Mo Kenney, Ready for a Big Stage Next Time in NYC

I’d seen Mo Kenney perform live, but never in such an up-close setting as when she played Rockwood Music Hall’s Stage 3 on the lower east side of Manhattan this past Sunday night. I’d heard her sit in during an outdoor set at the CBC Music Festival last May, with Joel Plaskett and the Emergency band, and then in a solo show at the same festival where organizers put her in a too-small tent that overflowed with a couple hundred enthusiastic fans. Suffice to say that in Canada, where she’s become pretty well known, Mo Kenney warrants a big stage. In NYC, where she’s not well known yet, the small downstairs room at Rockwood was just right, though I’d add she’ll need a bigger one here next time.

She opened her set with her song “I Faked It,” full of scorn and romantic disappointment:
It was never you and me
When I said it was forever
I was lying through my teeth

For example
when I said it wouldn’t hurt
there was not a chance in hell
it was ever gonna work

To be truthful
the pleasure didn’t last
Before I took a drink
the ice had melted in the glass

While I’d seen Kenney really wail on a hollow-bodied Gretsch electric guitar at the outdoor shows—and play on an acoustic guitar—she had only a small acoustic guitar this night, I think a Martin, and got great sound from it. What’s more, she plays really interesting stuff. In fact, her chording embroidered the harsh lyrics of this first song with a harp-like beauty, a felt contrast to the embittered narrator’s regrets. When it ended, she remarked to the audience, “I thought I’d start with that one, so right off the bat you could see the sort of person I am.” It was a rueful, humorous note. She kept up that sort of banter throughout, showing an easy stage presence, even she was just tuning. Her second song was one she said she’d written at age 16,”Eden,” also the first song on her excellent 2012 debut album, a wistful song with a finger-picked passage that reminded me of The Beatles’ “Blackbird.” In her next break, she mentioned that she’d driven a car in NYC for the first time ever, a bit different from Halifax, and how glad she was it had been quiet, a Sunday. Not only are her lyrics full of arresting emotional images, when she toys with wordless vocalizations, doing a kind of folk-music scat, or assays to whistle a chorus, it comes off perfectly. She confessed to writing a lot of “sad songs,” but added she’s written at least one happy number, “The Happy Song,” which she played with a lilting eagerness, including a cleanly whistled passage.

She also mentioned Canadian rock superstar Joel Plaskett, who recognized Mo’s talents while she was still just in high school*. Plaskett’s produced her first two albums, and toured across Canada with him and the Emergency trio. He also recommended she consider covering a song called “Telephones,” which Mo played Sunday night. It was written by the Cape Breton, Nova Scotia group Mardeen, seen in the video below, and also has great lyrics.

The rest of her set unfolded rapidly, compressing an hour into what seemed mere minutes, though it was actually almost another ten songs. Mo Kenney is on tour in the US over the next few weeks, with stops coming up in Syracuse, Buffalo, Washington, DC, Northampton, MA, and Saratoga Springs, NY, and several other towns. (details here and below). If you’re in any of these locales, I urge you to go hear Mo Kenney. She’s a brilliant songwriter, an engaging performer, a savvy song picker, and a big talent. She ended the night by telling one more story, about how devastated she’d been by David Bowie’s death (“I took out all my LPs, began playing them while weeping, a lump on the floor,” he’d meant so much to her in formative years.), and then played a cover of Bowie’s song, “Five Years,” with the timeless verse “Your face, your race, the way that you talk/I kiss you, you’re beautiful, I want you to walk.” Kyle and I really enjoyed Mo’s performance and visiting with her after the show.

Here also are some pictures I took when I heard Mo last summer at the CBC Music Festival.

*Source for this is Grant Lawrence of CBCMusic

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Matt Andersen and Lee Harvey Osmond at Rockwood Music Hall, Friday March 18 + Mo Kenney, Sunday, 3/20

Looking forward to hearing Matt Andersen & Lee Harvey Osmond Friday 3/18 at Rockwood Music Hall NYC. Andersen’s powerful voice reminds of Greg Allman’s, while Osmond’s also got major vocal tone. Below are music videos by both artists. Admission is a very reasonable $15.
Click this link to get ticket info for Friday night’s show, a rare live appearance for both in NYC.

The booker at Rockwood is on a roll this week, as Sunday night March 20 they have Mo Kenney on one of their three stages. I hope to catch her show, too. Ticket info here, only $10.

Andersen:

Osmond:

Kenney:

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Hollerado Kicks out Some Jams w/an Assist from Swiss Water Decaf

As a regular listener to CBC Radio 3 since 2009, I bet I’ve heard Hollerado’s music dozens of times, with hundreds of plays collectively, and I’ve always enjoyed their hook-rich songs. And yet, somehow, I had never seen them live. That’s why I was really excited last Thursday afternoon when 2014 Radio 3 Fan of the Year Regina Sienra, aka Reginula—who lives in Mexico City, and who guest-blogged on Honourary Canadian earlier this year—placed this item on my Facebook wall:

I didn’t know anything about the venue, Swiss Water Coffee Studio, but since it was being promoted as a free show, that didn’t concern me much. When I arrived, on the south side of Houston near Lafayette St, I found a bright, clean pop-up space whose walls were painted with promos for Swiss Water, which I learned is a coffee company that specializes in making coffee they pledge is the most caffeine-free of any decaf, and the very best of that variety. In fact, Swiss Water (Twitter: @swisswater) was actually offering free cups of their brew right there in the space. Though I’m a longtime black tea drinker, and a coffee-avoider, I accepted a paper cup from a barista in a Swiss Water apron and took a few sips. I found it pleasant enough, quite aromatic, and it didn’t leave me feeling as if I’d just taken some rocket fuel onboard. I was glad Swiss Water had decided to use a live rock show to promote their coffee and their brand identity, which includes a philanthropic element, Grounds for Healing.

Waiting for Hollerado to take the stage, I began chatting with someone I noticed arranging tables, getting the space ready for the show.  This I learned was Patricia Johansen-Mitchell, who told me she’s with a company called Strategic Coffee Concepts. She explained her company was working on the branding exercise with Swiss Water, for this, their first foray in to NYC. She said the pop-up space opened on Oct 30 and would run through Nov 8, serving Swiss Water decaf every day. Having left home without a pen, Patty kindly loaned me one. When I checked out Swiss Water’s Twitter feed, I saw they’re actually a Canadian outfit, located in Burnaby, BC.  It didn’t seem incongruous that Hollerado was playing the space—at a minimum the company and the band have Canadian roots in common, even though the latter hails from Manotick, Ontario—now based in Toronto— while the company is out west. Waiting for the band to begin, I situated myself at a table and set up my notebook and iPad. I noticed some fellas who looked like they could be in the band, so before they got on stage I walked up and introduced myself to, it turned out, lead guitarist Nick Boyd. I gave him my card and explained I write two blogs, including this one where I write about Canadian bands, authors, politics, media, and related topics. Moments later, the lights dimmed, Nick and I signed off, and it was time for the show.

Hollerado played a generous, full set, more than an hour, during which they exhibited a lively stage presence, joking and making good-natured fun of each other. Menno, a sandy-haired player in the middle of the photos is the rhythm guitarist, lead vocalist, and seeming front man, though he is far from the only singer, or participant in japes with the audience. He was flanked on his right by the aforementioned Nick Boyd, while Dean Baxter on bass took the place to Menno’s left, and behind those three, drummer Jake Boyd stamped out the beats. Nick Boyd’s lead guitar was recessed in the band’s mix, but it never disappeared, and made for an interesting, atypical guitar tone. Baxter’s bass was tasty and audible throughout, even though I was standing on the side away from his position. Group vocals with rousing choruses are one of Hollerado’s signatures, and lots of them were sung this night by three or all four of their voices. The sound is brash and very loud, at moments, but amid the fierce attack the vibe created is nonetheless always genial, pumping out memorable melodies that lodge nicely in the mind’s ear. They traversed much of their catalog, playing “Firefly,” “Good Day at the Races,” Pick Me Up,” Riverside,” “Desire 126,” and “Juliette,” all of which can be heard at their CBC Radio 3 band page, and a couple new songs I hope to hear on an upcoming album. Hollerado seems remarkably stable, for a rock band. They’ve been together as a four-piece since around 2007, and have a label, Royal Mountain Records, that puts out their albums, as well as the big bands Pup, and Alvvays, at least in Canada.

 

After the show I met Swiss Water’s CEO, Frank Dennis, another friendly presence in the space. Like me, he’d loved Hollerado’s set, and we had a pleasant chat about favorite Canadian groups. As the band began packing up their equipment, I waved good night to them, and walked next door to a bar for a beer. Once I had a pilsener poured for me, I took out my little bike light, and began reading my book, Riverside Drive, a crime novel I’ve been enjoying, by Windsor, Ontario writer Michael Januska. A few minutes later I looked up and there was Hollerado, carrying their instruments and coming in for a beer with, I learned, a couple of Brooklyn musician friends who had also been at the show. The band members saw me, too. Menno and I began talking enthusiastically about the outcome of the recent Canadian elections, and I accepted their offer when they asked if I’d like to join them at their table. We continued talking politics, then Nick and Jake and I launched into a discussion of favorite super-groups from the 1960s-’70s—Cream, Yardbirds, and Led Zeppelin, among others. We talked about drummers, and drumming, and I told Jake about a close friend of my college-age son—a very talented drummer—who’s joined the US Army so he can play in the Army band and travel the world making music. Jake had heard of that opportunity, and pointed out he must be a superb player, since candidates must go through competitive auditions before they are offered a spot in the Army’s musical outfit.

We also discussed one of my favorite Canadian musicians, Matt Mays, as I regaled them with an account of the time when, in the wee hours one early morning at Toronto’s Cameron House, country rocker Sam Cash invited Mays to share a mic with him, including a heartfelt rendition of Neil Young’s “Helpless,” with which everyone in the bar sang along; a book I’d recently edited by Toronto science journalist Elaine Dewar, Smarts: The Boundary-busting Story of Intelligence; the classic role-playing game, Dungeons & Dragons, and The Big Book of Swashbuckling Adventure, an anthology of classic genre fiction I agented by Lawrence Ellsworth, one of D&D’s early creators; the CBC Radio 3 community, including friend Russ Gordon whose music blog is Go NORTH to Windsor, SOUTH to Detroit; and dogs, since Nick showed a photo of his new puppy, which prompted me to mention the great black Lab of my teens and early adulthood, Noah

After one last Lagunitas IPA, I bade farewell to the band, and wished them all well as they flew back to Toronto the following day for a show the next night. I hope Hollerado come back to NYC real soon, so I can hear them again, and let other live music fans here know about the fun show they put on.

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI

The Strumbellas, Spreading the Fun at Rockwood Music Hall

 Simon Ward & Darryl James of the Strumbellas
I loved the live set played by The Strumbellas Thursday night at Rockwood Music Hall. Big, buoyant songs played and sung with ensemble choruses amid loads of positive energy. Equally enjoyable was talking with the band afterwards, chatting with Darryl James (bass), Dave Ritter (keys), and Isabel Ritchie (violin). Rounding out the six-piece is Jon Hembrey (lead guitar), Jeremy Drury (drums), and Simon Ward (lead vocals, acoustic guitar, frontman). Like Derek Atkinson, lead singer of Loon Choir, another Ontario band I like a lot, Ward is a very expressive singer on stage, and interesting to watch, as you can’t be quite sure what sort of swooping or expansive gesture he might strike next. The Strumbellas have been together several years, so far putting out a total of three albums. They won a Juno Award in 2014, for “We Still Move on Dance Floors,” their most recent release. Darryl told me that for a long time they only played in Toronto, which is home base, seizing every opportunity that they could find to play in front of people, but not touring much. Then, they began touring in Canada a couple years ago, with gigs in the US coming after that. All six members had a great time on stage, exuding a comfortability that put the good-sized weeknight crowd at ease and in the mood for fun. Here’s a video of one of my favorite songs of theirs, “Sailing,” followed by the rest of my pics and a Facebook post I put up right after the show.

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI

My NXNE Storify: “Great Music & Great Times in Toronto for NXNE 2014”

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI

At the Bitter End, Ewan Turner–7pm, May 25

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#elexn42 #ToPoli 60 MInutes 1993 2015 elections 2015 Federal Election 2016 presidential election @CBCRadio3 Abraham Lincoln Acadia Adolf Hitler Agent Orange Alice Munro Amanda Lang Amelia Curran Amity Beach Amtrak Anderson Varajao Antonine Maillet architecture Arctic Ocean Arkells AUX TV Ben Caplan Beverley Slopen book-to-film adaptations Born Ruffians Boyhood Brain Cloud branding exercises Brandon Downing bullying Cabot Trail Calvin Reid Canada Canadiana Canadian authors Canadian bands in NYC Canadian Blast Canadian elections Canadian indie music canadian indie rock Canadian indie rock n' roll canadian politics Canadian rock n' roll Canadians abroad Canadian vacations cancer CANlit CANRock Cape Breton CBC CBC Books CBC Music CBC Radio CBC Radio 3 CBC Sunday Edition CBS Chicago Cleveland CMJ CMJ Music Marathon CN Tower coffee Cold War Colm Toibin comedy Communion Music Corb Lund corruption covert agents cowboy culture Crime Writers of Canada cross-cultural writing Daniel Canty Dave Bidini Dave Van Ronk David Margolick Del Barber depression dialect Doug Ford drunk driving editorial services Edward Keenan Edward Robb Ellis Elizabeth May Elliott Brood Ethan Hawke Ewan Turner fair housing Farley Mowat Fence Books flickr folk music Franconia College Frazey Ford French FridayReads Gaspé Peninsula George Elliott Clarke George Washington Bridge Gill Deacon global climate change Grant Lawrence Greenwich Village Harlan Pepper Henry Tandey Hidden Pony HIGHS hockey Hollerado Honourary Canadian Howard Engel humor Ian Tyson indie music In Flight Safety Ireland Irish music Israel Jan Wong Jian Ghomeshi Jill Barber Joe's Pub journalism Justin Trudeau Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer Kevin Donovan Keystone XL Lee's Palace Lee Harvey Osmond Lee Lorch Leonard Cohen life after corporate publishing Linda Ronstadt Lisa LeBlanc Little Red Lighthouse Little Rock Nine live music Lo-Fantasy lower east side Lt. General Roméo Dallaire Marc Maron marijuana laws Matt Andersen Mayor Bill de Blasio Mayor Rob Ford McGarrigle Sisters Megan Bonnell Mellow Pages Memoirs mental health treatment Mercury Lounge methane M for Montreal Michael Barclay Michael Enright Michael Ruby Miles O'Brien Mo Kenney Monomyth music festivals music marketing National Film Board of Canada Neil Young Neil Young. Third Man Records Nevado Records Newfoundland New York City New York music venues Noah Nobel Prize NXNE Olympics Ontario Ottawa Jazz Festival Paperbag Records Parks Canada Percé Rock Peter Warner photojournalism podcasting poetry political mindsets President Obama prosthetics PS I Love You PTSD PublishersMarketplace.com Publishers Weekly Pumpkin Pie Q Quebec racial bias Rah Rah Random House Canada road trips Robert Henry Adams Rob Ford Rockwood Music Hall Rolling Stone Rural Alberta Advantage Ruth Gruber Sadies Said the Whale Sam Roberts Band SaskMusic SaskMusic.org satire Scott Young sex education Shawn William Clark Shore Fire Media short stories Siberia sister cities spy novels Stephen Harper Stephen Marche St Louis Stompin' Tom Connors Strombo Show Strumbellas suicide prevention summer vacation 2014 Swiss Water Syrian refugees Talonbooks Thanksgiving The Ballad of Crowfoot The Deep Dark Woods TheGreatGrayBridge.com The Orchard The Revenant The Strumbellas This is That Toronto Toronto Book Awards Toronto mayoral election Toronto Star Torquil Campbell traditional music Turnip King Ugly Duckling Presse upper Manhattan Vancouver Vietnam W.B. Belcher war memorials Wigrum Wilderness of Manitoba WWI

Rural Alberta Advantage, Keeping Live Music Fans Warm on a Cold Night


Paul BanwattFun live music show last night with Toronto trio Rural Alberta Advantage in front of a boisterously appreciative full house at the Mercury Lounge on the lower east side of Manhattan. Early on, one of the band members mentioned from the stage that they had last played in NYC about four years ago, and how glad they were to back. Despite that, or even because of it, they sold out an early and a late show last night. I was at the latter set, my first time hearing them, after some years enjoying their music on CBC Radio 3. When I arrived near the end of the opening set by the duo Glasslands, I was glad to see the venue quite crowded already. In this club, with a music room whose walls are clad all in brick and no acoustic buffers installed anywhere, the sound can be brittle and harsh if the room isn’t full of people. On a wintry night with everybody in sweaters and heavy coats, the crowd was the buffer, and the sound was great.

The three members of RAA array themselves across the stage in a level rank–that is, the drummer, Paul, isn’t set up toward the back of the stage, but to the side of his bandmates. The frontman, Nils–a fair, sort of gingery fellow, in a light blue denim shirt and blue jeans, your basic Canadian tuxedo, shown in the tweet I shared from the floor–belts out lyrics in a distinctive vocal and singing style, with lots of shouts and murmurs, more of the former than the latter, all very expressive. He accompanies himself with percussive and propulsive guitar strumming, on an acoustic. He actually broke a string last night, and apparently having no second guitar with him on stage, asked if anyone in the audience could re-string his instrument for him. A confident and competent dude called out from the audience and walked on stage to help out, while Nils moved stepped over to his keyboard for a song. The guitar good samaritan took care of business and finished his task before the next song ended. This little episode made me think of how Neil Young always lauds his longtime guitar tech Larry Cragg, To one side of Nils was raven-haired Amy, on keys, xylophone and backing vocals. Among the musical sounds from her instrumentation, I could tell that she was providing a steady bass thump–since the band doesn’t have a bassist–and she did it really well). Drummer Paul was a fierce warrior on his stool, seated, not behind but to the side of his kit, so that you could really watch him play. It was nice to see a drummer freed from the back row. It’s apt, because he was a big contributor to the band’s sound last night. He happened to be in darkness most of the time, so the only photo of him I got of him happened when he was moving around on stage for a bit. Take my word for it: he’s a seriously great drummer, with a punchy tone to his skins that had the sonic character of an instrument, not beats alone.

RAA has a pleasantly raw, not heavily amplified, sound, reminiscent to me of other Canadian groups I love like Elliott Brood, “death country” trio that features guitar, banjo, and drums; the multi-instrumental duo Sunparlour Players; Cuff the Duke, a 4-piece whose guitar-driven sound ranges from pastoral to edgy and serrated; and ski-bumming, stoke-folk 5-piece Shred Kelly.

Rural Alberta Advantage played for about 75 minutes last night, before coming back for a few encores, capped off by the band’s stroll down from the stage in to the audience, where they stepped up on to a bench against a wall, and led the happy crowd in an acapella finale. Nils announced that following the show they would be hanging out in the bar’s front room for a while and would be eager to meet and say hi. I stuck around and enjoyed introducing myself to and speaking with Paul Banwatt, Amy Cole, and Nils Edenloff. I told them about my blogs and said I looked forward to sharing a report on their show, along with the photos I took during their spirited performance.

Such a fun night of live music. I hope to hear the band again sometime and plan on picking up one or both of their albums down the road. I didn’t buy either last night–being currently without a CD player attached to my Mac–but would love to have their CDs from Paperbag Records, a terrific label that also handles Elliott Brood and Cuff the Duke. Shout-out to Amanda Dameron Pitts of Cobra Camanda who helped me get in to to this sold-out show.


Cross-posted at The Great Gray Bridge.

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Live Music this Week–The Deep Dark Woods, Mercury Lounge, Nov. 20

This should be a great live music show, Wednesday night Nov. 20 in NYC at the Mercury Lounge on E. Houston Street. Headliners The Deep Dark Woods from Saskatoon, Sasketchewan are a terrific group with a distinctive folk/roots sound, really good vocals, terrific playing–like that of their keyboard player, whose organ sound makes me feel nostalgic, though I’m not even sure for what–and memorable songs. Come join me if you can. Details at the Mercury Lounge website (the opening acts look good, too). Great music coming off the Canadian Prairies these days, as evidenced by a recent show I enjoyed during CMJ, when I heard the artists showcased by SaskMusic.

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