Closet of Regrets

As I write this, Mrs. Félix-and-the-Cats is preparing a presentation called Garden of Regrets for a local horticultural group. This made me consider what in my musical garden are regrets, and in almost all cases, it’s the stuff that got away, based on some poor choices.

Below is a stiched together image of my rig (and me with much better hair) way back in the late 70s. For gear wonks, I have listed what is in the shot, but the essential message is this: in a fit of blind ambition mixed with technical ignorance, I dismantled many of these cool pedals and built many of them into a very badly designed single unit, which of course did not work reliably. In an even greater moment of folly, I trashed the original cases and eventually just got rid of the guts. The rest I sold to the now defunct Encore Music Exchange. I still cringe thinging of it. The only item I don’t regret selling off is the 1972 Stratocaster in the shot; it was a bugger to play and I got a good price for it.

Closet Music
Top row: Maestro OB-2 Octave Box, Maestro USS-1 Universal Synthesizer System (rented from Cosmo Music in my prog-rock phase). Bottom row: Electro-Harmonix Black Finger compressor, Electro-Harmonix LPB-1 power booster, Univox Effectmatic Mu-1000 envelope filter, Ibanez PT-900 Phase Tone phase shifter, Jen model 310.001 cry baby pedal (still have this one — yay!), custom switch box, reverb switch for Ampeg VT-22 (under the suitcase and tape recorder), Colorsound(?) volume pedal. Not shown, but acquired later and subsequently cannibalized: Electro-Hamonix Big Muff Pi, MXR M-118 Analog Delay, Maestro FSH-1 Filter Sample/Hold. Sold off: 1972 Stratocaster, Gibson Melody Maker 12-string electric, Traynor YBA-1 Bass Master, Roland RE-201 Space Echo, Maestro RM-1 Ring Modulator. On my God! What was I thinking?

Looking up current prices in vintage gear shops does NOT help!


Looking at the Bright Side

Left to Right: me, brilliantfish, Lawrie Ingles, Henry Lees

 

The Songwriters’ Circle is going into its sixth week! Last Tuesday was probably the best turnout so far (thank you all!), and great fun as usual. The feedback was very positive from performers Lawrie Ingles, brilliantfish and Henry Lees, and audience alike. We got to put the onstage piano once again through its paces, and all thought it sounded mighty fine. I got to meet some other songwriters who I am happy to say have agreed to grace the stage in the new year. More on that as we get closer to the dates.

This coming Tuesday, the ABC Songwriters’ Circle features Jody Ferrer, Gary Edward Allen and Tim Prueter. Expect something great and completely different!

Poster ABC insert #6 photos only


Out and About

Monday night was a reunion of sorts, playing an open mic and the Rose and Crown on Yonge at Eglinton. Co-hosting was Sophia Radisch, an up and coming singer songwriter whom I have written of before and who is also making her name for herself in the corporate side of the industry with a slew of endorsements and media placements, including a recent article in Guitar Player magazine. It was an interesting experience playing for her a song where the first verse was inspired by events at the Linsmore Tavern where I first heard her play just a year ago, that obliquely references her and my friend, and upcoming guest at the songcircle, Gary Edward Allen. On the way home, I caught the tail-end of the Riverboat Monday open mic at Dora Keogh‘s, hosted by Tyler Ellis, who has taken the reins officially from Julian Taylor. I heard some great songwriters and I think some may just be the ABC fairly soon.

Thursday was the usual blowing off steam at Legends, with upcoming songcircle guest John Mahler as their featured artist. John played a great set and I look forward to his appearance at the ABC December 5. As for my set, I might have been better off sticking to acoustic that evening, as the gear I brought didn’t quite sound right, but it was still fun to wind out. Again, fortuitous meetings occurred which could manifest themselves in the new year.

Finally, I went to see good pal Sal Indigo at the Amsterdam, this time with a sometime seven-piece band rocking out the full-house joint.

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Left to right: Loudon Sharp V (guitar), Neil MacNaughton (trumpet), Jack “the Animal” Pepe (drums), Sal Indigo (guitar and vocals), Tim “Killer” Kelly (bass) and Sean Macauley (harmonica). Not shown but in the video below, Donna Flynn.

With the house PA in full working order, the band was able to cut loose and still be clearly heard, as in the video below.

 

 

 

So, hoping a lot of you can make it out on Tuesday evening for our next songcircle and thanking you for tuning in, I wish you all, “be well”!

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Cabbage Rolls and Coffee

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An odd thing happened in the last week: I wrote a polka, or at least something polkaesque. In no way am I trying to parody the genre; every style of music has its stars and virtuosos. I had the good fortune to know one of them during my nine years working at Yorkville Sound. Walter OstanekCanada’s Polka King, was a client as he also owned a store in St. Catherines and would regularly drive in to pick up his order of Traynor gear. The visits generally lasted far longer than the time it took to load his truck as Walter is a great story teller, and would often spend quite some time recounting interesting events from his career, which includes three Grammies, a star on the Canada’s Walk of Fame, and an Order of Canada.

Even in cases when comedy is at the core of a polka performance, such as Al Yankovic‘s medleys or the beloved Schmenge Brothers (see below), there is still an evident delight in the music itself, and its infectious bounce.

Of course, the version I have recorded has a darker twist to it. Entitled Wilomena (The End of Times Polka), it is based on some truth, but quickly drifts off into imaginary land. A very few people know where that line is drawn, but I will not be sharing it further. I submit it for your listening pleasure and hope you will find it mmm, mmm good.

Wilomena (The End Times Polka) ©2017 R. Pelletier/Félix and the Cats (SOCAN)

Chorus 1
Oh Wilomena!
You are so scatter brained
Oh Wilomena!
I’m sorry to complain
But please keep it straight
I want another date
For the End Times polka.
Oh Wilomena!
I think you’re paranoid
Oh Wilomena!
It’s making me annoyed
Please offer me a chance
Just another dance
At the End Times polka.

Verse 1 & 3
I sang your praises
On mountains near and far
You were the stairway
To lead me to the stars
How could you tell me
They do not represent?
You said you liked them
But now the truth is bent
So now you recant
The words that you’d embraced
You want deletion
But they can’t be erased
I kept a copy
For future reference
Don’t say I’m lying
I have the evidence

Chorus 2
Oh Wilomena!
I think you’re paranoid
Oh Wilomena!
It’s making me annoyed
Please offer me a chance
Just another dance
At the End Times polka.
Oh Wilomena!
Why won’t you be kind?
Oh Wilomena!
What is on your mind?
Show me naked to the world?
Can’t I get another twirl
At the End Times polka?

Verse 2
You stick your nose in
Where it does not belong
Muddy the waters
Although you know it’s wrong
You make pronouncements
That have no base in fact
And ride the coat tails
Of those that you detract
Don’t write the thoughts down
That you should keep inside
And slander all those
Who should be on your side
I kept a copy
For future reference
Don’t say I’m lying
I have the evidence

Verse 3

Chorus 3
Oh Wilomena!
Why won’t you be kind?
Oh Wilomena!
What is on your mind?
Show me naked to the world?
Can’t I get another twirl
At the End Times polka?
Oh Wilomena!
You are so scatter brained
Oh Wilomena!
I’m sorry to complain
But please keep it straight
I want another date
For the End Times polka


Songwriters’ Circle #4

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Photo by Michael Cuddy

I continue to be blown away by the kindness and talent of the musicians who agree to be guests of the ABC Songwriters’ Circle. Last week was no exception. Jace Traz gave us a sneak peek into his process, but also told the most amazing stories. I finally realized a wish to sing the backups to many of his songs. Chelsea Reed was charming, funny, and filled the room with her warm voice. David Macmichael shared some of his most heartfelt songs and added tasteful guitar playing to the other performers’ tunes. These latter two also for the first time put the onstage piano to good use. It was a wonderful night!


ABC Songcircle #5

Yet another outstanding Tuesday is coming up with Lawrie Ingles, Henry Lees and brilliantfish performing. For their bios, please go to the songcircle page, but more importantly, come down to the show. It is a great and one-of-a-kind performance, guaranteed to please.

ABC SWC#5

Until Tuesday (best choice!) or next week, be well!

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Food for Thought

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Left to right: Jessica Stuart, Tyler Ellis, m.e. law and me. Photo by Sal Indigo.

Last week’s ABC Songwriters’ Circle (#3 for those counting) continues to live up to my best hopes for a fun and unique way for local songwriters to perform in a relaxed and convivial atmosphere. Thanks to m.e. law, Tyler Ellis and especially Jessica Stuart, who graciously stepped in last minute. It’s still immensely flattering to me that such wonderfully talented people would even want to share the stage with me, never mind sing along to one of my silly songs. But they do, and I am hugely grateful. A sample to prove it below. Thanks for the video, Sal!


Wednesday: Ruby Watchco with the Spare Parts

Wednesday was a long delayed, and sensorily satisfying evening at one of Toronto’s best restaurants, chefs Lynn Crawford and Laura Kirk‘s Ruby Watchco. This is one of those places where the menu is set for each evening, and there are no choices, other than with or without wine pairing. Call it gourmet family dining. It was an amazing meal, made even better by the great attention of the staff—Mary, Hugh, Trinette, et al—some of whom are fellow travellers, and the entertainment provided by the Spare Parts, with Alan Zemaitis on organ, Kyle Sullivan on drums, Andrew Boulos on bass, and Dan Mock on guitar. These guys are kept super busy in various bands, and deservedly so. Alan not only grew up on my street, but was also part of my big birthday bash group a few years back. We will be back!


Friday: Relish for Michael Cuddy

Upcoming ABC guests David Macmichael (November 14) and brilliantfish (November 21) were the rhythm section for Michael Cuddy‘s (December 5) feature show at Relish. Along with Wayne Smith (aka Wayne Neon), they put on a great show that featured new material as well as some favourites, such as Sink or Swim, a live snippet of which is included below.

Meanwhile, across town and unbeknownst to me until the next day, my favourite cover band, the Lonely Hearts, of whom I’ve written of before, were at the Royal Ontario Museum playing for their Friday Night Live event. #FNLROM. That set up two challenges: how can one be in two places at once, and how do you get such a great gig?


ABC Songcircle #4

footerAnother outstanding Tuesday is coming up with Chelsea Reed, Jace Traz and the aforementioned David Macmichael performing. For their bios, please go to the songcircle page, but more importantly, come down to the show. It is a great and one-of-a-kind performance, guaranteed to please.

Hoping to see you there, so be well!

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No Rest for the Weary

It’s amazing how busy one can be on an off week. Despite there being no ABC Songwriters’ Circle due to Hallowe’en, things were not idle.


Stir It Up Sundays

Last Sunday started the week with a long delayed return to Relish for Stir It Up Sundays. As well as playing the usual “standards” — for me at least, I had the great pleasure of sitting in with upcoming ABC Songcircle guest Michael Cuddy for a couple of his tunes to “shred”. Not sure about shredding; mostly those end up in my cereal bowl, but I hope I provided what he was hoping for.


Chelsea Reed Record Launch

Monday was a big night for another upcoming guest, Chelsea Reed, who was launching her album at Braddock’s. It was an incredible evening of quality songs, which I very much look forward to asking Chelsea about on November 14. I was also wowed by opening performer Danielle Knibbe, and if she is reading this, very much welcome to be a part of the ABC Songwriters’ Circle. Just email me here if you are reading this, Danielle! It was a treat to listen and see perform such wonderfully talented, smart and sensitive artists.

Danielle Knibbe band performing Come Back Home.

Chelsea Reed band performing Empty Hearts.


Beach House Première

Thursday was my première at the Beach House, which I have written about previously. While there wasn’t a big turnout that evening —perhaps I should have promoted more—the aucience was attentive and appreciative. Thanks to Karl and Billy Zee for making it possible, and to fellow traveller Tony Oldland for coming out and for the video of Mr. Juicy Fruit, in a live solo version you can watch here (sorry, I can’t embed this one). I look forward to performing there again.

As the show was from 8:00 to 10:00 PM, I seemed to have some excess energy, so I scooted over to Gary and Amber’s Legends Open Mic for a last quick set of tunes. Thanks to both for letting me wind out a little more than usual. It felt good!


Tyler and Sal

Friday, flush with the proceeds of the Beach House gig, it was back to Relish to catch a set of  Tyler Ellis, playing with a stripped down version of the Eddy Line with John McLean on guitar and bass, and the formidable Paul Brennan on drums. I was reminded again why I like his songs so much, and I urge you to make it down to the Amsterdam Bicycle Club this Tuesday, November 7, to hear for yourselves. Add m.e. law and Lilly Mason, and you have the elements of an extraordinary night of music.

As much as I wished to stay, I also wanted to catch Sal Indigo in one of his rarer full band performances, with Tim Killer Kelly on bass and Jack the Animal Pepe on drums, at Basso’s Blues Room on Queen East. Despite some contradictory messaging concerning the venue’s closing (a shame if it happens), they did in fact play the show, and even let me sit in for a final set. Thanks, Sal, Tim and Jack!


I must leave you to prep for this Tuesday’s show, which again, I encourage all of you to attend.

Until then, or next week, be well!

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