Heart, soul & raw passion in Shikha’s meditative, rhythmic Coconut Mantra EP

DSCN2067 smIt was a celebration of music with friends, family and fellow musicians at C’est What? on Friday night, with the launch party of Shikha’s EP Coconut Mantra.

Opening act Custom Tease (Celebration Army frontman Oliver Pigott and Danka Scepanovic) brought some soul-infused, bluesy, rootsy goodness featuring originals with poetic, evocative – at times fierce – lyrics. And they threw in a sultry cover of “My Heart Belongs to Daddy” for good measure. Sounds include hints of Motown and Kate Bush, executed with sharp harmonies.

Shikha, the main event of the evening, featured Shikha Sehgal on vocals and banjulele (a four-stringed banjo/ukulele hybrid instrument), accompanied by Hugh Wilson (of Big Name Actors) on bass and Troy Larabie (of Celebration Army) on drum box. A passionate performer, Shikha brings it with heart and soul, and genuine feels. The vocals are delivered raw, with heart-on-sleeve intensity – and the lyrics are soulful, meditative and rhythmic (“Sing Baby Sing”), with hints of reggae (“Can I Hold You?”), blues and pop. The result is a seductive sound that features an earnest, sometimes melancholy, and powerful (“I Am Woman”) resonance.Check out the official video for “Sing Baby Sing,” one of the first songs Shikha ever wrote:

You can keep up with Shikha on Twitter, Facebook and on her YouTube channel.
In the meantime, check out some pix I took of the evening’s music festivities:

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Red Falcon / White Lightning brings it all with tight, fun new EP: INSTANT CLASSICS

rfwl instant classics coverRed Falcon / White Lightning (RF/WL) is Robert Eckert and Jeff D. Elliott. Following up last year’s double CD release Rootsy!!! Rocky!!!! Power!!! Poppy!!!!, the band recently released an EP of new tunes: INSTANT CLASSICS.

I got the scoop behind the evolution of INSTANT CLASSICS from Eckert:

Our latest effort called INSTANT CLASSICS was begun in early January and completed for a soft release at Molly Blooms in Stratford on April 18, 2014. It’s speedy production was recorded with a full band consisting of members Hugh Wilson (guitar, BG vocals), Nelson Sobral (guitar, BG vocals) and Kevin Jagger (drums), as well as Pete Gorman (from Young Doctors In Love) playing keys on every song. Unlike R!!!R!!!!P!!!P!!!!, where Jeff and Rob produced the majority of the sounds, each player’s amazing playing and off-the-cuff creativity lead to so many happy accidents that shaped the attitude and vibe of the EP, solidifying the group as a cohesive band.

And he had this to say about RFWL’s new mission statement:

Red Falcon / White Lightning is like a sparkling cherry-coloured ’67 Cutlass sitting in the garage. People don’t get to see it that often, but the car, with its white racing stripes, stays with them. They talk about the sightings, and listen for the rev of the engine. With a full tank of equal parts Elvis Costello, Josh Homme, AC Newman, Joel Plaskett & James Mercer, RFWL stealthily slips out onto the songwriting superhighway, foot on the gas without plans for pit stops. They’ll be your favourite band you just might never get to see.

First off, I love the radio show device in INSTANT CLASSICS, the band using it as an auditory skeleton of sorts for the record. The first track features a slow contemporary groove and the deep mellow tones of “The Five at 5 with Ollie,” with our host introducing this edition’s feature band RFWL and INSTANT CLASSICS. The tunes kick off with the poppy, optimistic “Out There Somewhere,” then segues into some catchy Brit-pop sounds in “The Worst Thing About Time.” The record then shifts gears into the beautiful, wistful strains of the ballad “Time Has Come (Are We Ready?)” – featuring bittersweet, haunting guitar riffs, a soft drive of percussion and vocal harmonies reflecting the pain of impending transition. Switching over to a more rocky vibe, “Half Shit” becomes trippy and psychedelic towards the end, while “This Day and Age” has a kicky retro vibe and lyrics bemoaning an overwhelming modern-day world. Kicky turns to quirky with the final track “Dark and Deep with Sage Miles,” which starts as a wacky fun interview, with host Sage Miles speaking with cartoonish versions of Rob and Jeff, and ends with the band’s equally whimsical, new keys-driven single “Half Bald.”

With INSTANT CLASSICS, Red Falcon / White Lightning brings tight musicianship, strong vocals and an eclectic range of music – all delivered with a sense of passion and big fun. Catch them live if you can – and check out this record!

In the meantime, you can get a sneak peek at INSTANT CLASSICS on the band’s YouTube video on the making of the record.

You can also find Red Falcon / White Lightning on: CBC, Bandcamp and YouTube.

 

 

Behind the scenes @ I Hate Todd’s Zombie Love vid shoot

It’s Zombie Walk day in Toronto! So the perfect day for this post.

Now that I Hate Todd’s debut single “Zombie Love” has been officially released on YouTube, I’d like to share some behind the scenes photos I took during our two days of shooting. With thanks to the amazing Lizzie Violet for the complete list of the peeps involved and the WordPress slideshow 411.

But first, some credits:

I Hate Todd

Todd Preston

Kev Carney

Capucine Adria Onn

Troy Larabie

Nelson Sobral

Crew

David Hustler

Nick Marlatt

Nick Shaw (aka Verona)

Lizzie Violet

Cate McKim

MUA

Ro Ford

Rebecca Kupferstein

Zombies

Connie Bannister

Darcy Brooks

Xandria Chin

Liz Davies

Sephera Giron

Donnie MacIntyre

Kris Macknicki

Zarko Marjanovic

Chris Warrilow

Hugh Wilson

Guest Zombie

Matt Bradford of ZombieCast

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Upcoming music, theatre & spoken word awesomeness

It was some big fun, not to mention a great pleasure, as I worked the door at Lizzie Violet’s Cabaret Noir (LVCN) last night, with feature artists Andrea Thompson, Frenchie Fatale and Hugh Wilson. It was LVCN’s first night at its new home at The Central – and the place was packed, with an incredibly engaged audience.

There’s still all kinds of awesome goodness coming up in T.O. this month, my friends. Here is just a small sample of what’s happening on the small stage and indie scene:

David Hustler & the Trustworthy EP release – Wed, Sept 11 @ Horseshoe Tavern @ 8:30 p.m. – $5 cover

Songwriters Circle of Jerks – Thurs, Sept 12 @ 8:30 p.m. @ Free Times Café, featuring Hugh Wilson and Nick Verona from Big Name Actors (among others), Nelson Sobral from Melting Pot and I Hate Todd, and David Hustler of David Hustler & The Trustworthy, with guest Meghan Morrison – PWYC

Eclectic – September Group Exhibit – opening Thurs, Sept 12 from 6-8 p.m. and running till Sept 29 @ Fran Hill Gallery

Jeff Cottrill’s tour fundraiser show Keep Calm & Get Rid of Jeff – Sun, Sept 15 @ 7:00 p.m. @ Black Swan, with a whole line-up of music & spoken word guests – $10 cover

Studio BLR punk rock production of A Streetcar Named Desire – The House Show – Sept 19 – Oct 5 @ 8:00 p.m. – show starts in Dragon Alley at the northwest corner of College/Dufferin

Alumnae Theatre production of The Underpants – Sept 20 – Oct 5 on the Alumnae Theatre main stage

Anglewalk Theatre production of tick, tick… BOOM! – Sept 21 – Oct 6 @ Toronto Centre for the Arts Studio

The Beautiful & the Damned – Thurs, Sept 26 @ 7:00 p.m. @ The Central, hosted by Duncan Armstrong, and featuring Heather Babcock, Brock Hessel & Nelson Sobral

Matt Gerber CD release – Sat, Sept 28 @ Tranzac, doors @ 7:00 p.m. – $15 cover

Look out for Big Name Actors and I Hate Todd as the play various dates and venues around the city.

Big Name Actors rock OHC benefit in advance of “Part Time Friends” EP launch

Got out to Lee’s Palace last night for an Ontario Health Coalition (OHC) benefit, featuring bands Newark Minute, Big Name Actors , I Hate Todd  and Trevor James & The Perfect Gentlemen. Big Name Actors is releasing their Part Time Friends EP tomorrow (Saturday, June 8) and I’m not able to be there, so I was glad to get out to see the full band live.

Big Name Actors (BNA) are Hugh Wilson (guitar, keys, vocals), Nick Verona (drums, vocals) and Scott Sokoloski (bass). I met Wilson and Verona at the monthly Songwiters Circle of Jerks at Free Times Café and had heard them do some acoustic versions of BNA songs, but it was extra awesome to see the full band plugged in at such an iconic venue.

In the weeks leading up to last night’s gig, I gave BNA’s Part Time Friends EP a listen online. Featuring five pop rock, guitar-driven, all original tracks (written by Wilson), the EP opens with “End of My Rope,” a catchy, knee-boppin’, self-deprecating pseudo-title track featuring the lyric “part time friend.” “Built A Bridge” is edgy but optimistic, shifting into “Sour Grapes,” an even edgier anthem of angst and heartbreak, featuring a pounding guitar/drum conversation near the end of the track. “Dearly Devoted” is a truly lyrical song, opening with the lines: “Soaked to my soul in the rain / Would it cost you a lot to ask me to stay?” The EP winds down by way of winding up with “Dancin’ After Midnight,” a tale of a reluctant clubber seduced onto the dance floor. And all delivered with a mix of kicky pop/wired rock supported by driving beats, strong vocals and excellent musicianship – not to mention a way with words. Jeff D. Elliott supplied additional synth and keys on Part Time Friends – as well as the very cool, trippy cover art – and Kevin “Toad” supplied additional keys for the record. Elliott also mixed and mastered the EP.

Big Name Actors’ drummer Nick Verona performed double duty last night, also appearing as frontman/guitarist with his band Newark Minute in a reunion of sorts – and they rocked the house. I’d heard a lot of good things about I Hate Todd and I wasn’t disappointed. Their sound is a powerful blend of pop, rock and a bit of goth (“Zombie Love” was one of my faves – and the band dedicated it to my good pal, zombie afficionado, Lizzie Violet) – and features relative newcomer Nelson Sobral (Melting Pot) scorching the stage on guitar. It was getting late, so I wasn’t able to stick around to hear Trevor James & The Perfect Gentlemen in the final set of the night.

Thanks to Mario and the entire OHC gang for a big fun event – full of music, friends and support. I’m very proud to say that I was one of the lucky raffle winners last night, scoring a pair of Jays tickets. Woot!

Big Name Actors launches their new EP Part Time Friends at The Central (603 Markham St., Toronto) on Saturday, June 8 at 9:30 p.m. The evening’s line-up also includes I Hate Todd and The Muckabouts. In the meantime, you can listen to and download the Part Time Friends EP on Big Name Actors’ Bandcamp page.

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Newark Minute
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Nick Verona performs with his band Newark Minute.
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Big Name Actors
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The boyishly handsome Hugh Wilson of Big Name Actors. Seriously – buddy got carded on his way into the gig last night.
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Scott Sokoloski kickin it with Big Name Actors.
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Nick Verona on drums with Big Name Actors. Wilson calls this dude his Swiss Army knife of the band.
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Mario from OHC rockin out to Big Name Actors.
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I Hate Todd (there really is a Todd too – the band’s singer)
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Nelson Sobral’s doppelgänger (from Newark Minute). Should’a known – this dude plays right-handed.
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The real Nelson Sobral, onstage with I Hate Todd. Frankly, I’m surprised that the presence of these two handsome dudes in the same place at the same time didn’t cause a paradox.

Double-barrelled sound goodness @ Red Falcon / White Lightning CD launch

Big, big fun times as Red Falcon / White Lightning launched their double CD Rootsy!!! Rocky!!!! & Power!!! Poppy!!!! at the Tranzac Club last night.

Opening band The Roughnotes served up an energized set of alt country, rockabilly, wailing blues and even a little reggae with “Winona,” a tribute to Winona Ryder, and some old time rock ‘n roll with “Get A Job” and Beatles cover “I Saw Her Standing There.” Shouts to this awesome three-piece band: Colin Brady (vocals/guitar), Paul Pitre (back-up vocals/bass – and keys on the CD) and Matt Wills (drums), who brought some big audience love by offering their self-titled CD – for free! Keep your eyes and ears peeled for The Roughnotes.

Red Falcon / White Lightning – fronted by Robert Eckert on bass, and Jeff D. Elliott on lead vocals and guitar – doubled our pleasure with all original tunes from their two-pack CD Rootsy!!! Rocky!!!! & Power!!! Poppy!!!! , complete with custom t-shirts (Eckert is Red Falcon & Elliott is White Lightning) and RF / WF banners. The band was rounded out by an impressive selection of musicians/vocalists, including guitars and back-up vocals by Nelson Sobral (also of the band Melting Pot & the duo Cry Wolf) and Hugh Wilson (Big Name Actors), Kevin Jagger on drums, Pete Gorman on keys, and Jake Warwick jumping in for a few songs on back-up vocals and harp.

Kicking the set off on the roots/rock side of the spectrum, the band opened with “The Ballad of Red Falcon White Lightning,” an anthem with a driving beat and harmonies that bring to mind Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. The band continued giving us a sampling of the two discs, which I’m listening to as I write this post; the CD set features some nice sax and horn arrangements, especially on the Power!!! Poppy!!!! disc. Love the whimsy of the kazoo arrangement on the Rootsy!!! Rocky!!!! first track “Run Back Jack” and the haunting harmonies on “Always Missing Out” – and there’s a trippy psychedelic vocal riff on “Pretty Big Shoes To Fill.” And there’s a fun, surprise message at the end of the RR disc too. 🙂

On the Power!!! Poppy!!!! disc, “Flame Without A Fire” features heart-pounding rhythms and more tight harmonies (I should note here that my left foot did not stop tappin’ all through the concert – even when I was taking pics!). “I Live With My Girl” has a great kicky pop sound, reminding me of Simon and Garfunkle. With lyrics full of heart and soul, accompanied by infectious beats, whether about a girl like in “Sooner or Later” or getting the audience to join in on “To the Moon” – I defy anyone to stay still while immersed in the joyful noise sounds of this band.

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The Roughnotes: Paul Pitre on bass, Matt Wills on drums and Colin Brady on guitar/lead vocals
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The Roughnotes – Colin Brady
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Red Falcon / White Lighting
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RF / WL – Jeff D. Elliott
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RF / WL – Robert Eckert
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RF / WL – Nelson Sobral
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RF / WL – Hugh Wilson
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RF / WL – Jake Warwick & Hugh Wilson
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RF / WL – Kevin Jagger
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RF / WL – Pete Gorman

These guys can most definitely rock. With a powerful, eclectic sound, supported by stellar vocals and musicianship, Red Falcon / White Lightning is definitely a band to watch out for. You can also check them out on their YouTube channel and Bandcamp page.

So much fun coming up!

Thought I’d take a moment to post about some ongoing/upcoming arts events.

Alumnae Theatre Company’s New Ideas Festival (NIF) continues this week with the Week Two program and reading (March 13-17), with Week Three program/reading running the week after (March 20-24).

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.

Speaking of my favourite playwrights, check out ongoing productions of works by Hannah Moscovitch (Double Bill) at Tarragon Theatre (till March 24) and Theatre Brouhaha’s production of Kat Sandler’s Rock at Storefront Theatre (till March 23).

And while you’re at it, check out the March programming and workshops at Red Sandcastle Theatre.

Canadian Music Week (CMW) is coming up hard and fast (March 19-24) – so check that out. Just a selection of some artists I know who will be performing: Angela Saini, blueVenus, Meghan Morrison, Jessica Speziale, Tin Star Orphans

But wait – there’s more! Bella’s Burlesque Birthday Bash: DIRTY THIRTY DANCE PARTY is coming up on Thursday, March 28 at Lee’s Palace – 8:30 p.m. Bella Fox hosts a night of burlesque, music (including High Heels Lo Fi), dancing – it’s going to be a blast. Next day is Good Friday, so lots of you will be able to sleep that one off.

All the more reason for me to get over this stupid head cold, which I’ve had since last Thursday.