By John Swartz
I did it. Saturday’s mission was to get to each Mariposa Folk Festival venue and see at least one act – and not waste tons of time catching breaks between performer sets. Some of you may know I have the knack of showing up during festival events like the Spring Blues Fest and the Jazz Fest just in time to wait for an undetermined time while the band takes a break. COVID broke the cycle. At the end of this weekend review is some news, so stick with it, I’ll try to make it entertaining.
I planned to start at the furthest away venue, Braestone Farm and work my way downtown. Mimi O’Bonsawin was performing for 65 people. The capacity of Braestone is 75, so while some of the venues were sold out, it was a good sign there was only room for ten more people. Three concerts of six were sold out and the others only had room for 10 people more at each.
As I passed Wibbly World on the way out, I noticed the name has been changed to Braestone Club. When I’m going somewhere I’ve never been before I check a map and memorize the directions. I still take the directions on paper, but I found driving and looking at my terrible handwriting are two things which don’t go together well. So, as I was passing Braestone 1, I wondered if maybe my directions were wrong. The golf club is at the 11th line of Oro-Medonte, and I was sure where I was headed was on the 9th, so I kept going and it turned out my memory is still razor sharp. So if you are headed out to the farm for an event, keep going past the golf club.
I don’t know Mimi’s music, but I stayed for half a dozen tunes. She had the audience on her side. The problem with 5 concerts happening at the same time is the luck of the draw. I missed seeing Rick Fines perform, but I did get to say hi to him in the parking lot.
Next was ODAS PARK. This one I did hit on a set change, but one beer later the Connors Brothers were on stage. I remember these guys from their audition concert a few years ago and subsequent festival appearance. They impressed me then and blew me away Saturday. What a great band. I stayed longer than my schedule said I should for one reason; drummer Connor Boden is one of the most technically proficient and inventive drummers I’ve seen in ages. He was playing stuff I usually only hear from drummers who have had a certain experience similar to mine and it was exciting to see what he was going to whip out of the bag of tricks next and how he’d make it suit the music the band was playing. I will definitely be there the next time the Connors Brothers are playing here.
The downside of having to move on was I missed Danny Michel, who in my opinion is one of the best performers in Canada.
I was off to the Mariposa Inn next. I walked in just as a wedding was about to start in the Hermitage Room, the bride was literally in the vestibule awaiting the Wedding March. I figured the concert wasn’t in the usual room, so I said ‘good luck ‘ to her (she didn’t hear me even though I was right next to her, I think she was focused on her gig) and went to the banquet room at the other end of the hotel.
I had a bit of luck because The Doozies were about to play the last tune of their set when I walked in. The luck was it was a song called 26oz. Of course it’s a drinking song. The thing I like about this band is they have fun on stage and are each excellent musicians.
I stuck it out for Kaia Kater to do a few tunes before I moved on. From a program construction perspective I would have scheduled her to play before the Doozies because the energy of her music is different from the toe tapping stuff the Doozies were doing.
The last two venues were St. Paul’s Centre and the Opera House. I was intending to park midway between the two venues, but the car was on autopilot and I ended up at the first available spot next to the Opera House front doors. The big decision was, do I stay there and move to St. Paul’s later, or vice versa. There were only three acts at the Opera House and the second act had just started, while there were 4 acts at the church. I played the odds and went to church. They were shocked to see me.
The Birds of Bellwoods were on stage. I’ve seen them a couple times. They’re good and I like them, but holy cow they really improved their whole act during the hiatus. They absolutely rocked. One of the tunes they did might have been something from a Beatles album circa Revolver or Sgt. Pepper’s. After that I kept thinking those guys must listen to a lot of U2 as well, and one person told me they thought there was a bit of Radiohead in their sound. In short, before I would go to see them play, now I have to see them play. I stayed to the end of their set. I did miss Suzie Vinnick, who is always worth seeing, last weekend especially because Kevin Breit was in her band, but it was time to hit the last venue.
At the Opera House I saw almost the whole set Angelique Francis did. She plays bass and sings, or commands everyone’s attention might be a better way to say it. The only distraction was a long cool woman in a black dress wielding a bari sax, which turned out to be her sister. Another sister played trombone, and the keyboard player doubled on trumpet, so we got a good mix of R&B, soul and funk out the band. Oh, and her dad played drums. I don’t know her music, but when it’s got a good beat and some decent lines – what’s not to like?
Onward To The Evening
There were two concerts happening. The Orillia District Arts Council’s last event for Culture Days was a free concert at St. James’ Anglican Church with the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band and Mariposa’s only, thankfully, concert at the Opera House.
St. James’ was top of the order. Alex Rabbitson opened playing solo. His set was all blues tunes and without a band behind him it had a feel like listening to all those old 78s from the last century of the masters who set the stage for what blues would become in the late 50s. Helping the matter was the choices of songs Alex played which came from that period. Alex covers a lot of tunes few others do when he plays other kinds of gigs, so he was definitely in keeping with that philosophy doing tunes most blues fans may not have heard before.
Then Ronnie and company took the stage. He had Rick Greensides with him, which is not unusual because those two have been playing together for many years. What was surprising was Tim Kehoe on bass. When Tim burst on the scene about 15 years ago at the Spring Blues Festival, his dad had to carry his amp into the 2nd Last Call. Since then he’s been playing guitar in a number of bands and playing many different styles. Proficient at his craft does not even come close to describing his talent, so seeing him on bass was going to be interesting – and it was. He added a 96 piece pack of Crayolas to the sonic colour of Ronnie’s band.
Meanwhile, it’s been year since I saw Ronnie play, only because his gigs always seemed to coincide with some other big event. I was really looking forward to seeing him play whole concert – until Mariposa came out a few days after ODAC’s concert announcement with their own slate. I was also looking forward to hearing Dave Hewitt playing drums because he’s the best blues drummer around. Unfortunately Dave broke his collarbone a few weeks ago. That’s a good thing, only because I can’t imagine any other broken bone connected to an upper appendage a drummer can recover from without fear of being able to drum like they used to. I hope it heals up well, Dave.
So, who are you going to turn to on short notice? Ron Hill of course. It’s amazing in three weeks he learned the music and played it like he’s been a lifer in Ronnie’s band. For a bass player, he’s a great drummer. Ronnie programmed his set list like a road trip from the southern U.S. through to Chicago. I didn’t hear the Chicago part, but the first 30 minutes were a gas.
Over at the Opera House, I arrived just in time for the beginning of Shakura S’Aida’s set. Her band didn’t have a drummer, but the two guitarists and the bass player provided enough meat for her R&B and soul material. Shakura really whipped the audience into consciousness because her performance level is like a magnet for attention. Terra Lightfoot joined her on stage near the end of the set for a rendition of Neil Young’s Heart of Gold.
I must have been the only person in the house who wasn’t familiar with Donovan Woods. His singing style is low key and his between tunes banter pretty funny. I just discovered he’s from my birthplace, which kind of explains the sense of humour. It turns out he’s written a number of hit tunes, won a ton of awards, including a Juno, and worked with a number of name performers. I think I’d need to see him again to form an opinion because his singing style is so mellow I had a hard time hearing him adequately (the seat I had doubles as a waiting zone for Orillia Transit).
On the whole it was a fantastic day catching some great performances, catching up with people, and being lucky with the road trip stops.
Mariposa just announced the next installment of their Mariposa-in-Concert series. Save the date, November 20, to be thoroughly entertained by Betty and the Bobs. Here’s the thing about the band, with members Wendell Ferguson, Rich Greenspoon, David Matheson, Soozi Schlanger, Suzie Vinnick, Katherine Wheatley and David Woodhead, you’ll notice there’s no Betty and no Bobs. They played one of Mariposa’s off-season concerts just a few years ago and it was the best night. The show is at St. Paul’s Centre and you can get tickets online.
Glen Robertson has just finished the album he’s been working on. The last tune to be included, Breakin’ Down, and the rest of it can be heard on Youtube. After you’ve listened to it (you’ll like the music) click the tab to his home page for more music. He’s also excited the Youtube channel Creative Sauce chose that tune for analysis. A good part of the discussion is about the production elements, but generally they liked the tune. Personally, I think they got into the weeds too deep, nitpicking on elements that I didn’t notice – and I’m a nitpicker, except I’ll buy their argument the bass is a titch too much, but then that’s what tone controls are for. It’s a matter of taste and if the bass isn’t obscuring anything else by making the mix muddy, or being obnoxious, degrees don’t substantially matter. Bottom line, Glen’s written some fine music.
Jacquie Dancyger Arnold and Hugh Coleman are doing a fundraising concert for the Orillia Museum of Art and History at St. Paul’s Centre October 30. Their guest performers are Ross Arnold, Laura Aylan-Parker and Gail Spencer. Most of the music is from the classical realm, with a little Swinging Shepherd Blues and Tico Tico to jazz things up a bit. The concert is at 2 p.m. and you can get tickets online.
Sustainable Orillia is starting the third in a series of art contests ($75 prize for the winner) on the theme of Housing. Make submissions here by October 31.
See the Orillia District Arts Council’s online tour of this year’s Hippy Vans art project. ODAC is also doing a fundraiser event with the Hippy Vans November 5 at Creative Nomad Studios; Leslie Fournier will be there to tell stories about the ten years of the street art project, the 2021 winners will be there; there will be news about a Christmas project – and there’s a $500 door prize. Tickets are $30 and you can get them online.
The Old Dance Hall Players have a show November 19 at the Opera House. This is Orillia’s best improv comedy company. It’s also the only one, but if there has to be only one, we lucked out because they do a heck of a show. There are only 100 tickets and you can get them at the Opera House box office starting next Tuesday.
The 2021 Orillia Regional Arts and Heritage Awards are November 24 at St. Paul’s Centre – it’s going live and it’s going to be live streamed too. The doors open at 6 and the awards start at 7 p.m. The objective is to make it a real awards night just like you’d see on TV (well you can kind of this year on your computer monitor) so get your evening clothes to the cleaners now. You don’t need to register just show up, wear your mask, and keep some space around you.
Creative Nomad Studios is having a Holiday Market November 27 and 28. Now is the time to apply to be a vendor. There are other Christmas events lined up. The 10th annual ODAS Park Orillia Holiday Craft Show is November 6 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Visit their website for vendor info. The Westmount United Church is doing their Christmas sale online from November 12 to November 15. You can check out some of the items for sale now, but you have to wait until the 12th to buy. Quayle’s Brewery (12th Line of Oro-Medonte just off Mt. St. Louis Road) is having a Christmas Market NOvemebr 27 and 28, and December 4 qand 5; now is the time for vendors to apply.
The Orillia Concert Association has a 2021/22 season. The next concert is with Peter Stoll and Adam Zukiewicz on November 28. They go live February 20 with violinist Maria Millar and Shawn Wyckoff on flute performing as Sonic Escape; followed by the Royal Hamilton Light Infantry band March 27 and the Toronto All-Star Big Band May 1. You can get the very reasonably priced season tickets ($70) at the Opera House box office.
Check out the Somniatis Wearable Art Show video and then head over to their fundraising page. The Somniatis folks want to keep the momentum going on the fundraising side of the event. Last time around when it was live they raised over $12,000 and they hope the community will try to at least match that amount this year to support Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital’s mental health programs.
At the galleries… Sarah Carlson has a solo show at Cloud Gallery until November 7; Cloud also has solos shows and receptions (get tickets online) booked every two weeks through to December; See work (in order) by Gordon Harrison, Julia Veenstra and Kyle Sorenson… Kristine Drummond’s art is at Peter Street Fine Arts for the month… not every piece submitted for the Carmichael Landscape Show at OMAH gets accepted, Hibernation Arts wants to have a show, Call For Carmichael Too, for those pieces; contact Molly Farquharson to get yours included; Hibernation’s guest artist for the month is Natasha Genevieve… OMAH is opening the Carmichael Canadian Landscape Exhibition: Tradition Transformed and an exhibit called We Are Still Here, works by D. Ahsén:nase Douglas on November 5; the annual Carmichael Lecture is online this year and it’s with Anna Hudson of York University on November 17 and the topic is The Legacy of the Group of Seven and you can register here; OMAH also has a Halloween event called Spooky Stroll happening October 29; It’s a walking tour of scary Orillia, you can get tickets online and there are three start times, that’s start as in here we go, not don’t do that to me again.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Angelique Francis at the Mariposa Folk Festival’s Opera House Concert