Tag Archives: The Tragically Hip

A Skydiggers Christmas Returns To Meaford Hall

This Thursday The Skydiggers bring their annual Christmas show to Meaford Hall.  This is part of a tour that actually started back in mid-November in Winnipeg.  The first part of the tour was to promote their latest album, “The Warmth of The Sun” and as we get closer to Christmas it has become a combination of songs from their album along with their Christmas favourites.

As Andy Maize told Exclaim! magazine, the new album “is a reflection of the live band, how good the players are, how quick they are, and we wanted to capture that energy and not overthink it.”  He added “I don’t think it was intentional, but I can hear a thread on these songs about reaching out, being honest with yourself and making a connection with people, in order to get to a better place. That’s definitely a goal for us, it always is.”

The original songs on the album were co-written, as always by The Skydiggers’ core members Andy Maize and Josh Findlayson. The title track was inspired by Gord Downie’s solo project “Secret Path”, which took a hard look at Canada’s national shame, the residential schools which wrenched indigenous children from their families right up until the 1990’s.  Josh Findlayson was particularly moved by the message of the album, and its accompanying graphic novel.  He was a close friend of Gord’s and played on most of the solo albums that he had released outside of The Tragically Hip.  He played in the live show of “Secret Path” last year, not long before Gord’s passing.

Clap For The Sinners Choir

This Saturday, CROW Bar and Variety in Collingwood is bringing The Sinners’ Choir to town.

The best bands are always those that evolve naturally from a shared love of the music they play.  That’s the case with this trio, in which players from three generations have come together to blend their talents.  They also blend their voices, with an easy harmony that falls sweetly on your ear.

Working as a full-time musician, as with any job, can wear on you.  The thing about musicians, though, is that more often than not when they take a break from their regular gig, their idea of relaxation is to get together with somebody else and play something different.  That’s how this band came together.  Their shared joy in what they do is so infectious that it has led to another regular gig for them.  Their private jam sessions became public with a longstanding residency at The Rex in Toronto.  As the public caught on to their sound, they found themselves having to set aside the occasional date at the Rex to take other offers, for which they are increasingly in demand.  And now they are bringing their sweet harmonies to the sweet air of Georgian Bay.

The most seasoned pro of the group is bass player Terry Wilkins, whose name will be familiar to any fan of 80’s Toronto rock and blues.  He was already established in Australia in the 60’s with a popular band called The Flying Circus.  When they tried their luck in San Francisco, a chance meeting with members of McKenna Mendelson Mainline brought them to Toronto.

Making Toronto his permanent home, Terry played bass with Rough Trade from 1978 to 1982 and did stints with Lighthouse and David Wilcox.  At the same time he played with a variety of visiting artists of wide-ranging styles, including Dr. John, Maria Muldaur and Levon Helm.  Consistently working through the decades, he has worked more recently with Freeman Dre and The Kitchen Party.

Drummer Adam Warner has a similar history of being an in demand player, except he started a couple of decades later.   He’s been around, playing at legendary clubs like The Cavern in Liverpool, CBGB’s in New York, and has played at a command concert for Paul Anka and birthday celebrations for the Queen of Holland.  As a writer and composer, he has released solo works, composed musical backdrops for David Suzuki, and performed or recorded with various members of The Barenaked Ladies,The Tragically Hip, Blue Rodeo, Sloan, Great Big Sea, Big Sugar, and Moist.

Guitarist Adam Beer Colacino was busy growing up while his bandmates were making their  international reputations.  He’s worked with Devin Cuddy, Whitney Rose and members of Downchild Blues Band.  He’s teamed up with blues guitarist Fraser Melvin and an 8-piece horn section in the The Melvin-Colacino Band.

The band takes turns on lead vocals, with the other two providing harmonies, as they mix it up with originals that reflect the wide-ranging experience and tastes of the players.  When a band loves playing together as much as these three obviously do, it is always a delight for the audience.

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Thursday Update May 18 to 21, 2017

If you just can’t get enough of the McCarthy clan, you’ll get your chance this weekend full of inspiration from their recent pilgrimage to Nashville.  Austin is at Bruce Wine Bar tonight and at The Huron Club on Saturday, while Mike and Erica play Gustav’s on Saturday night.  Then Austin is back at The Huron Club on Sunday afternoon for their Sidelaunch Series.

Summerfolk has put together its annual tribute concert happening on Saturday at the Harmony Centre, with a bunch of local talents paying homage to The Tragically Hip.

With some great little venues presenting live music within a short drive from the lakeshore, this would be a good weekend to cruise around and check them out.

Start your musical weekend on Friday night at the Desboro Music Hall to see the virtuoso ukulele/cello duo James Hill & Anne Janelle with special guest prodigy Brontae Hunter opening.  This is one of those venues that is under inspired management and the quality of their offerings is well worth the drive to Desboro.

The Bicycle Café in Flesherton is gaining a reputation among both performers and music fans as a venue that goes the extra mile to provide quality entertainment.  In the past they’ve presented stellar shows from Culture Reject and Andrew McPherson and this Saturday they are featuring legendary folkies Fraser and Girard.

Allan Fraser and Marianne Girard played last weekend in Massie where a new concert season is ramping up for the summer.  This is another venue inspired by the love of live music.  Although they have nothing planned for this weekend, mark your calendars for Steve Dickinson next weekend on May 26th and Christina Martin on June 17th.  Steve was the first performer to play at Massie Hall when they started presenting music 13 years ago and when Christina Martin comes in June she’ll be freshly returned from a successful European tour.

In Durham this weekend The Garafraxa Café is presenting singer-songwriter Bry Webb, formerly of the indie band The Constantines.  This great little venue has been struggling with the tendency of artists to book nearby gigs within days of their Garafraxa appearances and it’s the case this weekend with Bry Webb, who is playing at Heartwood tonight.  Maybe you’ll want to see him twice, or you’ll just want to support a little venue that is far enough away from a big city that they have to draw from quite a distance if they are to survive.

The Garafraxa is starting a Sunday afternoon series this weekend with the Doug Tielli Trio and next weekend they will be featuring a Sunday afternoon with Deep Blue Honey which is the stage name of the impressive local poet Richard-Yves Sitoski and his wife Mary Little.

The more we support these venues that are a little off the beaten track the more we are opening up the possibilities for a variety of performers to visit our area.

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The Skydiggers’ Energy Warms A Wintry Night

Review by Bill Monahan of The Skydiggers at Meaford Hall Dec. 10, 2016

It was a wintry night when The Skydiggers stopped at Meaford Hall on Saturday.  That may have prevented a few from making the trip, so the audience was a little smaller than the full houses that the Opera House is getting used to lately.  But they brought a whole lot of energy to the room.  Vocal and mobile, they cheered every song, often spontaneously leaping to their feet and running into the aisles to dance.  From the opening bars of the first song Andy Maize had the audience in the palm of his hand.

They had said they were bringing their famous Horseshoe Tavern Christmas show on the road but since that longstanding tradition involved crowding the stage with friends from a quarter century career, it’s a little difficult to bring on the road.  But they did bring friends, and everybody caught the spirit.  The Skydiggers gave us a great show from end to end.

There was a solid band, with keyboards, drums and bass, accompanying singers Andy Maize and Jessy Bell Smith, and guitarist Josh Findlayson.  Their groove was locked in enough for Andy to execute some of his famous dance moves, ranging from leaping leprechaun to Chubby Checker, with some frenetic jazz hands thrown in for spice.  Michael Johnston, on keyboards, stretched out several times with some exciting solos.  Guitar leads were scarce, just hinted at when Josh briefly strapped on an electric guitar.  Mostly he played an acoustic, picking and strumming.

The most compelling aspect of The Skydiggers live show is the blend of voices.  Often everybody but the drummer was singing and it created a beautiful choral sound.  Andy Maize on lead vocals uses the full range of his voice to put across a variety of songs and when Jessy Bell Smith adds vocal harmonies things suddenly become ethereal.

She is the kind of vocalist that has you thinking as you listen “I wonder where she’s playing next.”  She’s been a member of The Skydiggers since 2013 when her version of one of their songs inspired them to release “She Comes In To The Room”, a collection of songs with female singers.  She has also released an album of her own recordings.  On stage she seems shy but relaxed.  When she takes the lead you are transported.  It’s one of those voices.

She did a version of “We Go Rambling On”, a song written by Peter Cash, one of the founding members of The Skydiggers.  She lost herself in the performance and so did the audience, which spontaneously leapt to their feet to give her an extended ovation afterward.  I think that’s what they call a show-stopper.

But the show was full of great renditions of wonderful songs.  “Remember Me” is a longing look at the years of Christmas parties at The Horseshoe.  Andy says it has become such a solid tradition, “I think they could have it without us”.  The audience disagreed and it sounded like several people promised to follow them to The Horseshoe for the big show next weekend.

Their version of The Tragically Hip’s “Are You Going Through Something?” was moving, and their take on Gene Clark’s “Eight Miles High” added some musical treats that weren’t there on the original Byrds version.

It was a show that was over too soon.  It was the kind of band you wanted to be able to listen to all night, and you got the feeling that they would be happy to play for you.  Maybe they’ll do that when they play two days next week at The Horseshoe.

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