There is a link from last week’s blog to this one, and his name is Howard Rabkin. Originally from Montréal, Howard has been a solidly recurring presence at the best shows I’ve attended, providing bass for a number of creative and original artists. Last time, it was in the context of playing with Tyler Ellis, who by the way is performing in Markham on April 27 at The Living Room “A House Concert With A Difference”. The Living Room is a premium space to catch a show. More about the space here.
This past Friday, he was part of David Storey‘s band, the Side Road Scholars, at the Tranzac Club, a great show that morphed into a birthday celebration for Lawrie Ingles, who guested a few times at my old ABC Songcircle, and took it over along with Henry Lees last year. David performed new material from his latest album “Made in Canada” (officially released at Winterfolk this past February) and many audience favourites.
By special request from Lawrie, I played Bowling For Dolores at the aftershow/birthday party with a fantastic backup group. Thanks guys!
Howard also works with Evelynne Ross in the acoustic duo Evolution. It’s worth taking a minute to read the bio below for both of these fine artists.
This Weekend Is It
This coming show at the Black Swan (Saturday April 20), will be our last for a while. With so much having happened and other things to come (albeit positively disruptive), I will need to focus on one thing to get the EP done, and the project is lagging behind.
So again, here are the posters for the event. The Cats are frisky to play and even more so with Monkey Fightin’ Snakes as our special guests! Those honouring 420 can attend suitably affected.
Last Friday, I had the pleasure of attending the EP launch party for one of my favourite singer/songwriters, Tyler Ellis. I have seen and heard Tyler many times, always with the same delight at his lyrics and the honesty of his music. Solidly backed by the Eddy Line (Howard Rabkin on bass, Gary Edwards on drums and John McLean on guitar), Tyler played to a full house at Dora Keogh to introduce his new EP Spring. You can click on the link to hear and buy the EP on iTunes.
Here is his bio from the ABC Songwriters’ Circle I used to host.
Tyler Ellis writes the most wonderfully understated, insightful, wry, disarming, and uniquely Canadian songs you are ever likely to hear. He has shared a bill with the likes of Willie P. Bennett, Ron Hynes, James Keelaghan, Julian Taylor, Steven Page, and Mr. Dressup. He has had a video on Much Music, performed live on Global and City TV, received local and national radio exposure; and has garnered national critical acclaim while happily spending most of his time writing, recording, performing locally, coaching (hockey, of course), teaching (music, of course) and spending time with his family.
I’m happy to report that the initial mixing of Sal Indigo aka Salabama’s latest four songs is done and so far the reaction from those involved has been very positive. I’m also very grateful to those guys for letting me fiddle with their creativity…learning a lot and having fun in the process. More to come with a few tunes still to track later in the spring. Now, back to recording Félix & the Cats.
Speaking of which, just a quick reminder to add to your calendar our 420 show at the Black Swan Tavern, on April 20th, obvs, with very special guests Monkey Fightin’ Snakes.
Partly that is because the Sunday afternoon I usually reserve for writing this blog was otherwise pleasantly taken up with a 4-song recording session with Sal Indigo, along with FatC drummer Chris Bender and graciously sitting in on bass, Lonely Hearts‘ front man Omar Saab.
This was the first run through for the new isolation booth, and first listen seems to be an enthusiastic thumbs up by Chris, who added the acoustic quality in the room was very good despite the coziness. A huge benefit was how much better everyone could hear themselves in the headphones. I guess the proof of the pudding was indeed in the eating (it seems this is the correct idiom).
The tracks have still to be mixed, and if Sal is good with it, I could feature in an upcoming blog.
This coming Sunday March 31, I will be playing a super rare solo acoustic afternoon show at the Might & Main Café from 12 to 1. Thank you to Phillip Vonesh for setting that up! Come on down for coffee and rarely performed tunes.
As the studio is back in functioning order, I have been starting the process of mixing drums recorded here, albeit prior to the drum booth being built. One of the issues I have been dealing with is making the snare and bass drum more present and snappy. Some knob fiddling helped, but I kept wondering whether there was a better way to enhance the mix, and sure enough there is.
Logic Pro X, the application I use to record, has a cool function that allows you to Replace or Double Drum Track…
So I tried it.
The way it works, in simple terms, is that it samples the drum sound you wish to replace or double, and uses the loudest parts to generate trigger points for Logic’s own built-in samples. A great number of different snare, bass and tom drum sounds are available, so it’s a question of using one’s ears to hear what suits best and mixing in that selection to enhance what is already there, at least that’s how I use it. Mind you, this is VERY new to me so I hope I am doing it right.
Here are two samples of drums from the upcoming EP to illustrate. The difference may be subtle on ear buds or your phone’s speakers but noticeable enough through larger speakers. I think this will improve the mix.
Drums with triggered samples
If you’ve been looking at the sidebar on a laptop or desktop browser, you may have noticed I quietly slipped in a new show at the Black Swan on Easter weekend – Saturday April 20 (yes 420) to be precise. We are playing a double bill with one of my very favourite local bands, Monkey Fightin’ Snakes, whom I have written about already here.
Both Matthew from MFS and I have worked on posters for the event so I thought I’d share our complementary approaches. Enjoy!
The band had a great time last night at Relish Bar and Grill. Thanks to the folks who resisted the urge to coccoon and those who were there for Noah Zacharin and kindly struck around.
As a noteworthy aside, a distant second (twice removed?) cousin from the St. Pierre side of the family made a special trip out to the show! Thomas is the grandson of my uncle Georges’ brother in law (there will be a short quiz at the end of this blog). I have posted about that family before, and am reposting a picture of Thomas’ grandpapa’s brother (great uncle?) Georges St. Pierre on banjo at Lac Jerry sometime in the 60s. That’s me in short pants.
While we waited to set up, the band had a chance to fully appreciate Noah Zacharin’s stunning guitar skills and songwriting prowess. Noah is a widely acclaimed guitar master, multi-genre songwriter, and dynamic performer. According to his bio, he was given his first guitar at age 9, wrote his first song at 13, and began performing at 14. In December 2015, Zacharin became a full-time recording and touring musician. Born in Montreal (which explains why he spoke with me in French), Zacharin splits his time between Toronto, the road, and an off-grid cabin on the Canadian Shield. It was a thrill to hear him in such an intimate context and I invite you to check out his music at the link provided above.
And speaking of intimate settings, another of the great shows I caught at Winterfolk last weekend was a transcendent performance by jazz vocalist Simone Morris and guitarist Mike Freedman. I had the honour to MC the final evening on the cozy third floor at the Black Swan and introduce these two accomplished musicians as the final act of the festival in that venue. Can’t thank them enough for that unforgettable evening!
One of the songs we played last night was an ode to Relish, which was put together last year following a challenge by David Macmichael and Paul Brennan, the hosts of the Stir It Up Sunday open mic. A few people answered the call, Jace Traz and Dan Boggs notably. This is a demo of my attempt. I hope you like it.
The last weekend was a whirlwind of activity. Besides family commitments, I worked 3 nights at this year’s Winterfolk XVII, the first two as tech assist and the final as MC, and all at the Black Swan.
I have to comment how much I respect the organizers, hired staff and other volunteers for their commitment to making this an amazing event. Particularly, Jen who patiently herded many cats, and Kevin, Aaron and Richard for amazing technical prowess, not to mention their kindness with me, and skill and persistence with technical challenges. I learned a lot!
The great fringe benefit was listening to so many great and unique performances. There were too many to include in one post so I will drop a mention to as many as possible in the upcoming weeks.
Notable for personal reasons on Sunday afternoon was the performance by family friends Alana and Leigh Cline. Here is a bit of them in performance. It takes me back to the kind of music I would hear when visiting the relatives in the Bas-du fleuve.
Reggae Fans Take Note!
This coming Thursday evening (February 28, 2019), FatCats bassist NeMo will be holding the the bottom end with Reggaddiction at the cool Jasper Dandy. It gets even better as ABC Songwriters’ Circle alumnus and all-round muy versátil artist Lilly Mason will be up front on vocals. The band will be performing songs from Ganja Harvest, their upcoming album which pays tribute to the Canadian legend Neil Young’sHarvest album, reinterpreted in a reggae dub version. Can’t wait!
Gig This Saturday
The Cats are back at Relish this coming Saturday. As always, super big thanks to Joanne Clayton who makes musicians always feel so welcome. We hope you can come down for this show—things kick off at 9:30.
The ManCave drum isolation booth work is advancing slowly but surely. That and a combination of other personal and familiar obligations have made the domicile chaotic. Hopefully February will turn out to be Tidy Up month.
The ceiling bulkhead around the heating duct is done, and Mrs. FatC had the brilliant notion to make the entire front portion of the iso booth wall hinge out, so that is what is currently being planned once the full ceiling is installed. A few necessary supplies are also waiting installation.
Past and Future Gigs
A big thank you to the enthusiastic fans who came out to the Linsmore Tavern last Tuesday to support the Cats and our stage companions Mud Lust and the Short Walk, who pleasantly surprised everyone with a full-band set instead of a solo performance, and Level Ground who made their auspicious debut. As always, I am so fortunate to have the fab NeMo on bass and the awesome Chris Bender on the kit.
In case you missed some of the social media posts, Félix & the Cats will be performing a featured mini-set this Wednesday at TonyO’s Jammers event at the Salty Dog. This week, it’s Beatles vs Stones night, so we might even stick around for some covers. Should be a fun night starting at 8:30!
Our return to Relish is only a month away (Saturday March 2 9:30 – 11:30). It’s always great to go back to where it all started and everything changed. For sure I’ll be playing the Relish ode that night.
I have just recently been booked for a solo acoustic set at Might & Main (formerly The Grinder) at the end of March. Hopefully that should be lots of heads-up to add to your calendar. It’s at a pleasant 12-1 pm time slot so consider coming down for a set of my wacky originals and a great cup of coffee.
Thanks for reading! Do share the link if you think others would be interested.
This coming Tuesday has the Cats back on stage at the Linsmore for Indie Tuesdays, this time with former ABC Songcircle guest Ryan Schmidt, aka Mud Lust and the Short Walk opening at 8, then FatC at 9, and headlining at 10, a newly christened band called Level Ground, formerly Shank Street Social. It promises to be an evening of variety and all-original goodness.
After a former band went its separate ways, Ryan Schmidt moved to Toronto from Alcona, ON, enticed by the big city lights and easy access to the many open stages on which to play each week. He fell in love with thrill of playing his guitar for appreciative audiences, and the freedom of writing and performing his own material, so much so that he rearranged his life to do it more.
Ryan thrives in gritty, swampy blues. His songs are grounded in a lyrical honesty while speaking the language of the blues in a new and original voice, with strong images and stories of hurt and frustration. The music sits in solid grooves and soars to his growling slide guitar. Ryan has recently released his first album. Mud Lust and the Short Walk.
Level Ground is the new band that features the writing of lead singer/guitarist James Légère, with Gordon McKinnon on keyboards, Bill Légère AND Mark Marchesich on drums and percussion (mmm! this might get funky!), and Robin Latimer on bass and vocals.
Below is one of James’ songs with the previous simpler 3-piece incarnation of the band. I can’t wait to hear his soulful tunes with the addition of keys and the double percussion!
The studio is currently totally topsy-turvy as I’ve decided to build a drum isolation room before my neighbours complain about the racket. The floor is carpet tile on particle board foam-backed panels, all floating on heavy rubber padding. Hopefully that will cut down the kick drum transmission. The walls and ceilings will be insulated with acoustic insulation, and probably covered with wood slats rather than drywall, but that is something to figure out later. A plexiglas panel will be included to minimize claustrophobia. More as the project advances.
Looking forward to seeing a bunch of you at the Linsmore this Tuesday!