By John Swartz
The Roots North Music Festival first night main stage production took place Friday evening at St. Paul’s Centre. Deviating from their three acts per night standard, only the Ronnie Douglas Blues Band and Tommy Youngsteen performed. This allowed each to play longer sets and Youngsteen did so for one hour and 45 minutes.
The first thing I noticed when I arrived, early, aside from Ronnie and company were still doing a sound check, was light. Lots of light. They have installed a bunch of new light fixtures. They are so new they are still figuring out all the capabilities. One thing they need to get a handle on is the lamps at the back of the stage (at the ceiling). Several times they were swept over the audience, a lot really, and right into my, and likely other’s, eyes. A broad beam might not be a bother, but the narrower and focused intensity became a problem as the concert progressed.
Ronnie’s band sounded fantastic. They played only cover tunes (hey, it’s a blues band, that’s what they do) originally by Stevie Ray Vaughn, Freddy King, Derek and the Dominoes and others. The one that got me right away by the end of the first bar of intro music was Mercy, Mercy, Mercy. It smoked it was so intensely played -except for the middle section where the band upped the tempo and passed around solo sections before returning to the original tempo and feel.
They also genre hopped, doing blues tunes, obviously, but also some soul, R&B and funk.
The audience felt they were suitably entertained by giving a standing ovation when the band ended their last tune. Which, by the way, though I don’t remember what the title was, during the intro I was thinking, “Please don’t let this be Play That Funky Music. Please don’t let this be Play That Funky Music.” It wasn’t.
Tommy Youngsteen opened up with Sledgehammer, and followed up with I Won’t Back Down. From there it was a string of tunes the audience was getting into. The first Fleetwood Mac tune they covered, Don’t Stop, was the head end of a trilogy of Fleetwood Mac tunes. By the end of it and the following What’s Love Got To Do With It, the audience was getting a little anxious. The band saved the day by playing Boys of Summer. The audience responded with applause during the intro as if to say, finally. Never mind it’s a Don Henley tune and I subscribe to the Dude’s (Big Lebowski) philosophy regarding the Eagles and derivatives (I used to kind of like some of their stuff, until I learned what utter jerks and backstabbers Henley and Glenn Frey are).
They kept that energy up for a couple more tunes and raised it further with The Power of Love, Jump and Satisfaction. That’s what the audience wanted to hear. There were several instances where I thought, “It would almost be too perfect if they played Summer of ’69 next.” They eventually did, to usher in a 4-song set of tunes played almost without a break from one to the next to end the night. It seemed like they were ending their show a few times only to come right back with something else.
Oddly, for a band that exists to cover Bruce Springsteen songs (and Tom Petty and Neil Young), they only did a few (Dancing in the Dark, Born to Run). I think they did as many Fleetwood Mac covers as they did Springsteen.
The ten members on stage come from other bands (Sam Roberts Band, Stars, The Trews, Sloan, The Serena Ryder Band, Zeus and The Arkells). They put on a great show, minus the lull in the middle, and one thing I noticed is the difference between having a cover/clone band stocked with great, experienced musicians and all the others (like Elton Rohn, any of the ABBA knock-offs, take your pick of Elvis bands, or any 70s pop stars). It is they pick up on the nuances of the music – the weird chord inventions, tonalities and etc. the others miss. You know, the little things that set one band clearly above another. Most bands doing their own material often don’t play their songs exactly as recorded; the mark of a great musician covering someone else’s material is deviating from the recording in a way that you’d believe the original band would have done too. That’s why certain cover bands like The Bowie Lives (playing in Midland April 28) and our own Dogs of War are enjoyable, rather than torture to see perform.
The festival still has about 20 tickets left for tonight’s show. The lineup includes Meredith Moon, Kellie Loder, and Michael Kaeshammer starting at 7 p.m. Go to see Gord’s daughter, Meredith, stay to be blown away by Kaeshammer. You can get tickets online, or at the door (but I wouldn’t do that). Meanwhile there are many bands and performers playing all day at various venues Saturday afternoon and evening, and Sunday afternoon. Check the Roots main page (same as the ticket link above), scroll to the bottom, for a complete schedule.
More Concerts And Such
Speaking of clone bands, Against the Wind: The Ultimate Bob Seger Experience hits the Opera House April 29. This band is stocked with seasoned players, so I’m kind of expecting it to be good. There are only a couple dozen tickets left to buy.
If you head over to the Opera House event listing page, you’ll see Ian Thomas is in April 28 and Brass Transit is in June 24. Brass Transit covers Chicago, the band, not the musical and I’ll be at that one for sure.
Also at the Opera House right now is Mariposa Arts Theatre’s Blithe Spirit. There are only two performances left, Saturday night and Sunday afternoon. This is a story that answers the question, what happens when no one believes you? Secondarily, what happens when you don’t pay attention to what the other people in the room are saying?
Noel Coward said he tried to write a play where no one likes the characters. He succeeded. The magic comes from the actors pulling that off, which this cast does. We may not like them, but the result of the things they do and don’t do is what entertains us.
Speaking of Gord
I understand the reason Gord cancelled a bunch of shows with a cryptic, ‘recovering’ statement is not because of any life-threatening illness or event. I have not confirmed the details, but hope to have more next week.
Jacqueline Surette had her last day in the employ of the City of Orillia as the manager of culture on Friday. She’s moving on to become the manager of recreation, culture and heritage in Huntsville. She’ll be responsible for a museum, the Algonquin Theatre and all the recreation programs.
“I spend a lot of time up there, my recreational time. With the added responsibility I’m looking forward to something new,” she said. “I’m sad to be going. There’s such wonderful people I’ve worked with, but I’m looking forward to a new opportunity,”
- Hawksley Workman has been nominated for 6 Junos, won 2 and had several songs chosen to be included in many popular TV shows. He plays at St. Paul’s Centre Apr. 27. Get tickets online.
- The freest, most enjoyable thing you are going to do next weekend is go to the Mariposa Folk Festival audition concert at St. Paul’s Centre. It happens Apr. 30 at 1 p.m. and the bands auditioning are Bud Rice, Dawson Gamble, JD Crosstown, Julia Finnegan, Po Boy and Calamity Jane, Sam Kruger, The Dog House Orchestra, The Gardeners and The Handsome Devils. Ticket sales for the summer festival are running ahead of last year’s sold out festival. There’s also a Youtube playlist, a preview of 55 videos by artists appearing at the festival this year.
- MAT’s next Film Night at the Galaxy has Emily showing on Apr. 26. Showtimes are 4 and 7 p.m. and tickets are $15 only at the door.
- Twin Lakes Secondary School’s annual theatrical production is happening soon. This year it’s called Thunder Years. It’s a revue of the previous 49 student productions, kind of a 50th anniversary event. It happens Apr. 27/28 at the school and you can get tickets at the school office.
- Arts Orillia invites youth under the age of 25 to participate in their Theatre & Cross Creativity program Apr. 23-27 at the Opera House. They are also inviting people over 65 to participate in this program about storytelling. It’s a workshop kind of thing with a performance in the Studio Theatre. The program is led by Iain Moggach, artistic director of Theatre by the Bay and Clara McBride, faculty at Toronto Metropolitan University’s acting program.
- The Hawkestone Singers spring concert is May 13 at the Hawkestone Community Hall. They’ll be singing tunes by Beatles, Queen, Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton, Adele, Sting, and Elton John. You can call 705-984-7110 to get tickets for the 7 p.m. concert.
- The Orillia Concert Band’s next event is May 13 at St. Paul’s Centre and their guest performer is Jacquie Dancyger Arnold. She’ll be playing Grieg’s Piano Concerto and Bach’s Solfeggietto. Jacquie killed with Rhapsody in Blue and a Rachmaninoff concerto and I expect no less with the Grieg. Also on the band’s program are Farandole, Moorside March, Nimrod, and Lady of Spain. The band is also rehearsing Finlandia. You can get tickets online.
- Robert Gronfors and together with Philip Lalonde have created a Youtube channel to share films Jim Kelly (Speedy) shot at various concerts in the 70s. The newest video is from a June 1975 Pink Floyd concert at Ivor Wynne Stadium. There’s other videos of concerts by Max Webster, Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick Van Halen, B B King, The Who, Z Z Top, Grand Funk Railroad and Genesis. Some of them have audio carefully dubbed in, but most have no audio.
- The submission period for the Leacock Museum’s K. Valerie Connor Memorial Poetry Contest is open until May 8 there are three three categories – adult, teens and children. The total prize pool is $2,000. You can find the nomination rules and registration online. And, the museum has a new exhibit, A Leacock Love Story. It’s about Stevie and Beatrix. You can see it Wednesdays through Fridays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. until May.
- OMAH has a bus tour to the McMichael May 4, but you have to register by Apr. 27; The day’s itinerary and other info is here. All the exhibits at OMAH (except for David Alan Hill and Christine Mack’s Beyond the Fence) are coming down Apr. 15; The International Women’s Day Art Show opens Apr. 29; exhibits of Elizabeth Wyn Wood and Donald Stuart works also open the same day. The next History Speaker’s Night is with Rob McCron who will talk about the Fairmile, the explosion and what the Legion is doing to preserve the memory of the event and people involved; it’s going to be on Zoom May 17 and you can register online soon… Hibernation Arts has tons of new art to see; some by gallery regulars and some by two artists (Jennifer Lawson and Melissa Van Dam) new to the gallery; this month’s guest artist is Ukrainian photographer Alina Hromko (she’s only been in Canada since the fall and her portraits are very good); Peter Street Fine Arts has art by Georgina Hackett-McHugh featured this month; she creates pieces with wood and on t-shirts… Creative Nomad has two events at the same time happening; Floe and Story Creatures combines photography by Sean Rees, with performance art by Kate Hilliard; the photos will be up until May 7 (free) and The Storey Creatures part happens Apr. 28 at 7 p.m., Apr. 29 at 1 p.m. and 7 p.m. and you can get tickets here.
- Couchiching Craft Brewing has Rob Watts in to play Apr. 28; Apr. 29 they have a fundraiser for Campfire Circle with the group Cruisin’ performing… Quayle’s Brewery has Kyle Wauchope in to play Apr. 27; Jojo plays Apr. 28; Jackob Pearce plays Apr. 29; James Gray is in May 5… Steve Parkes and Pete Sanderson host a new jam at The Sunken Ship… The Orillia Vocal Ensemble’s spring concert is May 17 at 7:30 p.m,. at St. Paul’s Centre; their guest is the Orillia Community Children’s Choir; admission is by donation; OVE concerts are fundraisers and this time it’s the Born To Read program at Soldiers’ Memorial Hospital.
(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia and Images Supplied) Main: The Ronnie Douglas Blues Band at the 2023 Roots North music Festival (photo by Ron Hill)