By John Swartz
- The Downtown Orillia Management Board is having their annual Easter Egg Hunt Saturday morning starting at 9:30 a.m. It’s rain or shine. Plastic eggs will be hidden around the downtown and can be exchanged at the Opera House for chocolate from Apple Annie’s. It’s a good idea to bring your own basket.
Last Saturday night’s Mariposa Folk Festival annual Gospel and Blues concert was one for the ages. It could be said every year, but this time I mean it.
It started with just Lance Anderson on the Hammond B3 and drummer Kevan McKenzie doing Fred McGriff’s Gospel Time. The tune began with Lance only and as it ramped up Kevan began playing. By the time Kevan was up to fully engaged with the drums I noticed the EQ and level in the mix – just for his drums – was about as perfect as could be. Then bassist Andrew Stewart of Blackburn joined them for Dr. John’s Junco Partner. Later as the stage filled with the entire group I noticed Claude Labrecque had one of the best mixes going I’ve ever heard in the Opera House.
Next, Selena Evangeline came on stage to do Billy Preston’s version of A Change Is Gonna Come. Lance told me that the bar of music before the vocal entry is a series of syncopated notes with no clear sense of where the beat is and most singers mess up the entry. Not Selena, he said she landed perfectly on it.
When she opened her mouth to sing, there was an older couple out at the Casino Rama entertainment center who were early for the re-opening of the centre April 29. You know the type, not wearing glasses to read the ticket, thought it said April 9.
The fellow leaned over to his wife and said, “Margaret, did you hear something?”
“Well, if you’d quit fidgeting in your seat and sitting on your own…”
“That’s not what I’m talking about,” he interrupted. “It sounded like the show started.”
Meanwhile back at the Opera House, as Selena started to sing, it was like all the oxygen got sucked out of the room, there was a noticeable reaction from the entire audience.
Lance said the band noticed it too. He called it a gasp. It was. It was one of the most powerful – I’m here – statements I think I’ve ever witnessed and the audience knew it too.
Lance was playing piano and the B3 was sitting across stage not being used. Of course, Billy Preston is best known for his B3 playing and it occurred to me that it was a shame there wasn’t someone playing during this song. That’s when Quincy Bullen (yeah, related, Fayne and Quincy’s dad are second cousins) snuck on stage and sat at the instrument to play along. Then he left, but couldn’t help returning to it again a couple songs later. Lance commented on Quincy’s early arrival as he was formally introducing Quincy who had circled around backstage surprising Lance with an entrance from the opposite side as Lance was gesturing to where he last saw Quincy and expected him to come on stage from. I think Quincy was having the most fun at this gig.
He next tune was a brand new one Lance said he only finished writing earlier in the week. It’s called What If It Was Your Child and the inspiration was seeing online comments poo- poohing the carnage in Ukraine. Hopefully it gets into the hands of the right radio program directors and becomes better known, maybe even an anti-war anthem.
The Weber Brothers came out and Ryan sang on the second tune, B.B. King’s Guess Who. The quality of his voice really fits with smoldering blues. Quincy was next bringing Jimi Hendrix into the mix doing a cover of Red House.
Last before halftime was Sly and the Family Stone’s Que Sera, Sera, which I wrote about two weeks ago. Lance said to the audience, “I’m not even going to tell you what the title is because you’ll know it,” and never think of the song the same way again. Selena and Quincy traded verses, but let’s just say Selena blew the house down on the chorus.
While we’re at halftime, I want to mention I’ve been listening to the Weber Brother’s newest album, Acüsta. It’s opens with the title track, an instrumental sounding like it’s right out a dusty, Texas, western movie. What follows are ballads. I really get into it at the third last track, I Love You Lord, which features a tabla, a drone sounding bass line, guitar chord structures that aren’t usual, and some other little ging gong effects that give it a South Asian feel and it’s lyrically a cousin to George Harrison. I dare you to not be groove boppin’ around the room as you pick up your house. Of the next two songs Make it Through Too has a Billy Joel feel to it and I Come From The Future builds up very nicely and has a great chorus that will stick in your head. You can get the album here, and they have a page with links to their entire catalogue on Bandcamp where you can listen and buy downloads. There goes my weekend.
After the break, Lance and the band did a really good New Orleans style version of Feets Don’t Fail Me Now. It’s just a fun song, and if you were in the audience and didn’t pick up on that, the reflection off of everyone’s smiling teeth from the stage should have been a clue.
Then Quincy said his next tune wasn’t gospel or blues – “but it’s funky” and turned Prince’s Kiss into something completely different and then proceeded to top that with Tracy Chapman’s Give Me One Reason. I could tell from the intro it was going to be that tune and I thought – I wonder how this is going to go with a male voice. Extremely well is how it went. Quincy is the kind of musician who gets into a tune and changes it to make it his own and you are going to like it better than the original.
The next slot for the Webers included what I know I came to see, them tearing up the stage. Take a look at the photo to see what I mean. If you’ve ever seen them in performance, you know they can get up to some fire breathing music. This time however, on their own Love Come To Get You, they were using birthday candles, flaming, but not anything out of control. I also noticed Ryan had a couple of patches of something black on his acoustic bass, which to me looked like Duct tape. I asked him after the show, and in light of how I’ve seen him perform with the instrument, if it was Duct tape and if that’s how he held it together. He laughed and said it was to cover the resonating holes so it wouldn’t be boomy in the mix. I think he needs to hook up with Red Green on this new use and have some fun with it.
To close out the show, Selena sang a cover of Aretha Franklin’s How I Got Over, with Quisha Wint (who was brought out as a surprise earlier to sing back up on Selena’s own tune, But It’s Too Late.
The encore was magical. They did Let It Be. The thing about it was they had every instrument onstage present in the Beatles Recording. Ryan Weber was playing piano and sang the second verse. The thing about that is Paul McCartney sang it a little behind the beat. Most people square it up to the beat and it just doesn’t feel right. Ryan laid back on the timing and nailed the phrasing, momentarily transporting those of us familiar with the original back in time.
Another observation. I noticed earlier the average age of the audience (400 strong) had to be greater than mine, and standing at the back of the house during the encore, with the lights playing off heads, the notion was cemented. I thought back to my parent’s generation and photographic evidence of concerts from the 70s / 80s and 90s back me up, us Olde Pharts haven’t gotten over going to concerts where things can be a little loud and upbeat. Loud because it needs to be and handling upbeat sitting down, but my parents generation wouldn’t have been caught dead at a concert like this. It would have been nice to see more of the younger generation present, especially the musicians because they would have loved this concert.
I think the genius of this concert series, and the tribute shows Lance puts together is not just picking great musicians for the bands, but matching tunes to the qualities and capabilities of the singers, and then ordering the tunes in a way that drags your adrenaline along whether you want it to or not.
In other Mariposa news, Blue Rodeo has been added to the lineup. This festival was already looking great on paper and this makes it even better. They have 8 bands lineup for the audition concert May 1 at St. Paul’s Centre. This one is free to attend. You can get festival tickets online, and also register to be a volunteer online.
Roots North update: if you were putting off getting tickets to main stage shows Friday or Saturday next week, it’s too late, they are sold out. You could set your sight on taking in any one of the many other free shows scheduled at other venues. And be early for Taylor Knox at Picnic ($5 cover), or Run With the Kittens at Couchiching Craft Brewing ($10 cover) on Saturday night.
New on the schedule is a 1 p.m. Saturday taping of the podcast Tunes To Tweet. It’s happening at Tyler Knight’s studio, 18 Mississaga Street E., and you need to send email to firstname.lastname@example.org to get a free seat.
This is the first big event in a couple years, a late night event. Maybe many of you, like me, are not used to staying up late because there is has been no reason to. I’ve been practicing and so far I can’t seem to fall asleep until about 3 or 4 a.m. I might have over done things.
The Orillia Concert Association’s next gig is May 1 at the Opera House with the Toronto All Star Band. I can’t wait until this happens because I have had to fight typing ‘All Starr’ all these weeks. (And of course, Ringo and company are playing Casino Rama in May.
The order of the day is big band music and you can get a ticket online. Because this is the last concert of their first season since 2019, the OCA is announcing their lineup for next season and subscriptions will be on sale.
OMAH has a really short, three day exhibit, from April 21 to 23 called Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Pop-Up Exhibit celebrating the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Soldiers’ wing of the hospital. Then on April 23 the 25th the Annual International Women’s Day Art Show starts. April 20 is History Speaker’s Night. Judy Humphries will talk about The Prisoners of Gravenhurst, WW2 POWs held at Camp 20 in Gravenhurst. It’s online at 7 p.m. and you can get login details by calling 705-326-2159, or by email at email@example.com
Peter Street Fine Arts has Bob Broom’s art on display as the gallery’s guest this month. Bob told me he’s been painting all his life and this is the first time he’s showing any of it in public. He also has CDs of music he’s written for sale.
Hibernation Arts monthly show is a group one called Springing. The gallery also has new pieces by Jon Oelrichs, the Bayside Artists, and Tammy Henry Johnson to see.
I was at the Cloud Gallery opening of Midland artist Cathy Boyd last Friday night. 95% of the art at Cloud are large pieces and this exhibit in no exception. There were a couple of abstracts with bold colours on white I really liked. She also had some Georgian Bay scenes hanging around. You’ve only got until Tuesday to see the show.
- April 20 is National Film Day and Creative Nomad Studios is hosting the first look, a test screening, of Sean Cisterna’s movie, Boy City at 8 p.m. This movie was shot in Orillia, and a good portion of it at Creative Nomad. Tickets are free and you need to be over 18 to see it.
- There is going to be a Simcoe County Theatre Festival in June at Barrie’s Five Points Theatre. Stacy Schat is directing one of 5 plays being presented. They are auditioning for all 5 plays right now. You can get more details how to do that online.
- Liz Anderson is performing in the Acoustic Floyd show at the Bracebridge Hall May 14 (tickets)… The Straight Goods (Matt James, Nate Robertson, Peter Sanderson and Steve Parkes) are playing a benefit called Music for Cats 2 at the Moose Lodge May 7; Ronnie Douglas is a special guest for this fundraiser for the Comfie Cat Shelter; get tickets ($15) at Plum Loco… The Kensington has an open mic night hosted by Tim Kehoe on Tuesdays from 8 to 11 p.m. … The Opera House has a great schedule of concerts happening and tickets for summer theater are on sale; see all of it here.
- Mike Hill has a new book out. The Lost Prime Ministers is about the ones we don’t often talk about; Abbott, Thompson, Bowell, and Tupper. You can get a copy at Manticore Books.
- Danny Webster has new music out; he’s going by the name Livers now and the song is called Anyone… Glen Robertson has a new tune, Are You Woke Yet? on his Soundcloud channel. Just let the playlist run, the next tunes in the cue are very good… Skye Wallace, has a new tune, Everything Is Fine. Listen to it here, you can see her other new videos there too… Ayden Miller’s band, New Friends has a new tune,Right Here… Aaron Mangoff has a new EP you can listen to – and buy – here.
- Zachary Lucky’s new album, Songs For Hard Times – vinyl LPs have arrived and you can buy them on his Bandcamp page. He’s also opening for Corb Lund’s show at the Horseshoe Tavern on April 16th
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied)Main: Quincy Bullen, Selena Evangeline, Ryan Weber, Sam Weber, Kevan McKenzie (drums), Lance Anderson and Andrew Stewart at the annual Gospel and Blues concert at the Opera House (photo by Deborah Wagner)