Sunday, March 25, 2012

My Canadian Music Week

As usual I was probably the oldest person walking around with a CMW badge and I was actually heckled by a group of drunk young people on Queen Street shouting "Hey, man with beard!". Then, as I'm leaving one club, the doorman says "You sir, have a rockin' beard."  Twice in one night they're talking about my beard...what's with that?  I think the Rockin' Beard Award will have to go to Halifax troubadour Ben Caplan.  Every year there's a buzz artist who is everywhere abd this year it was Ben Caplan. I was going to try and catch his set at the East Coast Party - where I remember a couple of years back at the Rivoli, a big cauldron of delicious fish chowder, oysters in many varieties and lots of other delicious seafood.  Anyway, I guess everybody heard about it because the last couple of years it's been "Invite Only" and I guess I'm not on that list. I wanted to hear Ben and he had many plays during Music Week but the only time I heard him was when he was tinkling the ivories on the grand piano in the hotel mezzanine.

That doorman who liked my beard was at Sneaky Dee's where I went to see an artist who was listed as a combination of blues and electronic, which is what I've been experimenting with.  I got there early because the band playing before them listed their genre as "experimental" and I wanted to see what they were all about.  Little did I know that they were (are) the biggest thing in Ireland and as one (Irish) patron pointed out to me, the whole front of the room was packed with Irish - and I soon realized that they knew all the words and were singing along.  I jokingly asked my new Irish friend if there had been a fight yet, and he said no they were waiting for the end of the set.  And sure enough when it was over they remained at the front shouting "one more" (probably not aware of the showcase protocol).  One very drunk guy almost knocked me over, but to their credit, they finally accepted that their heroes were not coming back. Anyway, The Rubberbandits, as they were called,  were 2 rappers who jumped up and down and a third guy - all in masks - who was maybe manipulating synths or other controllers. I think the masks was the experimental part

There was a time when no self-respecting musician would ever play with pre-recorded backing tracks, but nowadays nobody was making a big deal of it.  In fact Indie Awards headliner Rich Aucoin had recently abandoned his Ableton Live for pre-recorded tracks on an ipod. Of course, he's doing a lot in "real time" but just the thought of playing with backing tracks leaves me cold.

There was a phenomenal electronic musician from BC called Longwalk Shortdock who took it to another level - I don't think he was using Ableton but he was controlling stuff with the computer though apparently the visuals were prepared in advance (by a video artist called RIM) so once again I was hoping we would see visuals that were being triggered and filtered by the music. Maybe there was a bit of that going on, but whatever he was doing, it was spectacular:

The Blues fared pretty well at Canadian Music Week this year.  It's always been a "poor cousin" in this annual crush of pretty mainstream rock and pop.  The "official" blues showcase was not very well attended at the start and though I had to leave halfway through, I bet it was packed by the time Shakura hit the stage. A big congratulatory hug to Suzie Vinnick for tearing it up solo in this pretty large room which usually hosts metal music.  I told her she had the energy of a full-tilt rock band - just her voice and that little guitar (with a pretty big sound). Then tonight, Suzie wins the Indie Award for best blues act (and let's not forget that she is nominated for a JUNO award - to be presented next week in Ottawa)

I might have blown off the "Celebrity Interview" but I was showing a friend around the conference so we went together to watch the interview with Paul Rogers - a bona fide rock star (who has just moved to BC). I never thought of him as part of English blues history but it turns out that he was around for all of that stuff with Alexis Koerner and the fathers of British Blues.  He even related how his friend Robert Plant had told him about the offer to join Jimmy Page in Led Zeppelin and that the band had offered him "either thirty quid a week or a percentage."  Paul had suggested he take the percentage and that's what he did.  Paul was also asked to sing with many other famous groups...even the Doors, after Morrison had died.  Well if anybody could do it, he could.

Now as I'm meeting Paul Rogers, I confess that I didn't know much about him especially his blues roots. What I didn't tell him was that I sort of had him confused with Roger Hodgson of Supertramp (who also had some kind of Canadian connection).  Anyway, I realize I probably sounded stupid, but he was not one of those people who calls you on it when you say something stupid.  He was very nice, and he has a new fan in Brian Blain - especially after seeing his performance with multi-Indie winners the Sheepdogs.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Don't Forget Your Mother

Every year on Mother’s Day week-end, or close to it, I like to have a special show for folks who no longer have their mother, like myself or orphans who never knew their biological mother (also like myself). Some of you may be acquainted with my tune “Enfant Choisi” which is about my adoption by the dear lady you see pictured with me in a 70s promo shot.

It’s also the only show of the year where you’ll hear me sing my “cult classic,” “Don’t Forget Your Mother”. After I was "discovered" by Andre Perry in the early 70s, we recorded three sides and two were released on Good Noise Records, but “Don’t Forget Your Mother” was never released (for a variety of reasons).
But it was a bit of an underground favourite in Montreal in the early 70s. Everybody remembered that tune and just a few years back I ran into one of the guys who played on the session, Tom “Bones” Malone, who was in Toronto filming a Blues Brothers movie. I was just starting to ask him if he remembered that session and he began singing the chorus. Wow! After all those years. The drummer for the session was Jim Gordon, a first-call studio drummer in Los Angeles who had just finished touring and recording with Derek and The Dominoes. He wrote (and played) the piano part in “Layla”. He was later institutionalized for killing his mother in a schitzophrenic episode but that’s another (hopefully unrelated) story.

This year the show is Mother's Day and it's at one in the afternoon and a very nice little cafe so it might be a chance to bring your mother, if you're lucky enough to have one who's still living. Tell her it's not that loud, repetitive rock blues but more like story-telling folk blues. I will be joined ne a few musical friends but I don't know who can make it because their mother might want to do something else.