Have Wheels, Will Travel

IMG_0142After six years of relying on public transport and car sharing services, I am back to owning a vehicle. This was brought about by a sudden opportunity and a realization that with more gigs for me, and garden visits for the lovely Mrs. FatC, we had reached a point where it once again made sense. The picture on the left shows the alternative: on the cart is the gear hauled down by TTC to the Amsterdam for shows every Tuesday: acoustic guitar, electric guitar, bass, mic stand and such, cables, mics, various connection boxes. Note no amps.

Despite the new wheels, I have still relied a lot on TTC for getting around, particularly as this past weekend was Winterfolk. This was my first year attending and I caught a few acts, but missed some people as a noise complaint shut down shows at Terry O’s, one of the venues for the festival. The schedule was shuffled but quite a few performers seemed to have simply been unable to perform, at least as best I could tell. I hope this can be sorted out for next year. To my ears, the volume was quite reasonable especially as it is essentially a folk music festival, and I find it shocking that one or perhaps just a few persons can derail an event that took months to plan, and deny entertainment to a large number of paying attendees, based on currently very subjective “noise” regulations. A proposed more objective standard is being worked on for City Council, but key to its implementation will be correctly identifying or perhaps redefining areas as residential, mixed use, or entertainment.

One of the acts at Winterfolk not shut down by noise complainers: David Storey (centre left) with Bob Cohen on electric guitar (left), Howard Rabkin on bass (centre right), and Henry Lees (far right) on backup vocals and percussion, at the Black Swan Tavern. David and Henry have both been guests at the ABC Songwriters’ Circle.
At City Hall

So speaking of  which, the meeting with Councillor Mary Margaret McMahon took place this past Friday. Rob Greenway and I presented our concerns, and the councillor seemed genuinely interested in what we had to present. The short version, as already mentioned in a few posts here, is that clubs and musicians who play in them are the foundational elements of a city’s musical ecosystem. If they don’t prosper, eventually the entire structure will collapse. It’s like minor leagues for pro sports. Rob was indispensable in presenting the professional’s point of view, and a huge thanks goes out to him for taking the time to be there and steeping himself in the issues. We left a list of recommendations with MMM (see below) and she assured us that she would bring this to  the attention of  the Toronto Music Advisory Council (TMAC). We’ll see…


Recommendations to TMAC

  1. Recompose the makeup of the Council: ensure small venues, music stores, and more independent artists are represented. 
  2. Reduce membership of over-represented sectors for greater equity.
  3. Increase the budget to fund to ensure success and in keeping with the importance of the music industry. Current funding is inadequate and misdirected.
  4. Initiate a city funded consciousness raising campaign to sensitize and educate the public value of music and costs to performers: i.e., real stories about real musicians “Unsung Heroes”
  5. Provide support for musicians with cheaper and easier access to recording, rehearsing and social media (partnerships with colleges, tech schools, community centres).
  6. Tax incentives for clubs that host live music.
  7. Not follow through with the “live music venue” certification initiative; more red-tape and no benefit.
  8. Educate on how and encourage venues to add “Entertainment Tip” option to POS terminals
  9. Not follow through “Music Day”: being free reinforces notion music is always free.
  10. Increase support to existing home-grown festivals such as Winterfolk, Beaches Jazz Festival, NXNW, to name some. to expand rather than starting up new events.
  11. Rename the “Noise Bylaw” to “Excessive Sound Levels Bylaw”. Noise is a pejorative term in reference to music. 

Other Out and About

IMG_0164I also was able to catch a few sets on Saturday night by cover band Rockbottom at the Duke Tavern on Queen Street. The event was a fundraiser for Cambodia, and a great opportunity to hear new FatC drummer Chris Bender playing in a different context. I’d already heard him many times with the Fraz Milne Electrical Band, so I knew him as capable and attentive to the intricate changes that Fraz’s songs call for. With this show, I now saw how adaptable he is as well. Our first show with Chris is March 24 at the Amsterdam, then April 7 at the Black Swan. I also had a nice chat with the Duke’s owner, who provided some interesting insight into the challenges of maintaining a music-friendly venue. It would be great fun to play the Duke, but that decision is ultimately the club’s. I will persevere.

Last night, I made the drive to Ajax (another benefit of having a car) to catch vocal coach Jaclyn Serre‘s premiere at the Edge Lounge with Heart tribute band Crazy on Heart.

Left to right: Tony Cutrone (keyboards), Jay Ezs (guitar), Neil Morrison (drums), Laura Lee Montgomery (lead vocals), Jaclyn Serre (guitar/vocals), Paul Mathur (bass).

I had also gone there with the idea of maybe playing the open mic, hosted by Ayden Jacobs (talented son of former Stir-It-Up-Sunday host Phil Jacobs), but it became evident early on that the context, although nowhere nearly as surreal as the one that led to the song Dancing With the Dinosaurs, would not be conducive to original songs.

The night ended with a short visit to Relish to wish troubadour Jody Ferrer (ABC Songwriters’ Circle #6) Happy 700th Stage, and astounding accomplishment! The joint was jumping’ as they say, with what it seemed every artist who had played at Winterfolk there for one more trio of tunes. The list was sooo long, I had to pass, with regret.

Please check out the bios of my upcoming guests Just Jillian, Jeff Orson and Carmen Toth, who will be my guests tomorrow, February 20, 2018 for the 15th iteration of the ABC Songwriters’ Circle at the Amsterdam Bicycle Club. Show starts at 9!

Until then, be well!


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