2014 Summer Sunday Music Series

2014 Summer City Music Series

2014 Summer City Music SeriesI’m running with my theme of ‘Curation is Creation’ and posting my lineups from previous years for the next little while.  Since my primary creative outlet is booking music, I thought it would be nice to celebrate that here.

It’s not often that I reflect on my successes, and I’m really bad at self-promotion, so it’s something new I’m trying. I’m trying to focus more on the things I take pride in than the various mistakes and mishaps that have happened with the various events I’ve worked on.  But really, these lineups are my pride and joy; I take a lot of satisfaction from looking back and surprising myself by how much I still love most of the musical lineups I’ve created.

Over the past decade, there’s really only been a year or so that I haven’t been actively booking music, and I found that year really dissatisfying and stifling.  That’s why I recently incorporated my small company, Secret Frequency, as a non-profit;  I’ll be pursuing arts grants and sponsorships, and working towards doing more and more autonomous booking at venues of my choosing.  The artistic freedom to book bands that I think are the right ones is important to me, and important to my work as an artist and curator.

Last month, I shared my 2015 Music City Summer Series, which is now underway in the Distillery District; this is the 2014 Summer Sunday Music Series, which ran June – August last year.
In case you’re wondering, yes, I like alliteration and assonance an awful lot.


Led by powerful vocalist Tamar Ilana, VENTANAS weaves in and out of upbeat Bulgarian dance tunes, Greek, Turkish and Sephardic love songs, and heart-wrenching Flamenco dances, leading captive audiences through windows into other lands and cultures.


http://www.thefoxandthemoon.com/The Fox and The Moon

An indie-folk-acoustic made up of two acoustic guitars (Chris Blachford and Kim Wexler), a mandolin (Stella Green) and wonderful harmonies which have mesmerized audiences from their first song together.


http://www.quiqueescamilla.com/Quique Escamilla

Quique Escamilla was born and raised to a family of six in the warm, tropical southern lands of the state of Chiapas, Mexico. Today, Quique Escamilla is multi-instrumentalist, singer-songwriter, and producer living in Toronto. Since his arrival in 2007, he has rapidly become a rising star on the Canadian music scene. In 2011, he was discovered by a CBC radio producer and has since become a favourite on popular CBC Toronto shows such as Here and Now, Metro Morning, Fresh Air and Big City Small World. He won a JUNO Award in 2015.


http://www.eh440.com/Eh 440

Eh440 is a mix of 5 people from 5 very different backgrounds and musical genres. Joe’s been a low bass singer his entire life, Luke’s an urban beatboxer, Janet identifies as a country/pop singer, Stacey’s soul/pop, and if that isn’t confusing enough, Mike’s even more of a musical chameleon who cites blues, folk, and “anything with a good groove” as his influences.Together they form “an unforgettable combination of crazy beatboxing, sassy rapping, killer harmonies, and fresh, urban, RnB-influenced compositions”.


http://melissapaynemusic.com/Melissa Payne

Part velvet, part gravel, Melissa Payne’s voice stands out – her playing on fiddle and guitar a demonstration in passion and graceful restraint, her songs stomp and holler like a heatbeat leaving audiences enthralled.


https://seanconway.bandcamp.com/Sean Conway

SEAN CONWAY is a singer-songwriter and multi-instrumentalist currently residing in Peterborough, Ontario. An avid musical explorer, he effortlessly blurs the bridges between the classic sounds of 60’s-era country music, early Brit-pop and doo-wop rock n’ roll with his delicate eye for detail, all the while embracing his spontaneous nature as an entertainer and musician – constantly challenging himself as an artist and performer.


http://www.davidnewland.com/David Newland

“His songwriting—which celebrates the basic, small-town, homey pleasures of things like bare feet on a gravel road, strawberry season, and autumn leaves—while universal, is precise and beautifully integrated into the music in a way that seems inevitable.” – Barry Hammond, Penguin Eggs


http://clairemorrison.bandcamp.comClaire Morrison

Folk songwriter Claire Morrison was born where two rivers meet, and makes music because she must. Spurred by a fierce devotion to beauty and tempered by sharp realism, hers are songs characterized by both light and dark, sweetness and melancholy. Breaking onto the scene in 2010 with Winnipeg-based duo Fire & Smoke, the 22-year-old poet delivers haunting solo numbers with fearless intimacy. Her rich, resonant voice can take you away and bring you home, her words can cut you deep and lift you up. Whatever the case may be, this Manitoban songstress offers up spare, stormy folk with a lot of heart.

http://www.sarahjanescouten.com/Sarah Jane Scouten

A traditionalist at heart, Sarah Jane shows her signature flair for the roots of roots music, ranging from Western-swing, honky-tonk, Cajun and Appalachian string band music and a hint of the Maritimes. With respect for these roots, she writes from her own perspective, rather than taking on a persona or copying a style, and only writes about what she knows profoundly.


http://www.kristineschmitt.com/Kristine Schmitt and Her Special Powers

Kristine’s songwriting somehow manages to sound both vintage and immediate. Brand-new tunes with an old-time urgency, you’re never quite sure if what you’re hearing was written last week or whether it’s a tune that’s been around the block a few times.


2015 Music City Summer Series

2015 Music City Summer Series

2015 Music City Summer SeriesI’ve been a music booker for a long time – about half of my life – and I’ve always considered booking music an art.  When I work on a festival or music series, it uses up all of my creative energy in the same way that writing or acting does; it satisfies my drive to create in the same way.

I never really had the right words to describe it to people until someone – I can’t remember if it was Elizabeth Fennel or Fynn Leitch – said something in an online conversation that really resonated with me: “Curation is Creation.” In those three neat words so much of what I do as a booker is explained.

I’m not someone who likes booking a big headliner to end the show – I like a lineup that works like a long mixed tape, building a feeling, shaping a mood.  I believe that music can bring together a community, can create intergenerational and cross-cultural conversations and places.  I can and do book ticketed shows, but my preference leans heavily towards free shows in outdoor venues. ((Though I’m sometimes conflicted about that, as I think audiences should understand that art costs money.))

I love giving emerging artists an opportunity; I love introducing audiences to artists or sounds that they’ve never heard before. I love working with artists who are professional and pleasant, and I take care to book acts that will treat my crew, audiences, staff, and volunteers with respect.

The lineup for my weekly Music City Summer Series is something I’m very proud of; the brief was to book a series that spoke to the multiple distinct demographics of the Distillery District, and brought Roots/Country/Folk in counterpoint to the huge amount of Jazz and Latin American/Caribbean programming that we’ve got on throughout the rest of the Summer.

These are acts that, aside from being wonderful and very skilled, I also think are lovely people; it gives me a little thrill of pleasure to see the whole lineup laid out as it is below. So here it is, The Distillery District’s Music City Summer Series, 2015:

Music City Summer Series 2015 - The Double CutsThe Double Cuts
Wednesday June 3, 2015
Toronto’s most genial Western Swing band The Double Cuts draw from a timeless repertoire that sets audiences smiling and ready to dance.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Dirty DishesDirty Dishes
Wednesday June 10, 2015
Bringing a shine to every venue with their beautiful harmonies and extraordinary energy, The Dirty dishes have been touring the country breaking hearts and soothing souls at festivals and events throughout Canada.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  The Boxcar BoysThe Boxcar Boys

Wednesday June 17, 2015, 6pm
Delivering a veritable gumbo of old-style jazz and folk music, The Boxcar Boys are a joyous acoustic celebration guaranteed to put a smile on your face and a spring in your step.


Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Suzie VinnickSuzie Vinnick
Wednesday June 24, 2015, 6pm
When Saskatoon native and Folk/Jazz/Blues artist Suzie Vinnick takes the stage, she takes it from the footlights to the rafters and owns it. Her powerful presence and skillful playing has left a lasting impression on audience across the country.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Kristine Schmitt and the Lonesome Ace StringbandKristine Schmitt and the Lonesome Ace Stringband 
Wednesday July 1, 2015, 6pm
Kristine Schmitt is a Toronto-based singer-songwriter, specializing in material both drawn from and influenced by music from the early part of the twentieth century. Whether it’s a fifties country ballad, an old mountain tune, a salty twenties blues number, a swinging thirties jazz tune, or belting out one of her own, you’d better hang on tight!


Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Red Moon RoadRed Moon Road
Wednesday July 8, 2015, 6pm
Born in a storm on a wild Canadian lake, Canada’s most energetic and endearing folk trio brings masterful storytelling and a lush and lively take on modern roots music.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Miranda MulhollandMiranda Mulholland
Wednesday July 29, 2015, 6pm

Canadian virtuoso fiddler and singer Miranda Mulholland’s music has a subtle power and distinctive personality. Mixing Jazz, Folk, and Roots music seamlessly, she thrives on diversity. a member of Great Lakes Swimmers and Belle Star, her solo work reflects her skill and experience, bringing her own unique style to the fore.


Music City Summer Series 2015 -  The Young NovelistsThe Young Novelists

Wednesday August 5, 2015, 6pm
Through their rich-but-rustic sound, Toronto Roots/Rock outfit The Young Novelists deliver raw but elegant instrumentation and stacked, multi-layered harmonies.


Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Kaia KaterKaia Kater

Wednesday August 12, 2015, 6pm
An eclectic traditionalist, Kaia Kater offers a unique take on Appalachian and Canadian traditional music through banjo and voice.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Melissa PayneMelissa Payne
Wednesday August 19, 2015, 6pm
Part velvet, part gravel, Melissa Payne’s voice stands out – her playing on fiddle and guitar a demonstration in passion and graceful restraint, her songs stomp and holler like a heatbeat leaving audiences enthralled.



Music City Summer Series 2015 -  Patrick BrealeyPatrick Brealey 
Wednesday August 26, 2015, 6pm
Blending Folk, Country, and Blues, Patrick Brealey is filled to the brim with swagger, tenderness, and charisma. Whether through his clever songwriting or quick sense of humour, he captivates crowds wherever he performs.



Ukulele cover – ‘I’m on Fire’

Ukulele cover - 'I'm on Fire'

I’ve been sporadically playing the ukulele for a few years now since David Newland got me hooked on it, and I’ve been singing since I was a kid, like most people.  I’m starting to learn more about my singing voice, and how to do the things I want to do (like stay on key and not sound like a vocalist I wouldn’t want to listen to), and one of the methods that really helps is to hear myself recorded. Nothing really hammers home the flaws like listening to playback of your own performance!

I recorded this last weekend, as I was recovering from a bad headcold; I can’t tell if that added to or detracted from my performance. I’d recently gotten advice from my old friend and mentor Ian Osborn that I should try getting a little drunk and recording myself, to get used to my voice and to quiet that internal censor that pops up whenever I do anything that isn’t perfect.  I figured being that sick was roughly equivalent to half a bottle of wine, and it worked out all right, in addition to being a great way to shake loose some of the congestion in my head.

I recorded it using my Yeti Blue Microphone and Audacity recording software; my knowledge of recording is pretty minimal, but months ago at Shelter Valley Folk Festival I got some good advice from friend, musician, and radio producer Laurence Stevenson, who told me to set myself and my mic up in a closet full of clothes, which works really effectively as a baffle.

Having spent most of my life around some of the best professional musicians in the industry, it’s always been hard for me to put anything musical out there – but I’m going to try to do it more often.