This Week In Art/Culture/Entertainment

By John Swartz

The thing about all these festivals is exposure. Mariposa, the Jazz Festival, Roots North, they all fill out the line up with acts you never heard of. They choose wisely most of the time. Spend an evening bored out of your mind with music you don’t like, even if the headliner is one of your favourites, and the appeal to attend next year isn’t as great.

The Roots North main stage opened last Friday night at St. Paul’s Centre with a band I never heard of before, The Red Hill Valleys. I sampled some of their music online beforehand, but not a lot. They are a country band, which means the musicianship should be better than your average bar band, and the singing much better.

During the break someone expressed a question about them being a country band, to which I said, ‘these days country is rock with different guitar tunings.’ They did nothing I would say is  a my girl left, my truck broke down, and my dog ran away kind of country. In fact they covered a Fleetwood Mac tune. Their whole set was pretty good, lots of variety with the song writing, good harmonies, good professional stage presence and the best sound mixing I’d heard in that room since it became  a concert venue. I liked them. I’d go see them again.

Bleeker followed and there was a lot of anticipation from the audience. I was speaking with bassist Mike Vandyk before and asked if they were going to play their three new tunes they released since the New Year, and he said yes and that were going to play 5 more from their album, Messed Up (which will be out the end of June).

These four are very good. Their years of being on main stages at other festivals, playing on lineups with big acts has rubbed off. Of course when I first saw them, they were all in Grade 9 and 10, even then they had something going for them. They perform on a level you’d expect from A list bands. They have rehearsed what they do until it’s just natural for them.

The mix wasn’t as good as RHV. I think it’s mainly because Chris Dimas smacks his drums so hard there isn’t much room through the mixing board to get the guitars and vocals loud enough to balance the sound. That said, they were loud, but save for a few older folks who didn’t stay long, their sound wasn’t bad. They write nice hooks into their songs, so even if they play something unfamiliar, it is pretty likeable right away.

The audience was on their side from the beginning. Aterward many were saying it was great to finally get to see them (the band hasn’t performed here since the first Ontario Winter Games).

Saturday night opened with an unknown to many, Spencer Burton. He’s a singer/songwriter, did his show by himself playing guitar. He’s got a nice tenor voice that at times made me think of John  Denver. He built a good
rapport with the audience and it seemed to me they were glad to have had a chance to hear him perform.

Julian Taylor is not unknown around here. He was at last year’s Mariposa, and before that with Staggard Crossing. Those who haven’t seen him since he had the band were in for a surprise with his folk songwriting and performing. His music is personal, how he sees the world, and consequently the whole set was ballads. His rich baritone voice was in contrast to Burtons.

Begonia at the 2024 Roots North Music Festival in Orillia.

I know several in the audience were ready for Begonia, but then many were not, including me. I didn’t know what to expect. Holy cow, is she something else. One thing she knows how to do is sing. Most of the time she was holding the mic pretty far away from her mouth and she had no trouble getting over the other instruments accompanying her. She let you know right away what was in store. The music is all electronic, even the drummer plays samples from a pad along with the traditional wooden things. There were times the music sounded as epic as The Alan Parsons Project or Pink Floyd.

I knew of Begonia, and I’m sure she was here for Mariposa before, but this was also so new; such a big sound without being loud like the night before. Every song was a performance.

Her performance was a great way to end the 10th year of Roots North.

Art To Look At

The Orillia Museum of Art and History folks are on something again, they have so much going on. April 27 at 1 p.m. they open the 27th annual International Women’s Day Art Show at 1 p.m. This show always has more than 100 pieces in it and opening day is jam packed with people.

You can also see an exhibit of work from an art program for kids called Regent Park Public School Grade 6/7 Garden Design Program. The kids were tasked with designing a park on a piece of land not unlike a spot in Veteran’s Park.

They are also hiring camp counsellors for their summer kid’s art programs. You can find out how to apply online.

OMAH is looking for a couple board members. You can apply online if you are 18-years-old, live in Simcoe County, have references and are a member of OMAH, but not an employee or related to one.

OMAH also has a call for submissions for the next Stack Gallery (next to the check in counter at the rec center) exhibit called Inclusion. The deadline is May 10 and the particulars are online.

May 10 they are having a Mother’s Day Wine and Paint night lead by Peter Fyfe. You can get tickets online. May 18 OMAH opens Backra Bluidan exhibit of works by photographer Stacey Tyrell.

OMAH also has a new chapter of the online history of Orillia bands about the Orillia Kiltie Band. The May History Speaker’s Night is with Dave Dawson who will talk about the history of the Packet and Times and Beyond. It’s online and you can register here.

In other art shows, St. Paul’s Centre has the Call to Action 83 Art Project in the Ogimaa Miskwaaki Gallery. Hibernation Arts has a new ODAC collection for the month. Zain Campbell also has a collection of  his paintings on the wall.  Peter Street Fine Arts has a collection of work by Sue Emily featured in April. ODAC artists have a show up in the Green Room at the Opera House, and they have a new show, Spring Awakening up May 18. Cloud Gallery has Lori Meerboer in April 27 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. for their next installment of the Meet the Artist series.

The Shorts

  • The Mariposa Folk Festival audition concert is Apr. 27 at 1 p.m. at St. Paul’s Centre. Sam Johnston and Rebekah Hawker both got invites. There are 10 acts trying to get the three festival gigs on the line. It’s free to attend. Ticket prices for the summer festival go up May 1, so if you haven’t, but meant to.
  • The Orillia Concert band’s next is May 11 at 7:30 p.m. AND May 12 at 2:30 p.m. Two days? Why?  Because their guest is Rick Stephenson. Rick has been doing a Frank Sinatra tribute for years and he’s been doing it for years because he’s bloody good at it. He’ll be here with his pianist John Brown. The Saturday night gig is almost sold out. Rick will also be backed up by the Orillia Big Band and the OCB. You can get tickets online.
Leslie Fournier
  • Leslie Fournier has another Streets Alive project in the works. It’s called Pollinator Friendly and there will be 60 flowers decorating the downtown.
  • Mariposa Arts Theater is holding auditions for their fall production, Stephen Sondheim’s Gypsy. It will be May 24, 25, and 26 at their rehearsal hall. Josh Halbot is directing. You can find out all the details about the character descriptions, audition requirements and how to become part of the burlesque ensemble online.
  • Danny Webster just released an album’s worth of new music which you can listen to and buy on Bandcamp.
  • Check out Bleeker’s new music here.
  • The success of the first two Back to the 90s Video Dance Parties was so good ($14,000 raised in December), Derick Lehmann has a third one happening May 25 at the Roller Skating Place at ODAS Park. This time around the fundraiser is to buy bikes for kids. Get tickets online. Derick is also promoting the Pure Country 106 Video Dance Party Apr. 27 at ODAS Park and you get those tickets online.
  • At the Opera House this month, Apr. 27 see the World Tour Paddling Film Festival; Lighthouse plays May 2; Amy Sky and Marc Jordan May 3 and Classic Lightfoot Live is in May 4. Get tickets to any of those online.
  • Anne Walker is having another round of summer concerts at the Coulson Church. The schedule is: Apr. 28 Emily Jean Flack; May 26 Jowi Taylor with Six String Nation; June 23 Tannis Slimmon and Lewis Melville; July 28 Wendell Ferguson; Aug. 25 Anne Walker; and Sept. 29 Blair Packham. You can get tickets online.
  • Canada Day is returning to Couchiching Beach Park and the organizing committee has some room on it, and they are looking for sponsors and people to volunteer the day of. You can find out more online.
  • Tickets are now on sale for all The Leacock Medal for Humour’s events in June. Terry Fallis is emceeing the Meet the Authors night and Steve Patterson the medal dinner.
  • Couchiching Craft Brewing has Samantha Windover playing Apr. 26; Stephan Bernard Apr. 27; Sam Johnston and the Sin Bin Comedy show with Drew Behm, Jesse Ralph and Greg Enwright is in May 3 (tickets)… Quayle’s Brewery has Jakob Pearce playing Apr. 26; My Missing Piece Apr.27; and Chris Staig Apr. 28.

(Images Supplied) Main: Bleeker at the 2024 Roots North Music Festival in Orillia.

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