Friday, March 17, 2006

Day Two - Canadian Music Week

Saturday I got a late start, get into the car and one of my tunes is playing on the radio - Jazz-FM a station with a lot of listeners (as I've discovered since I've been in their rotation). Anyway, how many of those 300+ emerging artists at Canadian Music Week had the pleasure of starting their day hearing one of their tunes on the readio!. I wanted to get to CMW in time for the session where a "coach" by the name of Tom jackson would work with a band and help improve their "stagecraft". His website is he was good. He'd let the band play the song then he would stop them and point out what somebody was doing (or not doing) that could add energy/dynamics. For example, he had the singer hold off before jumping in to the second verse - let the band vamp a little - milk it (if you've got the audience in the palm of your hand). He had the soloist just noodling around a bit before he launched into his solo. Everything was based on making the audience feel like they're experiencing a special moment, something that will never be repeated that way again. He said people remember "moments" rather than great songs or great voices. And it is our job as performers to create those moments...I know what he's talking about - I call it "lift off". And I can remember looking around the room at the Silver Dollar and seeing everybody just grinning from ear to ear. I think the band was Little Charlie and the Nightcats.But those moments ar few and far between. Something to strive for.

That night I saw a bunch more bands, and there were some fine young singer-songwriters in the legendary Imperial Room of the Royal York Hotel. Liam Titcomb played and I told him I had a perfect song for him, but now I'm wondering if he might already be too old (or at least, too mature) to play a schoolboy. I met two "music supervisors" (for film & TV) at CMW and gave them each a CD. Now I need to follow up with an email that points out the special features of each track (apparently that increases the chance that it might be listened to).

As if I didn't hear enough music on the week-end, I went on Sunday to the "Gospel Brunch" at Hughes Room. My indispensible listings co-ordinator had not benefited from any of the Music Week perks, so I said we'd go see The Campbell Brothers and what an uplifting afternoon. Two Downtown Jazz concerts this week: On Monday it was Cubanisimo at the Opera House - not what I expected but inspiring to watch. There were 4 male singers up front. Amazing horn section and not a chart or music stand in sight. Tuesday, I stayed home and tried to get out some packages to agents in Quebec, maritimes and New England. Also had a nice connection with someone from St. Johns, newfoundland - boy would I love to go there again. I totally forgot that there was a special media event for the launch of Ndidi Onukwulu's CD, but I decided I'd better make her Thursday show for the public at Hugh's Room. That same night, there were two other CD Launches for very strong local artists, Treasa Levasseur and Roxanne Potvin. I got to see all 3 women in full flight and I was very encouraged for the future of Canadain blues.

On Wednesday, I went to Hugh's to hear Del Ray and I was not disappointed, I saw somew emails that were calling this the show of the year but I would not go that far. She was playing with another virtuoso, Steve James. They were using that "single Mic Technique" preferred by some of our old-timey players, but in this case, close micing would have made for more intelligibility.

Where was I - Friday night...Another Downtown Jazz show - Randy Weston at the Glenn Gould. Man did that piano sound good. No mikes or sound re-inforcement. Just a great piano, a great player a quiet audience and a great sounding room. Hurray! From there, we pop up to the Silver Dollar where the Weber Brothers are playing, These siblings made their way to Ontario 10 or so years ago but still haven't found the acclaim they deserve.

On Saturday, I wanted to hear Lori Cullen at Hugh's Room but got thre justr as the audience was piling out (a little past 10:30) Well, if that's what the public wants, that's what they can have. I headed stright to the Dollar where Anthony Gomes was playing. He's lost the lamé suit, but he sure can get some great guitar sounds. I'd say more about Anthony but I'm nodding out. That's it, goodnight. B

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Canadian Music Week

Tonight I came home early from my CMW cruising (1:30) so that I could post a blog - there's been so much happening. Anyway, when I checked my email there were 170 messages (I hadn't checked all day). And now I just remembered to call my boy and make sure he doesn't bring home a trumpet player to do overdubs at 4am like he did last night.

I had skipped the music conferences last year - maybe the last couple of years (it is so different from the roots music scene and jusrt served as a reminder of how insignificant blues, folk and even jazz are in the big picture of commercial music). This year, I got a media passes for me & Joel and we've both been taking in a lot of music for the last couple of days. Unfortunately my media cred ladder does not go as high as the revered Massey Hall. I had requested a media ticket for the Blind Boys show tonite and got a big "sorry". Then Jesse, the programming guy suggested he would keep me in mind but I guess I would have had to keep bugging him and I would have hoped one bug in his ear would be enough... Then I get a message this afternoon from someone who is better at getting Massey hall tix than me saying he though he could fix me up. As I headed out of the conference, I went by MH and asked if there was a ticket for me at the Box Office but alas no tikie. I poked in at the stage door thinking i might see a friendly face but all that confronted me was the ornery IATSE gatekeeper. Then I'm walking back to my car and run into Danny Marks who tells me he's MCing and invites me along but at that point I was worried about gettin g a ticket so I passed on the whole idea - and sure enough, I reached the Buick when the ticket guy was only a couple of car-lengths away from a $30. ticket.

So I didn't get to see the Blind Boys or Susan Tedeschi (I hope she played some guitar...she only sings on the new CD). There was so much music to see, though. On Thursfday I heard a few bands but they all kind of blended together. Tonight at the Silver Dollar I saw some bands that had a real character of their own, but my "discovery" of the week-end is a band that was playing downstairs at the Comfort Zone and they are not even listed as a Music Week venue. This band had great energy and I asked what they're name was and I think it's "Sweet" something...Before that, I swung by the Phoenix and the place was packed like sardines. Couldn't figure it out - 3 bands, none of whom I've heard of. They were very professional and "ready for prime time" and harkened the motivation talk I attended earler in the day.

The speaker was Tom Jackson (no, not the Canadian actor/musician) and his message was simple: all roads lead to the stage. That is where you will be making the bulk of your income and in fact that is where you will make or break the whole thang. It is that direct connection with the audience that Tom called "moments". The audience doesn't remember songs or what you were wearing. They remember how you made them feel for a brief moment in time. He talked about the importance of the stage show and was incredulous that a band would spend 6 months writing the songs, 6 months preparing to record and then 3 days rehearsing for the tour. What's wrong with this picture? He talked about your visual appearance on stage - you don't want every song to sound the same...why would you let them all "look" the same???

Anyway, that whole "moments" thing struck a chord with me. I think I instinctively knew that and was still flush from having had many wonderful musical "moments" at a couple of gigs lst week. One at a performance at the Shalom Village, a seniors residence (3rd time back there - I love it...and so do they) and then as a special guest at Rita's Parlour, a house gig hosted by Rita di Ghent. She played some piano with me and I backed up some of her tunes on the guitar. It was a magical evening, anyone who was there would surely agree.

I dropped by the office (which is right by the Phoenix),I flipped on the TV and there was Paul McCartney discussing the "slaughter" of seals with the premier of Newfoudland on Larry King Live. Danny the premier stood his ground but McCartney's argument was quite persuasive. He said the European boycott of lobster and other seafood from Canada would immediately be lifted and hundreds of millions of dollars would start flowing again. I thought he might just take out his checkbook and offer to pay the difference to all the fishermen who would be financially hurt if they made sealing illegal.

In the afternoon, I attended a FACTOR information session and asked about the final payment I just received from them - they deducted the ammount of my donated services because I didn't include a receipt to me from me. Thet assured me it could all be adjusted. I just hope I haven't lost her card - I've got to call that girl on Monday.

There was a "celebrity interview" with Allan Parsons - legendary engineer on the beatles' Abbey Road album. He talked about how the synced up the 4-tracks and how after the rhythm tracks were recorded, John Paul and George would come in separately to work on their songs. And Ringo would poke in every day and ask "Does anybody need me today?" then leave...

There was another celebrity interview that I missed and I think it was Bob Lesfetz who did the interview. I've been regaled by his Lefsetzletter for the last month or so - this guy has a lot to say about the music industry and he doesn't pull his punches. When I asked the publicist if he was still in Toronto, she offered to set up an interview and maybe I'll get to talk to him tomorrow. If you want to subscribe, go to his website Here's a sample of one of his recent tirades:

"If you're harvesting e-mail addresses to blast hype of your bullshit production around the world boy are YOU delusional. To quote Seth Godin, we now live in an era of PERMISSION MARKETING! Or, in the vernacular of the Web, PULL not PUSH!

Be nice to me. Say why I should be interested. Ask permission. And then I'll probably treat you with respect. But when you bombard me in your scattershot manner, me being roped into a group with zillions of other faceless people, I get PISSED OFF! At YOU and EVERYTHING YOU'RE SELLING!

Make no mistake. This isn't just about me. It's about EVERYBODY! STOP FORCING YOURSELF ON PEOPLE! IT JUST DOESN'T WORK! Put up a quality site. Put up GREAT music. ASK your friends what they think. If they LIKE IT, they'll spread the word without you even asking." (end of Bob Lesfetz tirade)

Two other observations from my evening out: They should make those laniards for the passes a dark colour because white like they are they glow like crazy in the clubs where there's black light. As if the badges were not flashy enough! And did you know when you buy a Whopper meal at Burger King, it comes to $6.66. I propose they reduce the price by one penny to $6.65...