This week in Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz
Jan. 24, 2019

I have a certain amount of disappointment I missed Mudmen concerts in Orillia the last 5 times they were here, but glad I got the chance to see them at The Orillia Opera House last Saturday night.

To begin with, the brothers/bandleaders, Robbie and Sandy Campbell are really nice and personable guys. They were in the lobby after the show for an hour talking with fans (many of whom travelled a great distance; one group came from Cambridge)- and in the lulls answered all my questions and shared philosophy about music and performance with me.

The show itself was two hours long, and the brothers played bagpipes every single song. I realize some of you might be thinking that’s a bit much for listening to bagpipes, but the band did a fantastic job of arranging the songs to support and blend the sound. It ended up being just another colour/tone added to the standard guitar/bass/drums rock sound.

Mike Meacher played guitar and sang. He’s got one of the best voices I’ve heard in some time. Jeremy Burton was doing very interesting things behind the drums. It turns out he’s had some real training, the kind I’m familiar with. Bassist Dan Westenenk is the perfect kind of bassist, good stage presence and antics.

Some of the music leaned more toward a traditional Celtic feel, and some of it was pretty good head banging fare. The audience surprised me because seen from above would reveal a more grey hair-headed folks than a rock concert should – a lot more. That said, the mood by the end of the night was appreciated by all, the Mudmen got two standing ovations.

I’d definitely go see them again. We’ll all get to because they announced they will be back January 18, 2020. They have also been working on new music and will have a 9th album out this year – and the brothers are writing a book about their 20 year career.

Got Me Thinking

A thought popped up following the Mudmen concert. I’ve heard their music and liked it. I had an idea of what to expect seeing them for the first time, but as per many other times I’ve heard a band or musician play in a live setting for the first time it was much better than the Memorex experience.

There are many songs and bands we’ve all listened to thousands of times and never witnessed firsthand. For me, Rush, the Hip, Buddy Rich, America, Tower of Power and countless others made music I was very well familiar with – then I saw them at a concert and everything changed.

The live experience turned me into a state beyond someone who just liked the music into a fan. The music became indispensable in my life. Every time I heard a rerecording, my brain superimposes the live experience to my living room, or car, or wherever I’m encountering it. (Can we still listen to music while driving, or is that distracted driving now?)

Conversely, hearing music live from say, the Orillia Silver Band or Orillia Concert Bands always exposes me to music I haven’t heard before. Often I come away with a piece stuck in my ear that I have to find copy of to add to my library.

I wish I knew more about why hearing music live, even familiar music, makes such an impression on humans. It obviously does or concerts wouldn’t’ be a thing. If you are one who doesn’t regularly go to concerts, it seems to me you are missing out on one of life’s great pleasures, and mysteries.

OMAH @ 20

The Orillia Museum of Art & History’s 20th anniversary is this year, August actually, but that isn’t stopping them from starting the party early – like Saturday.

OMAH @ 20 opens at 2 p.m. and will feature art and artifacts from the collection that haven’t been seen in a long while, or ever. From the never drawer comes items from Pete McGarvey’s collection of things he kept from CFOR. Some of the blueprints from Sir Sam Steele building renos will be displayed, Two of the 4 Alex Colville paintings OMAH has will be hanging around, and they’ll be playing the video of the International Museum Dance Off OMAH won just a few years ago.

Also available for your viewing pleasure is the annual student art show, the Legacy Landscapes: Couchiching Conservancy 25th Anniversary exhibit and the Labour of Love textile show.

Sunday Storytelling Orillia has “Good for a Laugh,” at 2 p.m. with Tim Greenwood featured. Also, if you’ve been working on a book with anything to do with Orillia, OMAH is taking submissions for the Mulcahy Publishing Initiative until Jan. 31. Email with the subject header Mulcahy Initiative for details.

Simcoe County Arts Grants

Just in, the County of Simcoe announced they are open for applications from arts groups to get a piece of a $200,000 grant fund.

Forty groups received grants in 2018. New and existing groups can apply. You have to submit an expression of interest by Feb. 1 in one of three categories (capacity building, a project, and sustaining initiatives) band the application deadline is March 15. For complete details go to

The Shorts

  • Congratulations to Steve and Marni Van Kessel. Their album, Terms and Conditions, has made it too the shortlist for the International Song of the Year by a Duo Award. Blues and Roots is an internet radio website with hosts and content from around the world. The other shortlisters are 3 acts from Australia and one from Ireland. The winner is announced Jan 25.
  • The Severn Winterfest is happening at ODAS Park – Orillia & District Agric. Society Jan. 25, 26 and 27. It’s going to look a lot like the Orillia Winter Carnival with some additions like a demolition derby (Saturday 1 p.m.) roller skating, and an igloo village. There’s a dance Saturday night with the Rob Watts Band doing the tunes (tickets – $15 – at the ODAS office in advance, $20 at the door) and a polar bear dip on the Sunday at 1 p.m. There is a $5 weekend pass. For more information visit
  • St. Paul’s Orillia has the Reconciliation Art Project Workshop happening Saturday, from 9:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. Create your own art amidst the (Re)conciliation Art Project exhibition. Cost is $50, $30 for students. Register at the office (Peter Street entrance) Mondays through Thursdays. St. Paul’s also has a Rabbie Burns concert with The Celts Friday at 8 p.m. You can get tickets ($27) here . St. Paul’s is also the venue for the Huronia Cultural Campus’s Cottagers and Indians, a play by Drew Hayden Taylor, Feb. 1. Get tickets ($30) at or Manticore Books.
  • Mariposa Arts Theatre’s next movie night is Feb. 6 with the Japanese movie, Shoplifters a the galaxy at 4 and 7 p.m. Te other February night is the 20th with A Private War. February 7 is coming up fast, do you have tickets for MAT’s Diary of Anne Frank yet? It runs for 2 weeks at the Opera House.
  • The Orillia Concert Band is having a Trivia Night fundraiser Monday at 7 p.m. at Kelsey’s Restaurant. Admission is $10 per person, teams of 4, or join one. It starts at 7 p.m. Hit the link above to RSVP.
  • The Geneva Event Centre has The Old Dance Hall Players in Friday night with “Tongues Stuck to Metal.” Get tickets ($15 advance, $20 at the door) by emailing On Feb. 9 Yuk Yuk’s, with featured comics Rob Bebenek with Nigel Grinstead and Bryan Hatt, is in for a show. Get tickets ($25) at or
  • The Mariposa Folk Festival has the 8th annual Evening of Blues and Gospel concert happening Feb. 9 at St. Paul’s Centre. Lance Anderson has Harrison Kennedy, Michelle White, Jesse Whiteley, Gary Craig and Dennis Pendrith along to play with him. Get tickets ($30) at or at the Peter Street Arts District office.
  • Doug Shakell told me he has 4 entries for the Washago Song Writing Contest he’s stickhandling with the Washago Lions Club – and there are 5 others in various stages of completion. Get cracking. I’ll be one of the judges. He’s got a list of people to wrangle to fill the other two seats – all of whom know something about writing songs and making music. Write a song about Washago, record it on video and submit it to by March 15, 2019. There are prizes, $500 for the winner. The top ten get to perform their entry at the Washago Community Centre March 31.
  • Coming up… The Brownstone Cafe has Tech Night with D J Subverse Tech Friday… the Hog N’ Penny has Paul Brooks in Friday night … The Orillia Opera House has the Vagina Monologues returning (fundraiser for Green Haven Shelter for Women) Feb. 22; get tickets at the box office or at V-Day Orillia 2019 – The Vagina Monologues… As Is are playing the ANAF Club Saturday at 8 p.m. … Peter Street Fine Arts Gallery & Studio still has a few pieces left from the 6×6 Show, all under a hundred, actually for a hundred you could get several… Bill Dunlop sent me a screen shot of the Amazon Prime page with Team Howard, the documentary he is involved in, for sale.

(Photo by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)

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