steve it was decided there would be no more late night jamming but the next night Steve is back, with his guitar this time - and raring to go. Alas, it was not to be, but we've had other occasions and I was thinking while watching him that he's an artist I should try to collaborate with - maybe tour with. I think we'd get along just fine. (I wonder if he's a good long-distance driver...)
One last show I should mention in the "I Love This Town" segment was West Coast Piano Boogiemeister David Vest. Man, can he play. Last year he played in my old stompin grounds of Sutton, Quebec and some of my friends who went were quite blown away. He's an inspiration for musicians who come back to music after a long successful career as a speechwriter for some American mega-corporation.
Back in early April, my friend Jacquie a Pink Floyd superfan, took me to the Sony Centre to see a highend tribute show called "Brit Floyd" and it was quite impressive. The music was flawless (there's that word again) but I was particularly intrigued by the visuals and couldn't help but remember the first "psychedelic" show I ever attended - in that very hall, then known as the O'Keefe Centre. It was 1967 and the bands were Jefferson Airplane, Grateful Dead and Luke & The Apostles. At that show, they were using big projectors with big glass slides with different coloured oils. It was pretty impressive at the time but we've come a long way.