I had the pleasure of attending the final performance of Angela Saini’s May residency at The Cameron House last night, which included a selection of tunes from across albums—with a special nod of celebration to her new record Hope on the Stereo—along with a few choice covers (I especially enjoyed Saini’s interpretation of Melissa Etheridge’s “Come to my Window”). Sharing the stage with Saini was her band: François Martin (guitar), Jeff Scale (bass) and David Sufrin (drums).
The sounds are rich, inviting and catchy—with snatches of soul, country and pop—including some haunting and driving guitar licks reminiscent of Chris Isaak and U2’s The Edge, courtesy of François Martin. And Saini invites us to sing and dance along. Whether taking us on the “love train” (“Right Beside You”); getting nostalgic (“My Once Upon a Time”); shouting out positivity (“Living on the Bright Side”); or grappling with issues of body image (“Something Like I’m Beautiful”), identity (“U Turn”, “Black Sheep”) and challenging human interactions (“Sweet Sweet Mouth”), Angela Saini’s songs are profoundly honest expressions of humanity and compassion—offering astute and ultimately hopeful glimpses into the human condition.
Last night was the final performance of Saini’s May residency, but you can give Saini’s music a listen and check out her upcoming gigs.
Angela Saini threw a big party at The Cameron House on Thursday night—and everyone was invited! Saini launched her Live and Alive CD to a standing room only crowd in the back room of the Toronto music venue; the album went global on Friday.
Singer songwriter Paul Lamarche opened, treating the packed house to an acoustic set of his mellow, country-infused sounds. With notes of romance and melancholy, Lamarche took us from the wistful, nostalgia of “Ferris Wheel” to the more funkified “Make It Good” and a fun cover of Toto’s “Africa,” which included some audience participation. Closing with “All the Way” at the piano, Lamarche showcased his remarkable vocal range, especially in the upper register. Keep an eye out for Lamarche.
Live and Alive happened part by chance, part by design. Saini joined forces with Eric Stecki, who recorded her gigs at The Mod Club and The Drake Hotel; tracks were subsequently mixed by Ian Bodzasi and mastered by Harry Hess. Saini’s band includes Francois Martin (guitar/background vocals), Jeff Scale (bass) and David Sufrin (drums), who joined her onstage on Thursday night at the launch.
An engaging, sometimes cheeky, and always inclusive performer, Saini performed a mix of songs from the record, along with some brand spankin’ new tunes, giving us a sneak peek at what’s to come along with the fan favourites, in a combo acoustic/full band set (reflecting the recordings on the CD).
Saini’s pop sound is a soulful mix of of fierce and fragile. The lyrics are reflective and positive, even when calling out bad behaviour (“Sweet Sweet Mouth”) and, above all, tell us that it’s never too late to turn things around and make a new start (“U Turn,” “Here I Go Again” and “Living on the Bright Side”). Live and Alive also includes poignant, tender songs of love and connection, including connection to oneself (“Stay Here with Me,” “Something Like I’m Beautiful” and “Dear Diary”).
“U Turn” is one of my personal faves; turns out, it’s a fave of Lamarche’s too. And the whole audience was invited to sing along—and did, with great delight—on “Living on the Bright Side.” Saini’s encore, new song “Black Sheep,” shouts out not giving any effs about what other people think.
Awesome and uplifting, sweet sweet sounds at Angela Saini’s Live and Alive CD launch. Keep your eyes and ears peeled for Angela Saini.
In the meantime, check out Saini’s video for “Here I Go Again”:
Accompanied by Dickie the Pianist (director Em Glasspool), Mel (Petch) walks the talk when it comes to ‘the show must go on,’ for her heart is heavy with sad news about her Vagabond Theatre home: the theatre is closing to make way for a movie cinema. And she knows she must tell Dickie and the audience, but hasn’t the heart just yet. And so the intrepid impressaria carries on, introducing her vaudeville show line-up and regaling the audience with skillful musical saw numbers. Taking moments in her dressing room during the acts, she reminisces and read odes to the various loves of her life: her mentor Dr. Sweeney, who ran a travelling medicine show where she got bit by the acting bug while working as his assistant; her male impersonator persona Victor the Crooner, with whom she discovered the man inside; and the unique love she found in the unappreciated beauty of a side-show attraction colleague.
Petch brings a lovely, melancholy sense of mirth to Mel; saucy and entertaining in the shifts from Mel’s bits and introductions, to Victor (a suave lady’s man performer – and “Just a Gigolo” is a perfect song for him), to a Dietrich impersonation-driven spoken word performance on being called a “tramp,” to Dr. Sweeney (the charming rascal elixir salesman). And then, in Mel’s private moments backstage, misty-eyed with memory as she reflects on her history in vaudeville – a job she loves, working with colleagues she regards as family. While Mel’s inability to say the words “goodnight” or “goodbye” is hilarious – there’s an undercurrent of sadness there – and her ability to smile through the heartbreak is what Chaplin wrote and sang about in “Smile.” Glasspool gives one of the most hilarious drunk performances I’ve ever seen as the reliably drunken pianist Dickie; there’s a rhythmic quality to his staggering and swaying, and a child-like wonder on display, as he occasionally gets lost in watching the onstage goings-on while chugging back bottles of Dr. Sweeney’s elixir and needs to be reminded of his cue.
Through the 1931derful vaudeville laughs and cheek, there’s a reminder here that live performance brings a flesh and blood immediacy that watching onscreen can’t.
A lovely ode to vaudeville in the bawdy, funny and poignant Mel Malarkey Gets the Bum’s Rush.
Mel Malarkey Gets the Bum’s Rush was a one-night only affair at Cameron House this time around, but keep your peepers open for future productions at a fine performance venue near you.
Three artists. Three acts. One car. Toronto indie music artists Jessica Speziale, Brooklyn Doran and Iliya Vee (of Dreadful Starlings) loaned their talents to a successful Christmas album and concert fundraiser for the Humber River Hospital Foundation with Indigal, a Toronto-based indie music collective. The three artists have joined forces to launch Rainboots and Rock N’ Roll, a 10-day tour of Southern Ontario, kicking off in Toronto with a gig at Cameron House on April 1, then travelling from St. Catharines to Montreal.
Here are the Rainboots and Rock N’ Roll tour dates/venues:
LWMC: Hey guys, thanks for taking some time out to talk about your upcoming Rainboots and Rock N’ Roll tour. So whose wacky, wonderful idea was this anyway? How did you come up with the cool tour name?
JS: Ahhhh!!! I love that you love the name!! We were playing around with names that would say something similar to “Spring Tour” without actually calling it that. [laughs] Rainboots are cute and make me think of April. [smooch] Thanks so much! In terms of deciding to hit the road together, Brooklyn and I are part of an eight-woman indie music collective called Indigal which recorded a Christmas album this past Christmas. Iliya was actually playing bass on the record, and so one day after rehearsal, Brooklyn gave us a ride home and we were talking about how much we both wanted to tour. We were like, “let’s do it!!!”
BD: That was definitely Jessica! I’m going to wear my yellow wellies on as many stages as I can.
IV: The tour name was definitely Jessica’s idea. We’re roommates, and I’ve been playing bass in her band for about two years. We had thrown the idea of going on tour around a few times, and then it just made a whole lot of sense once Brooklyn was in the picture. It helps to have someone with a car involved.
LWMC: And how did you come to book these specific venues?
BD: We are so lucky to have a great network of friends across Southern Ontario and in Montreal who were able to hook us up. Josh Spencer from KickDrum Montreal is a great person to contact in the city because not only is he THE guy to contact about booking a great (and well-attended) indie show, he pays so much attention to the curation of his showcases – from the way the music will flow from one act to the next, to the venue, and even down to the poster design. I definitely recommend working with KickDrum to anyone touring to Montreal for the first time.
JS: We’re super excited to be playing all of these amazing places! In some instances, we’re also returning to some of the great venues we’ve played before on past tours. So grateful for our networks.
IV: Both Jess and Brooklyn have a much more developed network of artists and promoters to draw on than I, never really having performed extensively outside of Toronto. My band (The Dreadful Starlings) has played the odd festival way out here and there, and I’m looking at this as an opportunity to learn who’s who and make some lasting connections for future appearances along our tour route.
LWMC:Tell us a bit about the sets you’ll be performing. I hear you’re going to be accompanying each other – and doing solo bits as well?
JS: Yes!! To both. [laughs] We will be playing our own acoustic sets, some parts solo, and others with each other. Tambourines and shakers will be coming out as well!
BD: By the end of the tour, I’m sure we’ll be singing every song from everyone’s set! I love getting the opportunity to contribute to another artists work and hear them sing and play on my songs using creative and exciting arrangements that I haven’t hear before when singing it in my head.
IV: I normally play bass in Jessica’s band, although guitar is my native instrument, so to speak, so I will play along on any songs the girls ask me to. Initially we were planning to have all three of us play all the time, but we found parts of our repertoire were less inclined to this approach. Plus this way, we get a chance to engage the crowd and have a drink or two while one of us holds down the stage.
LWMC: Are any of you trying out new material on this tour?
BD: I just finished tracking my new album These Paper Wings, which was recorded all at Catherine North Studios in Hamilton, so I’ll be singing a few of the songs from that album unplugged (although I’m keeping a few tracks secret until the album release).
I am also premiering my newest song and video “I Found a Home” on April 29 for CBC Searchlight. It was recorded live, in one take, on a rooftop in downtown Toronto and was inspired by a couple I met who’d been married for 40 years.
JS: I’ve been in the recording studio recently to record my next single!! Some of my biggest fans may have heard it, but I’ll definitely be trying it out on this tour! (*whispers* It’s called “Wildfire”!)
IV: Most assuredly. I’ll be playing some selections from The Dreadful Starlings’ latest EP release Shack Up With The Downside, as well as some new tunes that have never seen the light of day and some old songs that never really made it out off the paper.
LWMC: Who’s driving?
IV:Are you a cop? Because, legally, you have to tell me if you’re a cop.
LWMC: Nope, not a cop. Though I do give off that kinda vibe sometimes. A few road trip trivia questions: Favourite road trip snack?
JS: Coffee!! Lots of coffee.
BD: Dried Mangos and Tim Horton’s coffee.
IV: Trail mix. It makes me feel like I’m doing myself some good and hiking about somewhere rather than sitting still for hours on end.
LWMC: Favourite place to stop for a bite?
BD: Roadside diners with 24/hr. breakfasts are my FAVOURITE!
JS: I’m loving the ON Routes that have Teriyaki Express. The 5th Wheel in, like, Bowmanville is pretty sweet too.
IV: Grocery stores! Love a good bowl of pho, too.
LWMC: Favourite road trip music?
BD: My car only has a CD player, so it wonderfully forces you to listen to entire albums front to back instead of sampling singles. Right now in my stereo, I’m really digging local Montreal artist Greg McEvoy’s newest release “Selfish Love Songs.”
JS: Sam Roberts is the ultimate!! For this tour, I’m stoked that Brooklyn’s car has a CD player. I’m bringing all my No Doubt, Lenny Kravitz, Sam Roberts and Silverchair CDs.
IV: Wait, CDs only? Not even a tape deck? I can hook us UP if you have a tape deck, Brooklyn. I’ll have to sift through my collection but I see some Gypsy Kings, The Doors, Robert Johnson and Elvis Costello kicking around. Jessica has the Sam Roberts on lock, which I also love.
LWMC: What’s your road trip jam: Do you like to take your time, with ample pee and snack breaks? Or do you prefer to just give ‘er and get there?
JS: Definitely the former. I like pee breaks. I also gun it between pee breaks, but I’m a fan of not feeling rushed. We’re also hoping to pop into towns along the way to busk and meet people!
BD: As long as I have warm coffee, I could drive for miles and miles.
IV: Well, playing shows can sometimes seem a bit like golf… Hurry up and wait, you know? So somewhere in between I guess… You don’t want to be late and make someone’s night stressful, but you generally don’t want to beat the sound guy/gal to the venue either.
LWMC: Anything else you’d like to shout out?
BD: If you get the chance, please send your votes our way for the CBC Searchlight competition. Your votes contribute to how much our music is programmed on CBC Radio throughout the year and we’d love to be on the airwaves with our original music as much as possible.
I met Toronto-based singer/songwriter Melanie Peterson about a year ago at Cameron House during She’s Listening II, a music event fundraiser for Ovarian Cancer Canada. Captured by her cheery yet melancholy sounds, I picked up a copy of her Unbreakable CD – she’s been aptly described as “Mary Poppins with a broken heart.” We’ve kept in touch on social media since then, and I learned that she’s recently launched an Indiegogo campaign for her sophomore album and released the very catchy, poppy single “Fallback Plan” (be sure to visit the campaign page to hear the song). I chatted with Peterson recently about the new record and the fundraising campaign:
LWMC: Hey, busy lady. You’ve been getting ready to record your second album. What’s it called, and what can you tell us about the inspiration and genesis of this new music?
MP: Truth be told, I’ve yet to hit upon the album title. My producer Mitch Girio and I are batting around ideas right now. I’m thinking maybe not a song title, but a key line from one of the songs… kinda like Alanis did with her Jagged Little Pill album title. As far as the genesis of these songs, they come from my daily writing practice. I write one full song a month, come hell or high water, so many of the songs come from this. Inspired by my life, or a book I read or another song I hear.
LWMC: You’ve launched a crowdfunding campaign for this record on Indiegogo. How did that come about?
MP: The campaign came about as I watched friends of mine from different parts of the country having successful crowdfunding campaigns for their tours and albums. I figured if they can do it, so can I! So I began slowly putting my campaign together. First, I had to consider how much it would cost to make the album. I factored in everything: recording costs, paying the band and producer, the mastering costs, manufacturing cost, the costs for art work and album promotion. I thought long and hard about “perks” that would be useful to the people who contributed. Then I asked my dear friend and champion, Martin O’bern, to join my team. This kind of thing is difficult to do alone. He agreed, I launched the campaign and we began getting the word out.
LWMC: And how’s it going?
MP: It’s going really well! I’m almost at 30% funded, which is great because at 30% it begins to look like an exciting campaign is going on, and more people begin taking notice and getting on board. I’ve already made new fans and friends in places like Switzerland and Russia, which is pretty cool. I’ve had the opportunity to reach out to people who have been behind my music from the very beginning of this journey, and to those who are new to my music and have been surprised and delighted by the support and encouragement I have received. It’s a really great process for connecting with people. It is also totally unpredictable. The people you are sure are going to contribute, don’t. The people who you don’t think will want to help, DO. It’s really surprising that way. And I’ve had to battle with my insecurities about reaching my goal, is it too high, do people think it’s all about me being all about me, what happens if I don’t reach my goal… but I find if I gently put those thoughts aside and continue with the process, I am rewarded on some many levels.
LWMC: When will folks get to hear the new record?
MP: Folks who contribute to the campaign will be the first to hear the new album. I’ll be fulfilling my obligations to get the music to them, first. That should happen in August. And after that, there will be an official album launch end of August.
LWMC: Any upcoming gigs you want to shout out?
MP: Always! One I’m pumped about is Monday June 29th. I’m sharing the bill with an incredible Toronto songwriter: Patrick Ballantyne. The show is hosted by Elana Harte and called: M-Factor Mondays. It is the BEST musical way to start your week! 7:30pm. Old Nick Pub (123 Danforth Avenue, Toronto, ON). And the best part is: there is never a cover!
LWMC: Anything else you’d like to share?
MP: I’d like to let people know I’ll be doing a four-week residency at The Cameron House in August. Every Wednesday from 6-8pm in the front room.
LWMC: One last thing. I’d like to do James Lipton’s Inside the Actors Studio Bernard Pivot-inspired/Proust-adapted questionnaire with you: 1. What’s your favourite word? cookie 2. What’s your least favourite word? slaughter 3. What turns you on? talent 4. What turns you off? cruelty 5. What sound or noise do you love? the bubbles in a bubble bath 6. What sound or noise do you hate? hammering 7. What is your favourite curse word? shit balls 8. What profession other than your own would you like to pursue? novelist 9. What profession would you not like to do? undertaker 10. If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Where to next?”
Thanks, Melanie! All the best with the Indiegogo campaign and recording. Looking forward to hearing the new record.
You can follow Melanie Peterson on Facebook and Twitter – and check out her YouTube channel. In the meantime, take a look at her video for “Home” (from the Unbreakable CD):
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.