Back out for some Canadian Music Week music goodness last night – this time, at Toronto’s iconic music venue the Silver Dollar Room for blueVenus.
blueVenus brings pop that rocks – punched up with a bit of funk, Motown, blues and jazz – and they moved us with selections from CDs Grin and the recent Comfortably Numb, and a taste of the record to come. You must see blueVenus live.
Andrea de Boer is the songwriting and vocal force behind blueVenus, and her most excellent band at the Silver Dollar Room last night included: Jessica Stuart (guitar/backup vocals), Iva Valent (keys/back up vocals), D’arcy McGuire (bass) and Matt DeMatteo (drums).
Hey kids! For all y’all who are coming back to your regularly scheduled programming after the long weekend: hope you had a good one. Can you believe we’re well into the first week of August already? Holy moly!
Lots coming up, my friends. Here is just a sample of what local artists and performers are up to here in Toronto this week:
SummerWorks gets up and running Aug 8 – 18 at various venues. I’ve got my eye on: Delicacy, Eating Pomegranates Naked and Utopia.
The August edition of The Beautiful and the Damned on Thurs, Aug 8 at Q Space from 7 – 9:30 p.m., hosted by Lizzie Violet, and featuring Brenda Clews, Adam Abbas and Andrea Matchett, and a whole lotta talented open mic performers. Dead celeb of the month is Janis Joplin. This will be TB&TD’s last show at Q Space – new location TBD.
The monthly cabaret/open mic extravaganza Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir says goodbye to Q Space on Sun, Aug 11 7 – 10 p.m., with feature performers sol knots, Andraya and Tania Joy, as well as some amazing open mic talent. Cabaret Noir heads to a new venue in September – new location TBA during Sunday night’s show.
Andrea de Boer’s band blueVenus gave us an incredible set at Velvet Underground as Canadian Music Week kicked off last night, moving the audience with their joygasmic fusion of jazz, blues, pop and Motown – with evocative lyrics, amazing musicianship and stellar vocals from de Boer. blueVenus includes de Boer on vocals and violin, Luke Roberts on guitar and back-up vocals, Mason Stoner on bass and Colin Kingsmore on drums.
From the title track of their CD Grin through “No Time To Waste,” this was an energetic, charismatic set – and de Boer beckoned us closer to the stage right off the top, creating a warm and intimate space for the sounds to live. And you cannot stand still while listening. Heads bopping, feet tapping, the audience was digging it. If you haven’t heard this band, do yourself a favour and check out the blueVenus website and YouTube channel.
Canadian Music Week is up and running all over T.O. until March 24, so get out there and support local talent.
In the meantime, here are some pics from last night’s blueVenus gig. Enjoy!
Quick note on Saturday’s Week One reading of Falling: We had a packed house, with an audience who responded very positively and had some great feedback for playwright Jamie Johnson. Shouts to Jamie, co-artistic directors Pat McCarthy and Carolyn Zapf, director Ed Rosing, AD/SM Jake Simpkins, dramaturge Diane Forrest, sound designer Rick Jones, and fellow cast members Carys Lewis, Cora Matheson, Ruth Miller and Kristen Scott! And a big thanks to all the folks who came out to support the play, including friends and family – some of whom trekked in from Ottawa, Burlington and Hamilton. xo
The next edition of The Beautiful and the Damned is Thursday, March 14 – 7 p.m. at Glad Day Bookshop. Host DM Moore introduces feature performers Greg “Ritallin” Frankson, Gerald Hannon and Andraya Smith, and some amazing open mic folks.
The next Songwriters Circle of Jerks is coming up on Thursday, March 14 – 8:30 p.m. at Free Times Café, featuring Brian Cober, Hugh Wilson, Marcus Walker, Nelson Sobral and Nick Verona.
Nightwood Theatre’s Groundswell Festival opens Friday, March 15 and runs until March 24 at Berkeley Street Theatre – check out the cool promo vid for the fest. Features a new play by one of my favourite playwrights: Judith Thompson’s Who Killed Snow White? Also check out Nightwood’s annual International Women’s Day Celebration FemCab on Wednesday, March 20.
Feature performers included Josh Smith, Myna Wallin and blueVenus (Andrea de Boer & Jessica Stuart), and there were several excellent open mic artists as well, including Kat Leonard, who got us up on our feet dancing to the One Billion Rising music video on her iPad. Check out the pics from last night’s festivities.
It’s been a great week off, the first week of my favourite month, leading up to Thanksgiving weekend.
Monday night was dinner at Shanghai Cowgirl (http://www.shanghaicowgirl.com/) with my friend Dee, then we moved on to Bar Czehoski (http://www.czehoski.com/) for Windbag Cabaret, hosted by Michael Bell (Twitter: @Michael_Bell_), who treated the audience to some standards, as well as some pop favourites, throughout the evening as he introduced the night’s amazing music line-up. Missy Knott (Twitter: @missyknottmusic) offered up some sweet acoustic blues-inspired folk from her For No Reason At All… CD and Missy Knott EP, with sexy vocals making love to those lyrics. Joel Parkes (Twitter: @JoelParkes) did a nice, mostly driving country set, including a song he co-wrote with Shaun Shankel and Kyle Jacobs that became a country power ballad hit when American Idol finalist Kimberley Locke recorded it on her One Love album – “8th World Wonder.” And rounding out the evening’s rotation of amazing talent was blueVenus (http://www.bluevenusmusic.com/), who blows me away every time, mostly due to singer/songwriter Andrea de Boer’s incredible vocals and lyrics – with selections from her Grin CD, a sweet combination of jazz and pop. My favourite song is still “No Time To Waste.”
Tuesday, I went to see Farewell, My Queen at the Carlton. This heartbreaking and romantic historical drama takes us behind the scenes of a monarchy under siege as the revolution takes hold in France. Sidonie Laborde (Léa Seydoux) is a servant of Queen Marie Antoinette (Diane Kruger) – the Queen’s reader who becomes the Queen’s confidant – at her mistress’s beck and call. The Queen, burdened by rank and anxious about the uncertainty of the future, appears as a fragile, easily distracted and passionate woman – the object of her passion being noblewoman Gabrielle de Polignac (Virginie Ledoyen). Sidonie’s love of and loyalty to the Queen are put to the test as the nobles flee Versailles and Marie Antoinette fears for the safety of Gabrielle. Gorgeous art direction and beautifully shot, Farewell, My Queen gives the audience a peek into two very different worlds, with Sidonie acting as a bridge, as well as our guide, between the two. Check out the trailer:
Wednesday and Thursday was a great time, spent in Niagara on the Lake (NotL) at the Shaw Festival (http://www.shawfest.com/). Here’s what I saw there:
Wednesday afternoon, I saw Come Back, Little Sheba, by William Inge and directed by Shaw A.D. Jackie Maxwell, at the Royal George Theatre. This is an intimate and heart-breaking portrait of middle America post-WWII. Of being alone and lonely in a sea of apartments. Of longing for more innocent times gone by. Of AA and the Serenity Prayer. Middle-aged housewife Lola (Corrine Koslo) longs for the joy and romance of times past, missing her lost dog Sheba and sneaking peeks at – and living vicariously through – her beautiful young border Maria (Julia Course) on dates with her bad-boy boyfriend Turk (Kevin McGarry) even as she courts nice boy Bruce (Andrew Bunker). Not the greatest housekeeper, Lola scores points with her serious German neighbour Mrs. Coffman (Sharry Flett) by fixing up the house for Bruce’s impending dinner visit. As Lola lives in fantasy, her husband Doc (Ric Reid), who she calls “Daddy” while he calls her “Baby,” struggles with sobriety as he goes about the monotonous everyday business of his chiropractic practice. Quiet lives of desperation ready to implode or explode at any moment – the reserves of rage, strength and even kindness of these characters are remarkable. Outstanding performances, especially from Koslo and Reid, as well as Course and Flett. And I loved Christina Poddubiuk’s set design, which features the family living/dining room and kitchen, surrounded by hanging window frames in the background, giving the sense of a densely packed urban neighbourhood.
Wednesday night, I wandered over to the Festival Theatre box office and managed to get a last-minute – and really good – seat for the evening performance of Present Laughter (by Noel Coward, directed by David Schurmann). I needed that infusion of Coward comedy and this production gives it up big time. The audience gets a two-hour behind-the-scenes look at the personal and professional trials and tribulations of theatre star Garry Essendine (Steven Sutcliffe) as backstage and marital/relationship shenanigans unfold in his stunning studio apartment. Featuring some hilarious – and at times sexy – turns from Sutcliffe, Claire Jullien (as his sort-of-ex-wife Liz), Moya O’Connell (friend’s wife Johanna) and Mary Haney (secretary Monica), with shouts to Corrine Koslo (housekeeper Miss Erikson), Jonathan Tan (crazed student/fan Roland) and Jennifer Phipps (Lady Saltburn). Wonderfully gorgeous set design by William Schmuck, the dominant mural inspired by a smaller version at Central Station in Cincinnati, which is now an Art Deco museum with a train line operating to Chicago. It was some big, marvelous party, pandemonium fun.
Thursday night, I was back at the Festival Theatre for Ragtime – book by Terrance McNally, music by Stephen Flaherty and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens – directed by Jackie Maxwell, with music direction by Paul Sportelli and choreography by Valerie Moore. I was fully expecting to be in tears – and I was – at the end of both acts as I watched New York City go through the birth pains of the 20th century. Interwoven stories of a wealthy WASP family, a Jewish immigrant and his young daughter, and a young educated black piano player who makes things right with the mother of his infant son only to be faced with a battle for justice and dignity when racist hooligans vandalize his car. The struggles of race, class and the hardships of immigrants, all reaching for the American Dream – or trying to keep their grip on what piece of it they already have. An incredible ensemble of performers, featuring Thom Allison as Coalhouse Walker Jr., Patty Jamieson as Mother and Jay Turvey as Tateh, with stand-out work from Evan Alexander Smith as Younger Brother, Kate Hennig as Emma Goldman, Kelly Wong as Houdini and Julie Martell as Evelyn Nesbit. Also featuring an impressive and effective set by Sue LePage – a framework of black steal girders and catwalks, with projected still photos and moving pictures in the background. An inspirational, powerful and moving work.
It was a truly enjoyable week – with thanks to my folks for always being up for a road trip and giving me a drive to NotL from Burlington, as well as the good folks at the Charles Inn (http://www.niagarasfinest.com/properties/charlesinn/), the lovely spot I stayed in at NotL.
Hey again – music adventure, as promised. Last night was a date with my pal Lizzie Violet, starting with a very tasty dinner at Shanghai Cowgirl and winding up at Cameron House. Photos courtesy of Lizzie’s camera and taken by Lizzie, Marcus and me.
blueVenus started the evening, and singer/songwriter Andrea de Boer on violin, Luke Roberts on guitar and some recorded instrumentals to round out their sound. Andrea has a great set of pipes on her, a soulful energy and a very cool style on the strings, at times playing it like a ukulele. I scored the band’s CD Grin while chatting with Andrea. Check out this amazing band at: www.bluevenusmusic.com
Russell Leon and his band headlined, up second, and featured Marcus Walker on bass. Playful, powerful and edgy, these guys brought it. Check them out here: http://www.rleonband.com/
Last up was Dolly, a high energy, rockin’ three-piece group with an awesome (not to mention hot) drummer – she’s the real shit. You can find Dolly here: http://www.myspace.com/dollytunes
And, seeing as I’ve been there so much over the past couple of months, I think Shanghai Cowgirl is my official place now.