Thursday, October 28, 2010

Robert Randolph at Mod Club

Robert Randolph always struck me as a guy they had things pretty well planned, coming from the church and all. But his show at Toronto’s Mod Club could not have been less planned. Word on the street was that some band members didn’t make it across the border, but all Randolph said from the stage was that they had a drummer who wasn’t really a drummer and that they had just called him at six o’clock to come help them out. After a couple more numbers, he was relieved by Robert’s long time bassist who signaled one of the guitar players to take over the bass while he played drums. It was a little shaky for the first tune but at least he knew the arrangements. When they started exchanging instruments I thought at first that they were playing musical chairs and everybody would swap instruments for a song. It was til the encore when the drummer took the stage to rip off a steel solo. It was Derrak Campbell. Then another Campbell brother took Robert’s steel for another great solo. This pushed Robert to greater heights and he soared – he could have used that push at the beginning of the show, it seemed a little ...lazy. And you can’t be lazy when you’re playing slide because the intonation becomes less than perfect and then you lose that “suspension of disbelief” when you’re hearing licks that sound like a guitar but could not possibly be played on a guitar. Now I realize he was quite distracted with all the stuff going on around him. I think there was an entourage from the all-star “Experience Hendrix show that Randolph is part of tomorrow night”.  Living Color was there and bassist Doug Wimbish did a couple of amazing solo’s they did in the finale. I just realized it was a very transformed Hendrix song...maybe what they would be playing in the big extravaganza. I’ll find out from my spies tomorrow. And I saw on very familiar smiling black face just behind the curtains...kinda looked like Eddie Murphy...naw. Lest we forget, which we usually do, the pening band was doing some very interesting shit. They were playing in a different mode than we’re used to hearing, then they gave us something familiar, the Beatles’ She’s So Heavy, just show that they cam play more conventional tones and it mostly worked. They’re from New York and this was their first time in Canada. They’re called Tauk.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Blainletter #33 – September 28, 2010

In This Issue:

• Blues Campfire moves to Gladstone Hotel, Tues Oct 19

• Tuesday, October 5  7pm  Brian Blain with George Koller, bass (Live Recording) at Rebas Café & Gallery 3289 Dundas St. W.

• December 11 – Oliver Klaus reunion concert, Waterloo, Quebec

• Out and About

• Last Night I had the Strangest Dream

What have we here, two Blainletters in the same month? Well I thought I should get the word out that the Tuesday Campfire at Highway 61 is over in case anyone was planning to head out tonight. It's been a great run, 62 Campfires over the last 15 months…and I only missed one!

Last Tuesday was the "finale" and maybe the timing was right because I don't think I can eat another rib for a long time…no matter how "melt-in-the-mouth they are.  For my "last supper" on Tuesday I had the Macaroni & Cheese…and it was delicious (with crunchy caramelized onions on top).

I want to extend a sincere thank-you to Kerry, Ken and Matt who have a real musician-friendly attitude  and have been a great addition to the live blues scene in Toronto. They're running a business and they were very patient at times when there were more musicians than audience…and towards the end half the restaurant was taken up by our Campfire circle with all these  musicians enjoying their complimentary beers.

I also wanted to thank all my Campfire Buddies, though I can't remember you all. I was collecting names and email addresses at the beginning and had all these notes stashed in an envelope and now damned if I can find it.

Anyway many thanks to the "early adopters" Son Roberts & John, Joanne Crabtree and Jeff, Kevin Kenalty, Casey Van Gorkom, Jay the Mystery Man and Tony Burns. And to the "regulars" Malcolm Gould and Robert Davis, the new guys Bela Ray, Ed Roth, Stan Endersly, Ken Boynham (we were starting to sound like a band!)…and the youngsters Dean Arnold (& Dad Jon Arnold), River and Charlie "Sir Charles" and a few others whose names I forget.

I especially appreciate the folks who came in from out of town, Charlie A'Court from Nova Scotia, Russ Kelley from Ottawa, Douglas Watson and Jazz Williams from Kitchener, Lucia Jenkins from Florida, Rick Taylor from London, Sherman Lee Dillon from Mississippi, Max Cann from the UK, Garry Strand from Tennessee. And to the pros who took some time out to sit in: Gary Kendall, Drew Austin, Big Dave Maclean, Doc McLean, Dan Maclean, Michelle Josef, Mojo Willie, Jake Chisholm, Mark Sepik, Martin Aucoin, Scott Cushnie – The Prof…and all those lovely ladies who provided some much needed female energy in a BBQ joint, Roberta Hunt, Robin Banks, Julie Hill, Rita di Ghent, Ruth Jenkins, Paula Shear, Mary Simpson, Negrezia and Tree  and everybody else who came out to join in our shenanigans Ric Levenston, Garth Dynes, Hurricane Mike Thompson, John Shortill, Johnny White Dog, Max Brand, Norm Robinson, Olav Svela, Steve Raiken, Anthony Martel, Brian Gladstone, Cole Slatt, Ed Pavey, Wyatt, Chris, Phil, Paul, Ken and Alice the banjo gal.

I'm sure I've left out many, but we all have some great memories. The best for me was seeing the face of some of those youngsters jamming with the "big boys". I remember leaning over to River and saying "you realize that bass player plays with Downchild." I should not forget all the wonderful, supportive audience members who came out. Thanks and we'll see you again down the old Blues highway.

I hope we can continue to build up our Campfire Community as we take it "downtown."  The Gladstone is a very different scene and I'm prepared to let things develop and adapt to the new environment but I hope we can hold onto the Blues Campfire principles, where there's no such thing as too many guitar players and where it's fine to indulge in a long solo (as long as it's going somewhere).

Unfortunately, we can't resume a weekly jam so to start it will be the third Tuesday of the month. We'll see what happens in the new year  It starts Tuesday, October 19th so come on down and help us get off to a great start.


Live Recording at Reba's Café Tues October 5

The great benefit for me from the regular gig was making sure I got my guitar out of the case at lleast once a week, even in the quiet spells, and more importantly, running over my new tunes with a different group of players every time. I think they've settled quite nicely and it's time to lay them down. After my gig at Reba's Café a couple of weeks ago, I came away thinking that was a great sounding little room – and it is little, maybe room for 25-30 folks in the performance space. But then they have a close circuit TV to the front room so people who want to chat can sit in front. My friend Steve wanted to capture some video and we had a try at Southside Shuffle but that didn't work so I thought this is where we can make a nice video. Then I thought, what the hell, let's try to record some tunes. I've been putting this off long enough. Haven't firmed up all the arrangements but it will be me and bass player George Koller, who I have been trying to corral into my musical universe for many years. After that, we may do some overdubs….or maybe not. Wish me luck, or better yet come to the session and be part of the recording. And if you can't come but would really like to support my recording, I remind you that we have a recording fund and I welcome any contributions (thanks to those who have kicked it off). If you prefer to remain anonymous, you can deposit directly into account 00646842698006400101 at Alterna Savings and Credit Union, Danforth Avenue, Toronto. Gold Sponsors ($250+) are entitled to a free house concert for you and your friends.


Out and About:

This year at the Polaris Prize soiree at least I knew a couple of the short-listed bands. Broken Social Scene, Tegan & Sara. And I had educated myself on a couple of artists who were there last year but whom I'd never heard of, Cariboo, Owen Pallett. But once again the winner was right out of left field. Karkwa, from Quebec. You could tell they were totally shocked…they acted like it was their first time out of Quebec…maybe it was their first time in Toronto. Last week. Jim Corcoran dedicated his whole radio show to their album and I could see why the judges went for it. In terms of the performances on stage, for most of those bands, I still don't get it. But it was the albums that were acknowledged by the Polaris jury, not live performances. All ten nominees performed – quite a feat to gather ten very busy bands in one place. I understood better when the fell;ow next to me explained that he was with the "Radio Starmaker" fund and that everybody was being paid very well to be there. In fact, most of the bands had augmented their lineup with extra musicians, a string quartet here, six female horn players there (shades of the Blainettes!).  Anyway, it made a lot more musical sense to me this year than last – when the winner was that crazy Fucked Up group with the fat lead singer who took off most of his clothes . What does he do for an encore?

My favourite show of the month was Terry Gillespie at Hugh's Room. His partner Kathy reminded me that it was one of my campfires that introduced Terry to the local blues scene, where he met many players and ended up collaborating with some of them. His show was riveting and he's got a sound and an approach like no-one you've ever heard. It's unfortunate that some of the music industry honchos left right after the first half of this double bill, a very talented young lady called Lynn Hanson with a crack band, missed out on a truly original artist. I guess a fresh young songstress will always get more buzz than a grizzled old blues guy.


Last night I had the strangest dream

Let's see if I can remember. The setting was an outdoor music festival. April Wine had not showed up and one of the organizers was asking me to go onstage and pretend to be April Wine. I was at some concession table saying to someone that I didn't think that was right. Then a group of giant musclemen made their way to the table and two of them were conjoined twins – joined at the neck with some pretzel-like muscles. Then I noticed the woman at the table was Maureen Brown and she was trying to give me some advice suggesting that my performance earlier was not really suited for a young audience. Something like that. Then I woke up. I'm amazed I remember this much, I never remember my dreams. I welcome any dream analysis.




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BrianB, aka Colorblind Brian, the Stringbuster

Where's the Next Mayor of Toronto?

So I decide to check out the Mayoral Debate because the theme this time is the Arts (and who will support it) but they sure don’t make it easy. First they advance the time by one hour at the last minute and then they do it in a space way too small to accommodate the “stakeholders”, a room at the Art Gallery of Ontario. I get there in time, line up with everybody outside and make my way in. They won’t let me in with my bottle of premium juice  - my first taste of Arthur’s juice, apparently the only one that has any fiber left in it. So I chug that down and follow the crowd right across to the back of the gallery only to be told that I need a ticket. I make my way back to the front of the building to the ticket distribution table only to be told there are no more tickets. Then a friend who’s working there says they’re running a live feed at the Ontario College of Art & Design right around the corner. Well, in for a dime, in for a dollar – four dollars, actually, because I’ve already paid for parking.

I make my way into the OCAD and there in the lobby is a whole group of (mostly) students sitting in front of a large flat-screen TV and the debate has apparently begun but it’s hard to tell because it’s stopping and starting like watching YouTube on a slow connection. People are starting to bale, but I hang in there and they finally get it stabilized. John Tory was supposed to be the moderator but I guess he couldn’t make it because he was replaced by an elderly gentleman with a great radio voice but quite laughable as a moderator. It was like listening to a radio DJ who keeps apologizing for their incompetence. I stay till the bitter end but I don’t feel any more enlightened about who would make the best mayor. The man most agree would make the worst mayor for the arts community, Rob Ford, is the most forthright of the bunch saying “No...if you want money for the arts get it from the private sector”. The only thing everybody agrees on is to re-institute the Mayor’s Arts Ball – a big-ticket event for wealthy patrons of the arts that was probably eliminated as part of the previous administration’s cutbacks.

I make my way out to the street to watch a mime who looked a bit like the statue of Liberty and some break dancers over to one side and then there was a ballet dancer doing her thang. A demented street person shouting at the top of of his lungs followed Rob Ford as he made his way to his car (to get to another debate in North York). Could we just ask Miller to hang in a little longer until a real leader surfaces?

Music on at the moment – The new Ronnie Earl album – dreamy.

Food on at the moment – Ontario strawberries and yogurt (even though I’ve got some fabulous Baskin & Robbins ice cream in the freezer – I’m a little congested and big recording session coming up so I don’t want to add any mucus to my lungs). Almost broke a nail opening the strawberry container. Nobody makes it easy.