The Grass is Always Bluer

This post was prepped in advance as I will be deeply immersed in Winterfolk over the weekend.

Thursday night, a meet and greet was held in the Tiki room at the Tranzac club for volunteers and performers. It was a good opportunity to connect before the shows. While there, I caught part of a set by regular Thursday night feature Houndstooth, an excellent group with a well deserved rep for being one of the best bluegrass bands in Toronto. I highly recommend catching them whenever you can.

As someone interested in audio, I noted that the group was using a hybrid version of the One Mic Technique, used by bluegrass bands everywhere. The idea is to have one central high quality microphone in the centre of the stage with the musicians gathered around in a semicircle. Whichever musician has a featured part moves closer to the mic to be heard better, then backs away. It makes for interesting stage movement an better photo ops. Houndstooth used this approach, but added two more mics placed waist high that work better for the guitar, mandolin and banjo.

More on Winterfolk in next week’s post. Until then, be well!

MixMaster?

Sunbeam® Mixmaster® White Stand Mixer

Things are going to get busy this week as I have a few recording sessions scheduled. Plus, as of Friday, I will be mixing sound throughout the weekend at Winterfolk, as mentioned in a previous post. Tickets are still available and a really great way to catch outstanding music. I am looking forward to this, not just for the experience of mixing, but just for the pleasure of hearing so many great performers.


And speaking of great performers…

Planning a bit further ahead, I recommend catching The Lonely Hearts at the Dakota on Friday February 28th. I already have my tickets and hope to see many friends there as well. TLH always deliver a great show! Tickets are selling quickly so get them here asap!

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Until next time, be well!

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ManCave Studio Diary #7 – Tales from the Drum Booth

This week’s post will be almost all about the studio, but I will let FatC drummer extraordinaire Chris Bender speak for himself.

Chris post
More photos here.

I hope to able to confirm a new show at the Dock on Queen sous peu. In the meantime, mark your calendar for Chris and Fraz Milne’s appearance at C’est What? along with another fave, the James Clark Institute on February 29.

Fraz and James

Until next week, be well!

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Magical Mystery Tour

Winterfolk XVIIIStep right this way!

Yesterday was a big musical day.
First off, there was the Winterfolk XVII volunteer meet up at the Tranzac Club, which is the new venue for this popular and enduring musical event. Check out the link above for details. Anyway, this year, I will be mixing sound in a couple of the rooms, so you know who to blame if things go awry.

But sheer coincidence, Matthew Davies and Dave Stoyles of Monkey Fighting’ Snakes were scheduled to perform later in the afternoon, so it seemed a no-brainer to stick around for their show. As the Tranzac has almost non-stop programming, I also had the chance to catch a set by artists who are also on the bill for the above-mentioned festival, notably Howard Gladstone, Lynn Harrison and Laura Fernandez, very ably accompanied by Bob Cohen, a fave sideman of many artists I know. I look forward to more of their songs at Winterfolk.

After their set, Dave and Matthew set up to accompany John Victor. Opening for them was Barbara Lynch, new to me, and quite a revelation. Her poignant and often humorous songs were supported by great blues/ragtime/boogie virtuosity. Below is a sample of a song that some involves “locust” and “boogie” in the same title, and you can listen to her studio album on Apple Music or other tunes captured at the Tranzac on John Victor’s Facebook timeline.

Following her set, John, Matt and Dave performed a tasty set of original tunes, which you can listen to in rehearsal on his Facebook page. I had the opportunity to chat briefly with his John’s brother, Juno award winning producer Michael Wojewoda, helping out on sound. Wow!

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Dave Stoyles on bass, John Victor on guitar and Matthew Davies on Dobro, guitar and banjo

As a bunch of other musical types showed up for this, we were hungry, and it was Stir-It-Up Sunday, we all transited to Relish for a fun evening of open-mic’ness.

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Dave and Matthew insatiable for more playing, along with the superb Paul Brennan on drums.

It was a chance to première a brand new song, and play a familiar one. I got home a bit late…

Oh, and some kind of sport thing happened too.

Go Ti-Cats!


Gig Update

The previously announced show at the Dock on Queen has to be deferred due to scheduling conflict. A new date is in the works.

Now I rest. Be well!

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Double-Double

The Black Swan show this past Sunday was a lot of fun as well as a satisfying challenge. Not only did the Cats+ (with the amazing Omar Saab on rhythm guitar) perform a mega-set to open, we played two sets with special guest Chris Scian, which involved prepping a bunch of songs some of us had never played. It all came off very well.

Here are some samples.


Gig Alert!

Following this “Two-Chrises” event, the Swan’s management were so pleased, they offered us a last-minute slot for this coming Friday. The show starts at 10 PM so we are looking forward to seeing all you night-owlish fans.Header Black Swan Jan 31.jpg

‘Til then, be well!

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Rehab Addendum

Last week I wrote of the rehabilitation of my “big” pedalboard.

As hinted, here is the update for the sideboard.

Thanks to a family gift, I have added an Electro Harmonix Mel9 pedal to the already too many I own. This one simulates the sound of a Mellotron, previously written about here.

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This “sideboard” will add a lot of depth to the band’s sound, with the Mel9 creating keyboard-like pads, and the Ditto looper for backing for solos, drones or extra rhythm.

This demo from the manufacturer should provide a good example of the possibilities.

It should be getting a first live run at our show this coming Sunday, January 26 at the Black Swan, with special guest Chris Scian and a surprise.

Header Black Swan with Chris Scian


Gig Alert

Just picked up a new show back at a fave cozy spot, the Dock on Queen, on February 21st! Details to follow!

 

Be well!

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Rehab

There is an affliction many guitarists suffer from. Beyond the obvious calluses or possible repetitive strain injury, GAS is the most costly (not that kind of GAS). Guitar Acquisition Syndrome affects many of our ranks; the need for ever more guitars is addictive. To mitigate the impact of GAS, some players have moved onto PAS – Pedal Acquisition Syndrome. Think of it as the methadone to guitar collection heroine.

I am dealing with this…right!

My latest geeky project is to rehab (get it?) my largest pedal board—one of three—to a more reliable and versatile arrangement.

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Original version, pre rehab.

The first concern was the “solderless” cables I had been using. I don’t trust them. While many have been in the pedalboard for years due, mostly to low profile of the connectors, a few have proven unreliable. They work by direct contact but if any part is loose, they will fail. There is little margin for error. I decided to revert back to soldered cable as they are more resilient and durable but faced the challenge of finding the same small solderable connector profile at a reasonable cost. I found a great supplier out of the States called Redco. Since they shipped via US Postal Service, it kept prices in line.

Next, I felt it was time to get a dedicated isolated power supply for mostly each pedal to reduce hum and ensure good good voltage for each; the non-guitar folks’ eyes are glazing over…

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The underbelly.

Finally, I needed better access to certain effects that were less than appropriately on the upper row (the two Line 6 pedals – DL4 and Roto-Machine), and these. The entire board had to be re-layed out to bring these more under foot. It also led to a few content changes with the TC Electronic PolyTune and Visual Sound Route 66 compressor/overdrive pedals being moved to another board, and the Boss TU-2 tuner and EHX Soul Food overdrive plus the newly acquired TC Electronic Hyper Gravity compressor taking their places. It also made room for the Boss PS-3 Pitch Shifter/Delay.

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Ta-da!

The bulk of the work is done, although. few parts are still on the way to allow faster setup. Perhaps an update when that happens, along with a connected project (ha!) for a sideboard. TBD.

So yeah, I’ve got it under control. Thanks for asking!


Gig Reminder

Header Black Swan with Chris Scian.jpg


Special Show Coming Soon!

I am working on something special and hope to have the details sorted out in the next few weeks. Details to follow!

Until then, new well!

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A Tale of Two Chrisses

Black Swan with Chris Scian.jpgGig Alert

In a few weeks, the Cats will be back at the Black Swan Tavern for a late afternoon matinée show. With two shows already done (guesting Salabama this past June and Omar Saab in November), the format seems to be established. This time – Sunday, January 26, 2020 from 4 to 8 PM – our guest will be Chris Scian, for whom the Cats will provide backup for two sets after we set the mood with one of our own.

Chris and I first crossed paths at a open mics, particularly at the one at Legends on Danforth, hosted by Amber Durette and Gary Edward Allen. Although Chris more often plays covers, he is an established and gifted songwriter, which led to an appearance at my Songwriters’ Circle back in July of 2018.

Chris’ solid vocals and deep catalogue of songs made him an obvious choice for our Black Swan matinée. We expect this to be a solidly fun show, so please join us, Chris (Scian) and Chris (Bender), along with NeMo and me. There is no cover, but PWYC donations are always welcome.

Until next week, where I may geek out on a new gear project, be well!

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2019 – The Year That Was

2019 was a year of unexpected changes, but also one where a path has begun to define itself from some of the diversions.

January

Within a week of the new year beginning, we were moving my mom from here condo to her new apartment, prepping it for sale and meeting contractors to begin basement renovations here (more on that later). Musically, a fun show at the Linsmore with Ryan Schmidt, David Macmichael and Paul Brennan (Mudlust and the Short Walk) AND headliners Level Ground for Indie Tuesday, with construction of the drum booth in ManCave Studio in the background.

February

With the drum booth complete, in thought that recording could resume for the Félix and the Cats EP. Ha! At least I caught some very good shows, including a good part of Winterfolk as a volunteer, as well as catching the excellent Reggaddiction at Jasper Dandy.

March

An early month show at the old Relish got March off to a great start, with a solo show at Might and Main to bookend. In the middle, lots of activity helping daughter and son-in-law-to-be get ready for a big move to Hamilton!

April

The big move to Hamilton for #1 daughter and partner was the family feature for April. Still got in some shows, notably Tyler Ellis at Dora Keogh, and a great evening with Monkey Fighting’ Snakes AND Félix & the Cats for a double bill! Meanwhile, work in the studio has=d “ground” to a stop due to basement renovations.

May

May was a quiet month for gigs but on the plus side, ManCave Beach (seen below) was finally cemented over and recording could resume.

June

Things got busier in June, with a Linsmore show attended as audience, a trip to Rivière-du-Loup and some amazing grassroots music, and the first of the Sunday matinees at the Black Swan, featuring Salabama as the featured performer. Additionally, a fine birthday bash for Tony Oldland, an Ashley Gilmore / Fraz Milne show at Duggan’s Brewery and another the same night at the Dakota with Kyle Sullivan, Graeme Moffat and Alan Zemaitis as the superstar rhythm section.

July

July opened with a bang catching the Marwills—always a fave— at the NEW Relish, followed by a long deferred performance at the open mic on the following. Later, Reggaddiction was featured at Woodbine Park, then another Relish open mic with a distinctly family flavour. The month closed with a very latin vibe with Bruce Jones, Robin Asher and Lucya Almeida at the Amsterdam.

August

More shows, including two Chloé Watkinson performances, The Lonely Hearts’ debut at the Dakota and at the Long & MacQuade mural reveal, and sitting in with Salabama.

September

With a family visit from across the pond, the beginning of the month was devoted to entertaining and sharing the regional highlights. Later in the month, NeMo playing for an Indigenous/Reggae CD Launch, some recording and our début at the BRAND NEW Relish at 511 Danforth, particularly notable for TWO photographers catching our every move on stage.

October

A road trip and some thought provoking thoughts by Greta Thunberg pushed Mrs. F&Cats and I to go hybrid. Another Indie Tuesday Linsmore show had the Cats playing with the FortNights and Phillip Vonesh and the Spare Parts. Later, saw Fraz Milne again (he is one has of FortNights) playing his own tunes, with James Clark, a favourite, opening.

At month’s end, back at the Linsmore to catch a great evening with Leanna Yamada, who has recorded at the ol’ ManCave, and featuring Daniela Gassi who performed with all 3 acts, including Menage, a revelation!

November

November began with a bang, with a Black Swan Sunday matinee featuring Omar Saab, who not only took the time to learn two sets worth of my songs, but did a killer set of covers, adding impromptu tunes on the fly. Loved it! It was also a time to do some decluttering of the studio, the items leaving finding happy new homes thanks to Cask Music. Work also began on elder daughter’s ceramic studio, converted from a dingy garage. That project is almost done, and the results are gratifying. Also, caught an evening of song at the Dock on Queen (hoping to be back myself in 2020) with Ryan Schmidt and Timothy Sheldon, who have never sounded better.

December

Another trip to Rivière-du-Loup to deal with my papa’s passing cast a pall over December. It was good to keep busy otherwise with a recording session, some mixing and a pre-Christmas record launch.

Then there was the work in Hamilton… Got to learn about self-levelling cement.

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Image may contain: textThe year ends with a great family Christmas, and an exciting show tonight, New Year’s eve, at the Ripley Aquarium with son-in-law in waiting Omar Saab’s band, The Lonely Hearts getting everyone dancing (yes even me as promised to Mrs. F&Cats).

Next year’s first post may include some resolutions.

TBD…

 

In the meantime, wishing you my few and faithful reader to be well for 2020. Happy New Year!

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