Just in from the new "hotspot" in Toronto, The Dakota Tavern. I dropped in to see my old buddy Matt Masters - I thought it was his show but it turns out he was opening for another Alberta cowboy singer/songwriter - Tim Hus. I never heard of Tim but as I was watching his set, I overheard someone (his manager?) telling a buddy that they just heard Tim was nominated for Songwriter of the Year at the upcoming Canadian Folk Awards. How does somebody come out of nowhere like that (it was his first appearance in Toronto) and get on the ballot? It makes me think there could not have been too many people submitting to that category...or perhaps to the folk awards generally. Not to dis his songwriting but I could not really hear much of either Tim or Matt because the crowd was so noisy. I wondered what this guy was thinking, he drives all the way to Toronto (though he had a nice ride if that was his Sprinter van parked out front) to play the hip new bar and nobody is really listening. Anyway he had the upbeat tunes to play for that crowd but not a great showcase for a Songwriter of the Year. Our favourite publicist/scenester told me "Justin is here, Serena is here, only Luke Doucet is missing!" And I had a chance to catch up with young Liam Titcomb who is just back from a songwriting session in Nashville.
Many friends were launching CDs over the last couple of weeks, I didn't make it to either Suzie Vinnick's launch at Hugh's Room or Paula Shear's launch at the Gladstone because I just ran out of steam. I was cooked on Sunday from a late night and miles and miles of walking at the Nuit Blanche last Sunday. That was quite phenomenal - amazing installations, one by Byron Wong who filled a small park with microphones and speakers and created feedback loops that he processed through a bank of synthesizers (all electric, as he pointed out - nothing digital). In addition, there was another artist who created a video program that allowed the sound to be manipulated as you passed your hand in front of the screen. Up the road at the Ontario College of Art, one young man had a projector in the back of a pick-up truck and had somehow installed a wireless mouse and some kind of laser pointer into a spray can so that if you pointed at this 4 or 5 story wall you could "draw" by pressing down the button on the can. Hi-tech graffiti - and easy to erase!
I saw my Montreal buddy Michael Jerome Browne (and partner B. who made it to town for the occasion). He was releasing his new CD at the Gladstone – he had a great young organist with him – the name was Don Cummings, but when I asked Don about what other stuff he was doing it seemed he does not play a lot – he was subbing for Ken pearson, who played organ on Michael's CD. I also got to Carlos del Junco's CD launch at the Dollar and he was playing up a storm – with a new guitarist, Eric St-Laurent (I think…). This guy had some big shoes to fill following in the footsteps of Kevin Breit and Shawn Kellerman but he pulled it off. Not to forget Mark Sepic, who played a lot with Carlos and who composed one of the tunes they played. Dropped in a Mark's jam in the beaches the other day and did a couple of tunes with him. I must get out more often (to the jams, I mean).
The most amazing band I saw this month was a group from Turkey called Baba Zula – and it was the visual element that added to the impact. The band was a guy playing beats and loops with a percussionist and a guy playing something resembling a 3-string guitar which he ran through a bank of pedals and effects. What was most fascinating was an artisr off to the side doodling on a graphics tablet and creating real-time graphics on a rear screen projector. My eyes were glued to that screen – except for when the belly dancer came out… Also got to hear Vieux Farka Touré as part of the Small World Festival and he was terrific, too. Not as versatile as his late dad, Ali Farka Touré, but he had that African guitar groove that I love.