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.


Big fun sexy party times @ Bella Fox’s Burlesque Birthday Bash!

WARNING: This blog post contains adult content and images.

Last night was some big fun, sexy times with burlesque and music (aka “boobies and tunes”) at Bella Fox’s Burlesque Birthday Bash: Dirty Thirty Dance Party at Lee’s Palace.

The extravaganza of sights and sounds kicked off with Pavlov’s Dogs Handbell Ensemble (who also appeared at the Theatre Passe Muraille Michael Jackson Songbook Series event), from traditional to contemporary, including their Songbook Series rendition of “Beat It” and “Under Pressure” – highlighting tunes from the 80s in honour of the decade in which our birthday girl hostess was born.

Nerd Girl Burlesque got the hot dancing times going, performing a sexy Spice Girls tribute number. The British invasion continued on stage with The Cocksure Lads – well, half of them anyway. Think Moxy Früvous meets The Beatles – fun, kicky, 60s-inspired Brit pop, right down to the classic Paul McCartney bass (except played right-handed) and acoustic guitar painted with the British flag – and these boys are working on a movie too. If you have a case of the dropsies, this band is the cure.

The lads were joined by burlesque performers during their set, seguing into more sexy fun times with red hot ladies with tassels on their nipples – from devils to super heroes – plus one hot dude. Lucky Fremont the Downtown Experience lit up the stage with a sexy Hydro worker number.

In between set-ups, Bella drew numbers for the treasure trove of raffle prizes on hand, adding a special contest to see who could guess how many drinks she’d had, and went on to introduce the final act of the evening: kick-ass, wise-cracking punk rockers High Heels Lo Fi (Cynthia Gould on guitar, Mandy Wells on bass and Doug Lea on drums). Check out their YouTube channel. From original tunes to covers – these guys rocked it, joined onstage by a variety of burlesque performers in a mash-up set that put the boobs in drunk rock. Fox joined the band doing a sexy fur-clad (but only at first) dance to a cover of “Hungry Like the Wolf.” The band also had their own go-go girl ensemble – the Hi Lo Go-Go dancers – and the evening’s big finale featured a packed stage of the evening’s entire talent roster, all dancing and singing to High Heels Lo Fi original “Big Dumb Rockstar.”

No doubt about it – that Bella Fox sure knows how to through a birthday party. Big shouts to the two bands, and guest burlesque performers Ginger Rigby, Nerd Girl Burlesque (Delicia Pastiche, Ruby Pixel, Loretta Jean & Kenickie Street), Lucky Freemont the Downtown Experience and our hostess with the mostess, goddess of the raffle tickets Bella Fox.

Be sure to keep your eyes and ears peeled for burlesque shows around the city. You won’t be sorry.

Pavlov’s Dogs Handbell Ensemble
The Nerd Girls Burlesque ensemble heats up the stage with a sexy Spice Girls number.
Half of The Cocksure Lads cure us of the dropsies
Ginger Rigby – pretty in pink. Pretty sexah, that is!
Sexy Hydro man Lucky Fremont the Downtown Experience works that tool belt.
Our birthday girl hostess with the mostess Bella Fox, with one of the many birthday beverages she consumed throughout the evening.
L’il Devil Loretta Jean sports some awesome ink in addition to her, well, other fine assets.
High Heels Lo Fi drummer Doug Lea rockin the bunny ears.
The Hi Lo Go-Go dancers.
High Heels Lo Fi bass player Mandy Wells.
Nerd Girls Burlesque performer Delicia Pastiche – fighting for truth, justice and the sexy burlesque way.
High Heels Lo Fi guitar player/front gal Cynthia Gould.
Birthday girl Bella Fox with one of the Hi Lo Go-Go gals during the finale.

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.