Wednesday, August 12, 1992

Harbourfront Soul & Blues Festival

The Soul ‘n Blues Festival was a great success despite a few scares. Sue Foley didn’t call when she was delayed for her Sunday afternoon performance and Derek Andrews had already lined up Morgan Davis to take her place but she showed up in the nick of time and played a perfunctory set (how bluesy can you get in the midday sun?) The headliner was Etta James who arrived in the midst of a storm of controversy because she refused to play at a gospel festival in Halifax because the payment was presented as a certified cheque and not U.S. cash as stipulated in the contract. The front of her tour bus said it all – “SHOVE IT”, and she gave the most lewd and rude performance that the new stage at Harbourfront will ever see. Etta, who is very large, was tugging at her waistband and putting out more bumps and grinds than you would see at a girlie show. The band’s opening tune was spectacular with a flashy performance by the Hammond Organ – pretending he had a stuck note and whacking the keyboard with his towel. He bore a striking resemblance to Michael Fonfara, a local organist who did a great job leading the band that backed up Solomon Burke. (Fonfara plays in the Gold Tops with my favorite drummer, Mike Fitzpatrick, and I recalled my first meeting with him when he was rehearsing a band called Blackstone at a place I was living 20 years ago on Richmond Street. Also featured at the bluesfest was Montreal legend Penny Lang, whom I had just spent a very pleasant evening with as Allan Fraser’s place on Covey Hill in Quebec. She did two great sets – hypnotizing the crowd into a blissful state that was so subtle that no one realized it until the PA cut out in the middle of a song and we all crashed down to earth. Penny just kept playing and the sound was soon restored. Lorraine played a solo set in the boogie-woogie piano workshop and did a great job – she rehearsed continuously for weeks before.