As mentioned in an earlier blog post, here are more musings and reports from Winterfolk XVII.
On my first evening there (the Saturday), I worked the second floor as stage tech. I was very happy to do so as one of the featured acts was Chloé Watkinson, of whom I have written about a few times already here and here. I have been a fan since seeing her with Park Eddy, introduced to me by Alan Zemaitis, her keyboardist, who also played with me at the very first Félix & the Cats show for a great birthday bash a few years back.
Chloé is a remarkable singer and performer and I was thrilled to help out, and even do a little “maintenance mixing” (don’t touch the EQs!). One of the standout tunes she played that evening is a Max Webster song, Let Go the Line, written and sung on the original release by her dad, Terry.
Here it is:
There must be a Max Webster vibe in the air as there is a also a recent reissue of another MW song, Diamonds Diamonds featuring the Barenaked Ladies collaborating with Kim Mitchell.
I brought me back to the years Mrs. Félix & the Cats and I lived on Pembroke Street and I could dash across Allan Gardens to catch a Max Webster show at Larry’s Hideaway. It’s good to see that remarkable part of Canadian music history receive deserved recognition.
As the studio is back in functioning order, I have been starting the process of mixing drums recorded here, albeit prior to the drum booth being built. One of the issues I have been dealing with is making the snare and bass drum more present and snappy. Some knob fiddling helped, but I kept wondering whether there was a better way to enhance the mix, and sure enough there is.
Logic Pro X, the application I use to record, has a cool function that allows you to Replace or Double Drum Track…
So I tried it.
The way it works, in simple terms, is that it samples the drum sound you wish to replace or double, and uses the loudest parts to generate trigger points for Logic’s own built-in samples. A great number of different snare, bass and tom drum sounds are available, so it’s a question of using one’s ears to hear what suits best and mixing in that selection to enhance what is already there, at least that’s how I use it. Mind you, this is VERY new to me so I hope I am doing it right.
Here are two samples of drums from the upcoming EP to illustrate. The difference may be subtle on ear buds or your phone’s speakers but noticeable enough through larger speakers. I think this will improve the mix.
Drums with triggered samples
If you’ve been looking at the sidebar on a laptop or desktop browser, you may have noticed I quietly slipped in a new show at the Black Swan on Easter weekend – Saturday April 20 (yes 420) to be precise. We are playing a double bill with one of my very favourite local bands, Monkey Fightin’ Snakes, whom I have written about already here.
Both Matthew from MFS and I have worked on posters for the event so I thought I’d share our complementary approaches. Enjoy!
The band had a great time last night at Relish Bar and Grill. Thanks to the folks who resisted the urge to coccoon and those who were there for Noah Zacharin and kindly struck around.
As a noteworthy aside, a distant second (twice removed?) cousin from the St. Pierre side of the family made a special trip out to the show! Thomas is the grandson of my uncle Georges’ brother in law (there will be a short quiz at the end of this blog). I have posted about that family before, and am reposting a picture of Thomas’ grandpapa’s brother (great uncle?) Georges St. Pierre on banjo at Lac Jerry sometime in the 60s. That’s me in short pants.
While we waited to set up, the band had a chance to fully appreciate Noah Zacharin’s stunning guitar skills and songwriting prowess. Noah is a widely acclaimed guitar master, multi-genre songwriter, and dynamic performer. According to his bio, he was given his first guitar at age 9, wrote his first song at 13, and began performing at 14. In December 2015, Zacharin became a full-time recording and touring musician. Born in Montreal (which explains why he spoke with me in French), Zacharin splits his time between Toronto, the road, and an off-grid cabin on the Canadian Shield. It was a thrill to hear him in such an intimate context and I invite you to check out his music at the link provided above.
And speaking of intimate settings, another of the great shows I caught at Winterfolk last weekend was a transcendent performance by jazz vocalist Simone Morris and guitarist Mike Freedman. I had the honour to MC the final evening on the cozy third floor at the Black Swan and introduce these two accomplished musicians as the final act of the festival in that venue. Can’t thank them enough for that unforgettable evening!
One of the songs we played last night was an ode to Relish, which was put together last year following a challenge by David Macmichael and Paul Brennan, the hosts of the Stir It Up Sunday open mic. A few people answered the call, Jace Traz and Dan Boggs notably. This is a demo of my attempt. I hope you like it.
The last weekend was a whirlwind of activity. Besides family commitments, I worked 3 nights at this year’s Winterfolk XVII, the first two as tech assist and the final as MC, and all at the Black Swan.
I have to comment how much I respect the organizers, hired staff and other volunteers for their commitment to making this an amazing event. Particularly, Jen who patiently herded many cats, and Kevin, Aaron and Richard for amazing technical prowess, not to mention their kindness with me, and skill and persistence with technical challenges. I learned a lot!
The great fringe benefit was listening to so many great and unique performances. There were too many to include in one post so I will drop a mention to as many as possible in the upcoming weeks.
Notable for personal reasons on Sunday afternoon was the performance by family friends Alana and Leigh Cline. Here is a bit of them in performance. It takes me back to the kind of music I would hear when visiting the relatives in the Bas-du fleuve.
Reggae Fans Take Note!
This coming Thursday evening (February 28, 2019), FatCats bassist NeMo will be holding the the bottom end with Reggaddiction at the cool Jasper Dandy. It gets even better as ABC Songwriters’ Circle alumnus and all-round muy versátil artist Lilly Mason will be up front on vocals. The band will be performing songs from Ganja Harvest, their upcoming album which pays tribute to the Canadian legend Neil Young’sHarvest album, reinterpreted in a reggae dub version. Can’t wait!
Gig This Saturday
The Cats are back at Relish this coming Saturday. As always, super big thanks to Joanne Clayton who makes musicians always feel so welcome. We hope you can come down for this show—things kick off at 9:30.
After weeks of work, the isolation room is essentially done.
Here are a few pictures to illustrate.
From top left: the “sauna” with main wall closed—padded door is on the right; the same with front wall open (this is for accessing the mics and drums easily from the front side—it’s pretty tight in there—and moving gear in and out easily; view from the front with wall open; view through the regular door. Bottom row: overhead paired mics in XY pattern—I had previously used the ORTF method but clip limitations make that challenging; cable conduit and sound maze vent for air—drummers with a good oxygen supply keep better time. Bottom right: the drummer’s perspective.
I’ve also added extra cabling so the room can double as a vocal booth or iso booth for amplifiers on overdubs.
Further tests will have to confirm whether it has reduced the outside levels as much as hoped for, but a quick check gives hope that it has gone from unbearable to somewhat annoying, at the very least.
While I haven’t stopped playing entirely (a few open mics here and there), it has been rather quiet on the performance front lately. That is about to change as the Cats are back at Relish very soon on Saturday March 2 from 9:30 to 11:30. Please put THAT on your calendars, why doncha!
This weekend, I will be volunteering at Winterfolk XVII, an annual music festival held in 3 clubs near Danforth and Broadview. You can find me at the Black Swan running cables and setting up mics on Friday and Saturday, then on Sunday evening MC’ing on the 3rd floor at the same venue. Should be a fun gig. More info including the full lineup of artists and ticket prices at the Winterfolk site here!
The ManCave drum isolation booth work is advancing slowly but surely. That and a combination of other personal and familiar obligations have made the domicile chaotic. Hopefully February will turn out to be Tidy Up month.
The ceiling bulkhead around the heating duct is done, and Mrs. FatC had the brilliant notion to make the entire front portion of the iso booth wall hinge out, so that is what is currently being planned once the full ceiling is installed. A few necessary supplies are also waiting installation.
Past and Future Gigs
A big thank you to the enthusiastic fans who came out to the Linsmore Tavern last Tuesday to support the Cats and our stage companions Mud Lust and the Short Walk, who pleasantly surprised everyone with a full-band set instead of a solo performance, and Level Ground who made their auspicious debut. As always, I am so fortunate to have the fab NeMo on bass and the awesome Chris Bender on the kit.
In case you missed some of the social media posts, Félix & the Cats will be performing a featured mini-set this Wednesday at TonyO’s Jammers event at the Salty Dog. This week, it’s Beatles vs Stones night, so we might even stick around for some covers. Should be a fun night starting at 8:30!
Our return to Relish is only a month away (Saturday March 2 9:30 – 11:30). It’s always great to go back to where it all started and everything changed. For sure I’ll be playing the Relish ode that night.
I have just recently been booked for a solo acoustic set at Might & Main (formerly The Grinder) at the end of March. Hopefully that should be lots of heads-up to add to your calendar. It’s at a pleasant 12-1 pm time slot so consider coming down for a set of my wacky originals and a great cup of coffee.
Thanks for reading! Do share the link if you think others would be interested.
This coming Tuesday has the Cats back on stage at the Linsmore for Indie Tuesdays, this time with former ABC Songcircle guest Ryan Schmidt, aka Mud Lust and the Short Walk opening at 8, then FatC at 9, and headlining at 10, a newly christened band called Level Ground, formerly Shank Street Social. It promises to be an evening of variety and all-original goodness.
After a former band went its separate ways, Ryan Schmidt moved to Toronto from Alcona, ON, enticed by the big city lights and easy access to the many open stages on which to play each week. He fell in love with thrill of playing his guitar for appreciative audiences, and the freedom of writing and performing his own material, so much so that he rearranged his life to do it more.
Ryan thrives in gritty, swampy blues. His songs are grounded in a lyrical honesty while speaking the language of the blues in a new and original voice, with strong images and stories of hurt and frustration. The music sits in solid grooves and soars to his growling slide guitar. Ryan has recently released his first album. Mud Lust and the Short Walk.
Level Ground is the new band that features the writing of lead singer/guitarist James Légère, with Gordon McKinnon on keyboards, Bill Légère AND Mark Marchesich on drums and percussion (mmm! this might get funky!), and Robin Latimer on bass and vocals.
Below is one of James’ songs with the previous simpler 3-piece incarnation of the band. I can’t wait to hear his soulful tunes with the addition of keys and the double percussion!
The studio is currently totally topsy-turvy as I’ve decided to build a drum isolation room before my neighbours complain about the racket. The floor is carpet tile on particle board foam-backed panels, all floating on heavy rubber padding. Hopefully that will cut down the kick drum transmission. The walls and ceilings will be insulated with acoustic insulation, and probably covered with wood slats rather than drywall, but that is something to figure out later. A plexiglas panel will be included to minimize claustrophobia. More as the project advances.
Looking forward to seeing a bunch of you at the Linsmore this Tuesday!
No, the title is not a setup to a joke. While picking up an accessory this past week at the Long and McQuade Pro location, an nice man overheard me asking the staff about purchasing the Sennheiser MK4 I am currently renting. Turns out Dave Dysart represents an intriguingly clever microphone line from a company called Townsend Labs out of California. He gave me a run down on the mic and related software and how it functions. There is a great review of it at the Sound On Sound site, and after the talk and the read, the Townsend Lab Sphere L22 is definitely on my wish list for the ManCave Studio.
After chatting about mics for a while, other tangential discussions revealed that we knew quite a few people in common, which I won’t name drop at this time. It also interestingly turned out Dave plays with the band UIC, a punk and garage rock band from Exeter, Ontario, formed in June 1982.
The band played locally, then made the move to Toronto in 1984. They found acclaim in the city’s indie scene, playing with other garage faves like The Gruesomes, and Deja Voodoo, and opening for acts like Teenage Head, The Dead Milkmen and The Goo Goo Dolls. U.I.C.’s first recording, Our Garage, was released in 1986. Followed a number of cross-Canada tours and a second album Live Like Ninety, featuring a live set at Lee’s Palace late in 1988. After a number of personal changes, the band broke up in 1995, only to recently reform with Dave now taking up guitar duties and Andy Hauberplaying bass. Band biography here. Take a look/listen to this recording of the band live! UIC are playing The Horseshoe Tavern on March 23, 2019.
And speaking of live, Félix & the Cats will be playing its first 2019 show at the Linsmore Tavern on Tuesday January 22, with the gritty and real Ryan Schmidt opening and a cool new band (to me) called Level Ground (formerly known as Shank Street Social) headlining. Much more on these fine performers in next week’s blog.