Risky Business

The lure of things new, shiny and tenuously linked has always been irresistible for me. This week’s surprise last-minute show at the Linsmore (this Tuesday, June 11, 2019 – 10 pm, for those interested) is a case in point. Not content to stir the pot by subbing in the amazing Omar Saab, lead singer of the Lonely Hearts, for his live debut on bass, as NeMo had a previous commitment, I have also decided to try out a new rig, shown below.

Why not!

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Traynor Quarter Horse 25-watt pedal/amp, the mini pedalboard, Tokai Talbo Blazing Fire guitar and Rexx single-12 speaker cabinet.

Now, these are (almost) all components I have used before, but never in this combination. The binding characteristics is that 3 of the 4 parts of the rig spark joy (those who have seen the clutter in the ManCave may laugh at the irony). All are connected to my past career at Yorkville Sound. The obvious link is the Traynor Quarter Horse which I just picked up this week as the sale price was irresistible (see the pattern?). I was very impressed with the sound right out of the box, particularly when paired with the Talbo, a product line Yorkville distributed in the 80s, and the Rexx speaker, designed by Yorkville (again) alumnus George Krampera. I’ll let you know next week how it all works out.

Also performing that evening will be Ian Alexander Robson at 8:00 PM and Dingo at 9:00 PM. The Facebook event link is here.

So, I do hope you will be there to support live music. Plus the beer is cheap!


Coming Soon

On Sunday June 23, The Cats will team up will Salabama (Sal Indigo) for a special matinee show from 4 to 8 at the Black Swan. More details as we near the date.

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Be well!

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Hunkering

Super thanks to loyal friends and fans who made it out for the Black Swan show this past Saturday, considering how many other things were happening as it was Easter weekend.

A special thank you goes out to Fraz and Emmy for being there so often, and to Kevin and Jen for impeccable sound. Particularly, I want to recognize Monkey Fightin’ Snakes for an awesome opening set.

 

 


More Upheaval

Work is about to begin in the basement area leading to ManCave Studio, so there may be some disruption to the blog over the next month. The good news is that this has forced us to tidy up and purge a lot of accumulated memorabilia. During that process, some interesting artefacts have surface. Here’s one with a shoutout to the Nerve, a band I worked with a few years back.

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L to R: Alex Vos, David Israelson, Richard Scarsbrook and me.

There may be some show announcements soon…tbc. In the meantime be well!

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Café Solo

I haven’t played a solo show in quite a while, so today’s show at Might & Main Café was pleasant, rewarding and more intimidating than I expected. Overall, it went well with flubs well-disguised and a forgiving audience—thanks!

Thanks to Phillip Vonesh and the staff for the opportunity to stretch outside my comfort zone.


Upgrades

The studio just got a major monitor upgrade, going from the solidly serviceable Yorkville YSM-5s to beefier and crisper Yamaha HS8s. Of course, now I have to remix everything accordingly! So that’s where I’ll be up to for the next long while I think.

More as progress ensues…

Be well!

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To the Max

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.

Until next week, be well!

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Substantial Completion

Finally!

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.


Gig Alert!

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!


Winterfolk

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!

Until then, be well

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A Guy Walks Into a Music Store…

Townsend Labs Sphere L22 FrontNo, 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. 

Photo from the Exeter Lakeshore Times-Advance

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 Hauber playing 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.

Until then, be well!

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Screen Gems

It’s been a harrowing week for a lot of reasons, so it came an uplifting change to go to the movies last night to catch Bohemian Rhapsody. The film is not perfect (plenty of anachronisms and factual inaccuracies if IMDB is to be believed) but definitely good show and the performances are excellent, particularly capturing the band’s physical presence on stage. It also inspired this week’s theme.

IMG_0166Way back, the ABC Songwriters’ Circle, show #3 (November 7, 2017) had three uniquely talented musicians on stage: Tyler Ellis, m.e. law, and Jessica Stuart. A brief summary of the evening is in the blog that followed the show.

Just recently, a film has been released that documents Jessica’s search for a childhood friend when she lived in Japan. Produced by Loud Roar Productions in conjunction with CBC Docs, Finding Fukue is a beautifully realized and inspiring 20-minute film that celebrates how true friendship can bridge both distance and time. Jessica is featured of course, but so is her music in the doc’s soundtrack. I have embedded Finding Fukue below and encourage you to watch.

Thanks for watching!

Jessica Stuart will next be performing at the Dakota Tavern for a series called ‘Therapy’ (usually the first Thursday of the month), but this time on Wednesday, December 5, featuring The Jessica Stuart Few (including koto), with Moves and Montréal group Gabi Tomé.

m.e. law has shows scheduled for early 2019, which I hope to update you with as details are confirmed.

Tyler Ellis is performing with his band the Eddy Line and special guests on Saturday, December 8, 2018 at Dora Keogh.

All are well worth catching, Maybe I’ll see you there. Be well!

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Talent Pool

So let’s jump in!

Although this week was a hard one due to long days at work (long term contract – still officially “retired”), I had to make time to catch some live music.

46339351_1933660803414653_7611599694044594176_n.jpgWhat better then than the 100th Nightowl show for The Lonely Hearts, about whom I have written before. The Lonely Hearts are an original cover band. If that sounds incongruent, let me explain.

Some cover bands approach the material and attempt to play it as closely as possible to the original. This is fine. The LH prefer to select crowd-pleasing songs, and deliver their essence, dotted occasionally with mash-ups for interest, and inject their own feel into them. An example would be the way they cover Sixpence None the Richer‘s Kiss Me, taking a great catchy jangly-guitar pop song and rocking it further up with a grittier and punchier approach. It’s also a great showcase for Omar Saab’s vocals, as this is originally a song performed by female vocalist Leigh Nash.

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L to R: Curtis Courtemanche (drums and vocals), Graeme Moffatt (bass), Omar Saab (guitar and lead vocals) Dave McCamus (lead guitar and vocals)

FatC was there in full force to celebrate the 100th show, and watch the band perform to packed house, which included a video and audio recording crew.46449284_988394358000385_2143834570770874368_n.jpg

For a sample of the Lonely Hearts sounds, check out the promo reel below. The audience reactions are genuine, and if anything, the live shows I’ve attended are even more energetic.


On our way back to the east end after leaving the Nightowl show, FatC drummer Chris Bender and I stopped in briefly to catch the end of the always excellent Friday Night Blues Jam, hosted by Mike Sedgwick and Robin Hutchison at the Salty Dog. Regrettably, I missed the feature set by the very talented Sam Taylor, aka Little Magic Sam, but we had a chance to connect and talk a bit. Once my day job commitment end (6:15 rise + one hour commute to work is not fun), I may be able to get out there and catch more of Sam’s shows.


Just a reminder we have a few shows coming up in December, plus freshly confirmed shows in the new year at the Linsmore and Relish. Please check the sidebar, subscribe to this site and be on the lookout on social media for event announcements!

Be well!

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ManCave Studio Diary #1 – Come On, Come On!

As I’ve already alluded to, the studio has become an important pursuit for me.

Starting off, I had a fairly clear idea of what I wanted to accomplish, beyond recording my own songs. While at this point I don’t pretend to be delivering fully radio-ready recordings, I hope I have set the bar high enough to deliver reasonably well produced songs that can act as quality demos for securing gigs, or helping singer-songwriters realize a full vision of their compositions.

One of the first projects I took on was a recording of Gary Edward Allen‘s Come On, Come On. Below is the bio I used for the now-ended ABC Songwriters’ Circle.

GaryGary Edward Allen is a singer songwriter hailing from Vancouver now living in Toronto but born and raised in Ottawa. He plays an interesting mesh of acoustic styles ranging from Neo-classical to psychedelic freak folk. Rooted in classic 70’s rock and 90’s alternative, but with modern sensibilities, Gary takes you on a journey every time. His songs are online and readily available on iTunes, Bandcamp, Soundcloud and ReverbNation. He performs and co-hosts at a weekly open mic with Amber Durette at Legends on Danforth every Thursday night.  (show #6 – Tuesday, November 28, 2017 / show #36 – July 17, 2018)

Gary and I have known each other for a few years now, first meeting at the Linsmore, then when I have performed at the Thursday Night Open Mic at Legends, which he co-hosts with Amber Durette. Gary kindly agreed to let me take a stab at producing a song for him. He came in well-prepared, and the song is very close to what I think he had in mind from the get-go, with the addition of an intro and the suggestion to hold the long vocal note just leading into the outro. Gary plays all the instruments save the drums which are from the built-in software in Logic Pro X, and which I tried to program as best I could. Still learning…

Track List:

  • Acoustic guitar 1 through AKG D202 panned hard left
  • Acoustic guitar 1 through Rode NT-1A panned hard right
  • Acoustic guitar 1 direct centred
  • Acoustic guitar 2 (after bridge/outro fills) through AKG D202 panned hard left
  • Acoustic guitar 2 (after bridge/outro fills) through Rode NT-1A panned hard right
  • Acoustic guitar 3 (intro) direct panned partway left; delay & reverb
  • Electric guitar 1 with modelling amp and fx panned hard left
  • Electric guitar 2 with modelling amp and fx panned hard left
  • Electric guitar 3 (capo’d at 12th fret) with modelling amp & fx panned partway right
  • Electric guitar 4 (slide for outro) with modelling amp and fx
  • Bass direct with modelling amp
  • Drums: Logic Virtual drummer – “Liverpool” kit, “Darcy” drummer
  • Vocals: single track through the Rode NT-1A

The recording is still rough, and given more time and more experience on my part, I’m certain we could tighten it up technically. Nevertheless, we are both reasonably happy with the result as it accomplishes what we had hoped, which was to flesh out what Gary had in mind and establish the right feel for it.

I hope you enjoy it!

Come On, Come On! ©2018 Gary Edward Allen

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And Speaking of Recording…

The Cats have finally been herded and we have begun laying down beds for our forthcoming album?/EP?, tbd. It is such a joy to work with Chris and Neil as they are creative and professional in every way. Thanks guys!

band with wine
Photos courtesy Chris Bender

Gig Alert -Change

This coming Saturday’s previously announced show the at the lovely Dock On Queen (Queen East between Logan and Carlaw) is postponed to a date to be determined.

Until next week, be well!

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