Freeman Dre: Great Songs, Great Band, Saturday at Heartwood

People are excited about Freeman Dre and The Kitchen Party coming back to Heartwood Concert Hall this Saturday. They’ve said that they mainly concentrate on a triangle, shuttling between Toronto, Montreal and New York, but they make a point of visiting our area often because just as in those other places, people love them here.  They’ve played The Marsh Street Centre and Bruce Wine Bar as well as Heartwood, adding to their local fan base each time.

While the main buzz about Freeman Dre and The Kitchen Party is about how much fun it is at their shows, you just have to hear a few lines from any one of their songs to notice that this great band is backing a truly fine songwriter.  They recognize that in Toronto, where the band plays regularly at places like The Cameron House, The Dakota Tavern and The Horseshoe.  He was voted best songwriter in NOW magazine’s 2010 Reader’s Poll and nominated again in 2012.  Every song is a story that draws you in and introduces you to three-dimensional characters.  “I like all those kind of storytelling, troubadour-type writers. I like that whole sort of genre. Three chords and something funny and something cool to say,” he said to The Orillia Packet back in 2013.

An important aspect of Freeman Dre and The Kitchen Party is the fact that they emerged from Parkdale, a Toronto neighbourhood that, thanks to low rents, developed a creative community and now, thanks to the creative community, is becoming increasingly gentrified.  The story goes that the band developed organically from kitchen jams in Dre’s Parkdale apartment.  As he told The Orillia Packet, “It was just two of us, me and Lonnie Knapp, who plays mandolin, guitar and a bunch of stuff. There was no band, really. We were just playing, it was just for fun.”  Then friends started coming around to jam.  Then more friends showed up to listen.  And before you know it something was happening that became too big for the kitchen and the band started playing gigs.  While there has been some fluidity in the band, Lonnie Knapp is still central to it and over the years The Kitchen Party has solidified into a band that, as one critic put it, “is tighter than a three day bender”.  Community is central to the band.  In the early days large part of their maturing process happened within a Parkdale collective called “Fedora Upside Down” which organized festivals that featured local bands of every stripe along with visual artists.

The fact that the band evolved in such an organic way, absorbing a variety of genres and ethnicities along the way from the creative community that surrounded them, is what makes the music of The Kitchen Party hard to define.  Reviewers are all over the map.  Dre calls it “rock ’n’ roll with a folk attitude,” but it’s more than that.  Others refer to “harmonica-heavy roots rock with a Euro-folk-punk party vibe courtesy of accordion, mandolin and a bit of violin”; “a quirky alternative style, going from alternative to folk to eastern-Europeon accordion jams and back”; “rock n’ roll-turned-gypsy sound”; “an amazing eclectic amalgam of eastern jazz, dark country and slow rock”; “an amazing eclectic amalgam of eastern jazz, dark country and slow rock”.  One of the most important aspects of the band, given that it is fronted by a great songwriter, is that Freeman Dre’s voice has the ability to cut through it all and tell the stories that are worth hearing while the beautiful and intriguing instrumentation carries it along on a wave.

It’s inevitable that fans in this area will be flocking again to hear the band at Heartwood.  Just as it’s inevitable that the band’s fan base will continue to expand internationally.  You won’t want to miss this chance to jump aboard the Kitchen train while it still passes through our station.

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One Response to Freeman Dre: Great Songs, Great Band, Saturday at Heartwood

  1. Astounding post thanks for writing this up.

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