Tag Archives: Joni Mitchell

Meaford Musical Community Shines In “The Last Waltz”

Review by Bill Monahan
featured photo courtesy of Patti Kendall

On Saturday night at Meaford Hall, “The Last Waltz – Meaford Style” was a celebration of our musical community unlike anything that has been seen before.  A complete sellout more than a month in advance, the show featured a cavalcade of home grown talent that was equal to any visiting talent that has graced this great venue, and the audience loved it.

The template for the show was the famous Martin Scorcese film from 1978 that documented the last concert by The Band, with all of the performers who had been part of that celebration represented here by local talents.  It was actually the 41st anniversary of the original concert, which took place at Winterland in San Francisco on November 25, 1976.  The film set the bar high for a group of local performers who had little more than a month to practice.  They rose to the occasion. The band was tight, often indistinguishable from their model, and each performer who contributed tributes to the other performers did a stellar job.  The energy from the audience matched that coming from the stage.

Jaret Koop photo courtesy of John Scerri

A few of the vocalists stood out with their ability to mimic the originals to an uncanny extent.  Drew McIvor’s take on Doctor John’s (Mac  Rebennack) “Such A Night” had that New Orleans drawl down cold, and Jaret Koop perfectly captured Rick Danko’s anguished vocals on “The Shape I’m In”.

Fran Bouwmann photo courtesy of John Scerri

Fran Bouwman did a great take on Joni Mitchell’s “Coyote” (and even looked the part), and Tom Thwaits version of Neil Diamond’s “Dry Your Eyes” sounded like the real thing.  John Hume reproduced not only the vocal parts but the keyboards (that beautiful Hammond organ sound) with fidelity.

Sandra Swannell photo courtesy of John Scerri

Others added their own special talent to the songs that reflected what they bring to music.  Sandra Swannell’s violin solos on “Acadian Driftwood” and the encore “I Shall Be Released”, and Emma Wright’s vocals on “Evangeline” were spine-tingling standouts.  Chris Scerri’s vocals, of course, are 100% his.  He’s a belter and his style made new versions of the songs he covered.


Special Concert With Honeymoon Phase

Coming up this Sunday, Oct. 1st, Honeymoon Phase will be playing a special concert at The Simcoe Street Theatre in Collingwood.  This duo, consisting of Laura Conning and Nelson Beattie, have established themselves on the local scene with shows that feature cover tunes but in this concert they will be presenting Laura’s original songs.

“It’s really exciting,” says Laura, “We haven’t done anything like that before, with all original songs.”

The Simcoe Street Theatre offers a series of concerts on Sunday afternoon with a variety of styles represented by an eclectic mix of bands.  After a successful season in 2016, they decided to expand the series to include evening concerts featuring local emerging artists.  Thanks to the support of sponsors, they are able to extend this opportunity to local performers with all ticket sales going to the musicians to further their own musical careers.

For Laura and Nelson, this presented an opportunity to present their original music in a way they are unable to do with their usual corporate and lounge gigs, and Laura has a lot of songs to choose from.

“I was always kind of song writing on the side and I’ve been wanting to get back into it for a while,” Laura says, “We’ve looked at all my songs I’ve written over the years, some that I wrote back in high school.”

With Laura on vocals and guitar and Nelson on sax and clarinet, the duo normally covers songs in a variety of styles with finesse, with a repertoire that ranges through folk, rock, jazz, and blues genres.   When it comes to her original music, Laura says“A lot of my inspiration comes from people like Leonard Cohen, Tom Waits, Joni Mitchell, David Bowie, Radiohead.”

Local Players Excited To Be Doing The Last Waltz

The latest production at Meaford Hall by Chris Scerri, a tribute to The Last Waltz scheduled for November 25th, is a bit of a departure from his previous productions.  Up to this point he has put together variety shows that combined local and imported talent, built mainly around the talents of musical director Tyler Yarema and others from the Port Credit area that Chris has introduced to Meaford.  This time around it will be all local talent, some of the best that our area offers, under the musical direction of keyboard player John Hume.

For each member of this tribute band, The Band and their iconic farewell concert both hold special significance.

“It was a magic moment in music history,” says Chris Scerri, “that allowed for some of the most influential modern day artists to get together for the ultimate Jam.”  He adds that the DVD of the concert movie is one which, “I can watch time and time again, and continue to be inspired by both the musical talents and the show itself.”

The Last Waltz was the name Robbie Robertson gave to the farewell concert of The Band, performed on American Thanksgiving Day in 1976 at Winterland Ballroom in San Francisco.  A film of the concert by Martin Scorcese was released in 1978 and was hailed by film critic Michael Wilmington as “the greatest rock concert movie ever made – and maybe the best rock movie, period”  Time bears that out, with the influence of the movie being felt almost forty years later.

Why You Should See Bill Monahan Concert on Sunday Night

OK, I admit this is entirely self-serving.  Bill Monahan is one of my favourite singer-songwriters, mainly because he’s me.  I relate to his songs, what can I say?  So I want you to be there on Sunday night, July 16th, when I play at the Rotary Pavilion down at Meaford Harbour as part of the Friends of The Library summer concert series.

I love being part of this series, singing in the fresh breezes coming off the bay, with a lot of people relaxing in their camp chairs enjoying the music.

So why should you be there?  Here’s one reason: if you like my writing with this blog about live music you will probably like my songwriting.  When I write articles for Meaford Live Music, my main goal is to tell stories that you the reader can relate to.  It’s the same when I write songs.  I always try to put myself in the head space of someone who is going through some kind of emotional adventure, and do it in a way that has something of a universal appeal in it.  And I try to put every song into a musical setting that suits the lyrics and is easy and fun to listen to.  I ran out of angst several decades ago, so my songs are more about you than me.

With this blog, I really enjoy telling stories of the various musicians that come to visit as well as those who are part of the deep and rich talent pool we have in this area.  I can identify with musicians and songwriters because we share the same passions.  So let me tell you a little bit of my own story.

I’ve always made up songs.  Always.  When I was a kid I’d forget them by the next day because I had no way to remember them.  I had no great ambition to learn to play an instrument so when I was a teenager I just accompanied myself on bongos, the easiest instrument in the world to play, I figured.  Later when I learned to play guitar, I would look up songs in song books that had chord charts.  I’d learn the chords and then make up my own songs using them.  Although I memorized every song I heard on the radio, I didn’t think I was musician enough to play them.  At least if they were my own songs, no one could tell me I was doing it wrong.  So I kept making up more songs, accompanying myself on rudimentary guitar.

Click on album cover to check out Joni’s first album on iTunes

I was always interested in writing about musicians too.  When I was a teenager I talked the owner of The Riverboat in Yorkville into letting me interview Joni Mitchell when she played there.  It was just before she released her first album.  I had no skills as an interviewer but she knew how to tell her story.  She told me why she had come to Toronto (to see Gord Lightfoot at Mariposa), her approach to songwriting (always write about what you know) and how to play open tunings (tuning of any kind was a revelation to me).  I submitted my story to The Toronto Telegram and it was rejected, although when her new album came out a few months later their article had the same details (to be fair, she probably told them the same things she told me).

Clink on this image to hear Kim Brown music

I was a solo coffeehouse guy until I started a rockabilly band with some friends when I was in my late twenties.  They were younger than me and much better players and I learned a lot from them.  I learned still more when I started having weekly jams at my house which ended up being attended by a bunch of great musicians.  I wanted to get into managing bands and a talented songwriter at my jams, a young girl named Kim Brown, asked me to manage her new band, called Rant & Rave.  It was a great band.  Kim sounded like a cross between Janis Joplin and Melissa Etheridge and her brother Kevin played a mean Hendrix-style guitar.

I booked the band into Toronto clubs starting at Lee’s Palace.  I got a lot of help from Yvonne Matsell, who at that time was helping Donna McCallum book blues bands at The Brunswick House.  Yvonne was amazing.  She helped local artists of every stripe. She went on to do the talent booking at a place called Ultrasound, and eventually became the artistic director of North By Northeast, the big annual talent showcase in Toronto.  Kim Brown was later signed to Hypnotic Records and released an album under the name Black AvalonKevin Brown ended up touring with former Three Days Grace frontman Adam Gontier.

Inspired by watching Rant & Rave in the studio I tried my hand at multi-track recording of my own songs and the learning experience was far superior to the finished product.

To browse BNL music on iTunes, click on image of article

I got into writing for Inside Tracks, a magazine about the Toronto music scene.  Yvonne gave me the heads up about a Scarborough band called Barenaked Ladies and I interviewed them backstage at The Horseshoe Tavern when they opened for The Jitters.  The article I wrote for Inside Tracks, in which I said how great it would be to hear them on the radio, didn’t get a lot of circulation but it gave them their first print article to add to their promo kit.

Click on this image to hear Kyp Harness music

When I was hosting an open stage at Sneaky Dee’s I was blown away by a songwriter named Kyp Harness.  We formed a management agreement that lasted several years and I founded an independent label (Amatish Music) mainly to promote his recordings, along with Sam Larkin’s only CD and a few other interesting artists.

Click on this link to hear Sam Larkin music

Writing about songwriters and promoting shows became my big thing with most of my efforts directed toward Kyp Harness, Sam Larkin, Bob Snider and Ron Sexsmith, all fascinating songwriters with something to say.  In the days before the Internet, I faxed out weekly copies of The Amatish Update to hundreds of music fans around the world.

All that was in my distant past when I moved to Meaford to start an electronics installation business called Homebuttons.  When I saw the Rotary Pavilion down at the harbour my first thought was what a great place that would be to do a concert.  I had a chance a few years later when Will Matthews asked me to play there along with another couple of shows locally, and then Roberta Docherty asked me to play at the Meaford Stomp, which I was happy to be part of for several years.  The other stage I wanted to play was the Bud Eagles stage in Memorial Park and I was able to do that just a couple of weeks ago, sharing the afternoon with Amanda Dorey.  There’s something special about playing in the open air in this beautiful environment.

It was meeting Chris Scerri at the end of 2015 that started the process that reawakened my interest in writing about music.  He had a vision of making Meaford the centre of a Georgian Bay music scene and it was a perfect fit, with Chris creating shows and me writing about them on the Internet.

But the truth is both Chris and I have our own creative ambitions.  In a little more than a year he has become locally famous as an impressive singer and now he is in demand all over the area.  Every time I listened to, interviewed, or reviewed a songwriter it fanned the flames of my own submerged ambitions and now I want more than ever to get out and have my songs heard.  I have a big box of them from fifty years of songwriting.

Being part of the Georgian Shores Songwriters Circle has been a huge inspiration that has introduced me to a lot of talented people and provided me with encouraging feedback about my own efforts.  Gradually in the past year, writing about music and making my own has captured more and more of my interest, and you’re going to be hearing more about me in the next year (even if it’s only from me).

So please come out to join me at seven on Sunday down at the beautiful Meaford Harbour.  I’ll do my best to make it entertaining.

Plus, there might be a few surprise friends show up to help me out, other songwriters I think highly of (who aren’t me).

So get there early because the spaces at the back fill up fast.  And when the Friends of The Library come around passing the hat, toss in a few coins because remember we’re all volunteers here.  It all goes to the library.

Oh yeah, and there’s one more reason you should come see my show, and this is something I’ve learned is important from watching other performers – I’m going to be wearing a cool hat.

You don’t want to be the only one in your crowd who has to admit you missed it.

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