A Musician Walks Into A Bar…

…and asks, ” What year is this?”

This post is a bit late as I was waiting for a topic to manifest itself. It took a few extra days but one has appeared.

Thanks to Joanne Clayton, proprietor, curator and chef at Relish Bar and Grill for this. She recently posted a sobering status update on Facebook.

There is no doubt that almost everyone has struggled though the pandemic, but I think we need to take a moment to reflect on the plight of small business owners, particularly those in the hospitality industry. Consider as well that many of these businesses help the musical community by employing artists who need that work to supplement what they earn from shows and are now laid off and unable to perform live (at least there is CERB and EI). I could go on about the challenges and misconceptions of running a restaurant AND paying musicians even at the best of times, but I’ll save that for another rant post.

Throw into the mix how a club like Relish that has a core mission of supporting live music, and you quickly understand that we ALL lose if it, and places like it don’t make it through the pandemic.

Relish deserves our support. It’s that simple. https://www.relishbarandgrill.com

East York

East York (former borough), Ontario (Canada)

A few weeks ago, good friend Salabama got in touch to see if we could produce a “full band version” of a song he had written for and performed at East York’s (a former borough of Toronto pre-amalgamation for any of you non-local readers) Canada Day celebration. However, the pandemic put a wrench in the works, so the organizing committee changed the plan to having a celebratory website in order to maintain social distancing. A key component of this would be a recording of We Love East York.

Initially, Sal sent me an iPhone recording of live captured vocals and acoustic guitar. NeMo, Chris and I were able to add our parts after the fact, to the point where the recording was sufficiently fleshed out to submit to the committee for approval, pending a better recording.

Once we got the go ahead, recording the song while staying apart posed some challenges, but since many of those had been worked out on other demos with the guys, it went smoothly. Here was the process.

First came the basic guitar track with a click track/software drum track just to maintain a steady rhythm. This was sent to Chris and NeMo who recorded at home and added their parts (replacing the provisional virtual drums). These files were Dropboxed to me and flowed into the master mix.

To re-record Sal, the bed tracks were bounced and transferred to Garageband and copied to an iPad mini so I could go to Sal’s and do a remote recording. I set up on his back deck and ran the mic inside to record vocals, then changed the setup to mic his amp for the slide guitar overdub (geek note: Sennheiser MK4 for vox, Sennheiser e609 for amp, iRig Pro interface).

The chants and handclaps were dubbed after the fact and duplicated to create the “crowd” effect – thanks NeMo and Bender family! Could not have done this without you. Also many thanks to Sal for trusting me with this!

This project was a lot of fun to complete, and meaningful too. It’s always a treat to work with Sal, and East York, while not my community by only a few blocks, was where I first started working in education before the TDSB was formed. Below is the video produced for the song, and here is the link to East York’s Celebration site.

Happy Canada Day!

Be safe and well!

Ivory Towers

Social isolation has led to many encabané songwriters composing pandemic-themes odes, including Dan Boggs’ excellent Bunker Town featured here. As promised a few posts back, here is mine.

Thanks to Neil Morris (bass) and Chris Bender (drums and backing vocals) for playing on it and feedback. Hope you like it!

So This Is a Problem?

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It’s been a while since I took stock of the entire array of effects pedals I own. The good news is that I never actually need or would use all of these at once. There are actually three separate systems geared towards stage size and gig requirements, so there’s quite a bit of redundancy. A fourth board (top right) works with any of the other three to add Mellotron and looping. A few odds and ends on the lower left, including one that looks like a pedal but is actually an amplifier — the Traynor Quarter Horse.

Anyway, when you look at them all together…yeah maybe that’s enough.

For now.

Be safe and be well!

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!

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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What A Week!

There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, 
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy. 
 Hamlet (1.5.167-8), Hamlet to Horatio


Pierre Pelletier (1933-2019)

It’s been an intense week as I had to deal with the death of my dad. It wasn’t completely unexpected as his health had been in decline, but as these often go, one can never be sure of when it will actually happen. So I sadly wasn’t able to be there when he passed but did travel to Rivière-du-Loup the following day to take care of the consequences. It’s ongoing…

My dad was an fun-loving man until his health started to fail. His lifelong interest in politics often fueled it chats. For the last few decades until three years ago, he would spend the winter in the Dominican Republic. This led to the writing of my song The Final Winter. I am reposting it in his memory.

Final winter – 2017-01-04, 3.17 PM

Be well!

Remue-Menage*

Black Swan with Omar.jpgThis weekend, on Sunday, November 3, this is happening! We played this slot back in the summer with special guest Salabama. This time, it’s Omar Saab, lead singer for the Lonely Hearts, who will be sitting in after cramming to learn two sets of my wacky tunes, then doing a feature set with the Cats and I as his backing band. It doesn’t get better! My turn to cram for his tunes!

And, as the showtime is a very reasonable 4 to 8 pm, there isn’t really any “school night” excuse for this one so we are hoping for a lot of interest. Great for the early-to-bed crowd too!

This is a one-off performance, so it’s worth your while to catch the show!


Out and About

Last Tuesday, I attended one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time at the Linsmore. Organized by violinist (and many more instrumentalist) Daniela Gassi, whom I featured in a previous blog from when she recorded at my studio, the evening featured three sets in which Dani participated.

IMG_2476 2.jpgThe first was with bassist/guitarist Liam Gerussi. A mix of covers and originals by both Dani and Liam, it already promised to be a great night for captivating performances, with many instruments used as well!

IMG_2484Second up was Leanna Yamada, who I’ve written about before as well. This was the best performance I’ve ever heard her give. It was a real treat to hear Dani and Leanna play River Town with the arrangements they had developed at ManCave Studio.

IMG_2494Finally, and a brilliantly surprising end to the evening, was Menage, Toronto-based, progressive, alt/pop/rock sibling group Menage features siblings Fernando (guitar/vocals) and Bela (keyboard/vocals) Ferreira. With popular releases in Portugal and China (yup!), Menage is set on furthering their recognition in North America. They certainly got my attention! I now REALLY want the EHX Mel9 “Mellotron” pedal!

Here is their final song of the night, with Dani sitting in (yes, I know, should have been in landscape!).

They will be at the Piston on November 5 (you owe it to yourself to catch this show!). For a further sampling of their sound, check out the above linked website or their Facebook page here.


*The title is a French play on words – remue-méninges = brainstorming


Until this Sunday perhaps, be well!

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Hitsville USA at the Movies

A few years back, some friends along with Mrs. F&theCats and I visited the Motown Museum in Detroit. It was a remarkable experience where I learned a lot about what made that place special (hint: it wasn’t just one thing).

The embedded video, courtesy of Reverb.com, does a good job of capturing some of the magic and explaining a bit of the chemistry too. Check it out!

It goes almost without saying that Berry Gordy‘s vision and genius in putting it all together was a key factor. There are a couple of recent documentaries in which he appears that would I would suggest you see if the subject interests you.

The first is Hitsville: The Making of Motown that features Gordy and Smoky Robinson providing fun insight into the history. The second is called Clive Davis: The Soundtrack of Our Lives, where Gordy is briefly interviewed, but focuses obviously on Clive Davis, of which I knew much less beforehand. Well worth catching to see how megastars are “made”.

Both are viewable on streaming platforms.


Next Tuesday Gig Alert

Just a reminder that the Cats will be at the Linsmore next week (Tuesday) for Indie Night squeezed in between the Fortnights at 8:00 and Phillip Vonesh and the Spare Parts at 10:00. Some more ab

We’d all love to see you come out and support live music!

Until then, be well!

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Go Pro

Some recent social media posts have got me thinking more deeply about the oft-read rant regarding “amateur” musicians “stealing professional” jobs. It is the last quoted word that got me curious.

What does it mean to be a “professional musician”?

At the far end of the scale, it’s obvious: musicians who earn their entire livelihood from playing music. Easy enough!

But what about, say, someone who works in a music store and plays shows in the evenings and on weekends? Does the day job disqualify that person from the professional ranks or is working in a music store a mitigating factor?

Okay, let’s take that further. What about someone who work instead as a server in a live music venue? Does the place of day employ shield a musician from being ranked amateur? What if he/she/they work in a doughnut shop?

Is it a question of how many hours performed vs. the day job?

Perhaps I’m looking at this all wrong…could it be a question of expertise or raw talent? Is it attitude and the ability to please an audience? Is it originality?

I have my own ideas, but I’d like to hear back from you, dear readers. Just leave a comment if you wish.


FatC Relish Sept 21.jpgThis Saturday the Cats Will Play

After a good and hot rehearsal last night working through the four new tunes we hope to launch, the Cats are raring to go this Saturday at Relish 2.0. We kick off at 9:30, but please come early for the food and former ABC Songcircle guest One-Eyed Oracle (aka Boris Buhot) playing from 7 to 9.

Make it a full evening of live entertainment!

 

 

 

Be there and be well!

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