By John Swartz
Last weekend’s Roots North Music festival was a great success. A casual observer at the main stage concerts at St. Paul’s Centre might have come away with a different conclusion after seeing only about half the seats occupied, but tickets for both nights were sold out for a capacity of 400 people.
Now this included tickets sold for the 2020 festival, which was cancelled, and those people were able to them this year. The general consensus organizers had was because they only issued a few refunds from the 2020 festival and suspect many of those remaining ticket holders decided if they couldn’t go they’d keep their financial support of the festival.
Still the atmosphere in a half full room is different from a full one. Even so, those who were there tried to make up for those who weren’t when it came to applause.
The first standing ovation came at the conclusion of Craig Mainprize’s lead off set. Of all the times I’ve seen Craig, I think this time he played songs with a harder edge. He mixed some covers with tunes he wrote. The last one, Freshwater Man, was a good cap on the set.
Terra Lightfoot ramped up the energy a degree and had a good set. Steve Poltz – great singer/songwriter, or great storyteller, this is the question. He tells some great stories which lead from one idea to the next, to the one that gave rise to the song he’s about to sing. My favourite was the last one when he told of the last days he had with his dying father; it was the kind of thing many of us wish we could have had with our fathers, a memory that mitigates the grief.
Steve played from various parts of the room and used the whole stage. I recall when he was at the Mariposa festival a couple years ago there were some people dissatisfied he talked more than sang. I enjoyed that performance, and this one more. The audience thought so too, giving a standing ovation.
Saturday night was a less energetic show. Lydia Persaud’s appeal was her very clean and clear signing which demands attention. Logan Staats did most of his set with his sister, Layla Black, on stage. She didn’t just sing backup and often they traded leads. he audience gave a standing ovation.
I thought both the acts did sets with little variety among the songs they chose to perform. To me it seemed like the same tempos and moods were used over and over. The Good Lovelies, who closed out the show didn’t have this issue. Each played more than one instrument and the harmonies characterizing each of the tunes were varied rather than going with a trope of tight harmonies all the time as female trios sometimes overuse. They didn’t hit the stage until almost 10 p.m. when the concert was supposed to be over. I stayed for 20 minutes, wished I could stay longer, but there were other gigs to catch.
Afterward the choices were too numerous, though I have heard since from people who weren’t where I was Ronnie Douglas and Taylor Knox were very good. Matter of fact, I heard also heard from people who went to afternoon shows I didn’t get to who were satisfied with their choices. This is how festivals go:
“Did you see X?”
“Oh you missed a great show.”
And that’s my life, not being able to be everywhere at once.
I did see Run With The Kittens at Couchiching Craft Brewing Co. The first thing I found odd was they are a now trio, not a quartet as I’ve seen them in the past. Not to worry, Nate Mills plays guitar most of the time, but will double on other instruments. Nigel Hebblewhite uses a 6 string bass, did a great guitar solo with it, and played bass with his left and keyboards with his right hand on one tune. Jake Oelrichs is simply one of the most inventive drummers I know. He’s got great hands and never plays parts you’d expect. Case in point, As Nate was introducing the band, Nigel played a little solo at his turn, Jake was next and instead of ramming a bunch of notes all over his set like every other drummer on the planet would do, he played a snippet of a tune on a small set of orchestra bells.
Nate recognized Dave Campbell’s presence and talked about the band every musician in town paid attention to when they were teenagers (Nate is from Orillia) – the Rock Dogs. Dave was the drummer in Rock Dogs. The Kittens then did a cover the Rock Dogs tune, Bread. This was in lieu of doing the world famous Orillia Song at that moment (it was in the second set). One can’t see this band and not have fun.
Tickets for next year’s Roots North are already on sale.
I was shocked to learn that long time Canada Day committee member, and former chair, Catherine Ashton, died April 12. Catherine was also a member of the Jubilee Chorale and a teacher at Park Street Collegiate and Georgian College.
April 13 Julia Brestovansky died. Julia was the daughter of Marta and Louis. She, like many artists in town, learned to paint from her mother. The last time I saw her was in June 2013 when she curated an exhibition of her mother’s work at OMAH. This marks the end of the line for the Brestovansky branch of Orillia’s art history.
OMAH opened new exhibits last Saturday. A short-lived one, Orillia Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital Pop-Up Exhibit, with artifacts from the museum’s collection celebrated the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Soldiers’ wing of the hospital was only up for three days.
The 25th Annual International Women’s Day Art Show has 112 pieces in the show this year. One of the things I found different was there are a number of pieces in which the artists used textures in their paintings. Some a little, others a lot – almost to the point of creating a three dimensional piece. This show is not juried so you’ll see a range of skill levels on display, however, as has been the case the last couple times around, the ratio of art from experienced hands over those learning is pretty high. There was no opening reception and no definite plan for one because usually the gallery is packed on opening day and this year maybe that’s not a great idea. However, there might be a reception at the end of May.
Upstairs Hospice Orillia is sponsoring Dying Matters: Reflections Of Growth Through Grief. This is an exhibit of a lot of smaller pieces by local artists and all of it is for sale. It’s a fundraiser for Hospice Orillia so all the art is for sale.
Mostly Online Distracters
- Mariposa Arts Theatre closes out its run of Steel Magnolias with performances tonight and Saturday afternoon at the Opera House. You can get tickets online. Also at the Opera House in the coming week is the Orillia Concert Association’s last concert of their season with the Toronto All Star Big Band May 1; the Washboard Union is in May 3; a fundraising show for the Rescue Lake Simcoe Coalition with Brent Butt happens May 4; The Mudmen are in May 5.
- National Youth Week is from May 1 to 7 and the Orillia Youth Centre will celebrate with a fundraising concert May 6 at the youth center. The performers are Zain Campbell, Mitch Sleeman and a new band called Crabrat. All the proceeds will go toward bursary funds named in honour of Nelson Bell and Jake Beers. You can get tickets, or make a donation here. They also have activities happening every day of next week, including an open mic Monday at 5 p.m.
- Danny Webster has a new album out today. Late-Night Social Escapade, is the third album under his stage name Livers. It has 13 songs and while each has a different beat and feel, there is a unifying sound to the album. Airy is the best I can come up with. He uses echo/reverb on his voice throughout and sometimes the music reminds me of a style from the late 60s or early 70s. When I hear echoes to a style of music I’ve heard before, but I’ll be darned if I can think of a specific group or artist it resembles. Danny said he was influenced by the Beach Boys, Tame Impala, and Radiohead. The music is different and I wouldn’t say its rock, nor would I say it’s pop. Sometimes it feels like some elements of 80s synth/ new wave are floating around in it. I can say it’s not country, jazz, blues or classical. The best thing is to go to his Soundcloud page and give the album a listen.
- Creative Nomad Studios has a crafters market this weekend. The first annual Handmade Spring Market has 25 vendors and the hours are from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.
- Even Steven is playing at Lake Country Grill May 7… Couchiching Craft Brewing has a Star Wars trivia night May 4 at 7 p.m. … 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.
- Glen Robertson has been releasing a steady flow of new tunes which you can hear on his Soundcloud channel, click on his photo and listen to the playlist, lots of good music there… 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.
- Peter Street Fine Arts has Bob Broom’s art on display as the gallery’s guest this month; Bob 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.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: Run With The Kittens performing at Couchiching Craft Brewing Co. during the 2022 Roots North Music Festival