Time Travel at The Marsh Street Centre

Review by Bill Monahan of the concert at Marsh Street Centre, Sat., June 10, 2017

Photos by Robert Burcher

The Marsh Street Centre capped off its day-long 90th birthday celebration on Saturday with a special sold-out concert.  The band was called The Amazing Time Machine, a name that host Florian Lenders said “we just made up”.  He explained to the audience that “Chris Scerri and I got together and brainstormed how to celebrate this birthday and we came up with the idea of musical selections that spanned the years of the building’s history.”  Of course, Chris knew where to go to get the band capable of such a challenge.  He called on his good friend Tyler Yarema, as he has so often with such impressive results, to put something together.  Tyler, a seasoned veteran, pulled together a band from his many friends and created the special program for the occasion.  During the evening, audience members commented on the fact that what was essentially a pick-up band could put on such an impressive show. It was because this band was a collection of top players, even though they may not be household names, musicians who could fill several shelves between them with the awards they’ve won, who are used to taking on any musical challenge.  In essence it was a band of all-star sidemen.

Tyler Yarema loves playing to Georgian Bay audiences

Tyler Yarema has played often in the area this past year, at the behest, as he mentioned, of Chris Scerri, and he continues to build a solid local fan base.  He makes it clear that these are not just gigs for pay, but he comes here because he loves to play for these audiences.  “I always love coming here,” he told the audience, “there is such a great community here around Georgian Bay, where you all support each other.”

And the evening was a celebration of community.  The sense of community was palpable in the hall and when at one point Florian mentioned names of people who had helped make this night possible it was a very long list.

The concert was divided into three sets.  The first set started out with twenties jazz and took us through to the Swing Era.  The second set visited the birth of rock and roll and took us up to The Yardbirds and The Who.  And the final set covered the rest of the 20th Century with selections from The Beatles, The Stones, The Guess Who and The Band, along with three Bill Withers songs and a single selection from the 21st Century with Amy Winehouse’s classic “Valerie”.

Sax battle with Alison Young and Richard Underhill

Tyler, who is a master of boogie-woogie and stride piano, was in his element with this set, as were the two saxophonists in the band, Alison Young (who was outstanding!) and Richard UnderhillLouis Jordan’s “Is You Is Or Is You Ain’t My Baby” was near the beginning of a set that culminated in “Sing, Sing, Sing” which for me was the highlight of the whole evening.  It began with Tyler’s perfect reproduction of Louis Prima’s vocals and allowed a long section in the middle for a “battle of the saxes” which was thrilling, alto and tenor trading licks.  While Prima wrote the song, it had been recorded several artists including The Andrews Sisters.  But the most famous version was by Benny Goodman and the highlight of it was Gene Krupa’s drum solo that shook the world back in the thirties.  Drummer Chris Lamont took advantage of that historical nugget to shine in his own Krupaesque solo after the sax battle.  When a band like this takes on a song like that it is not just nostalgia.  It is as exciting as it must have been for the dancers who filled the pavilions at Port Elgin and Sauble Beach back in the day.

It was, as billed, an amazing time machine experience, and a fitting tribute to Florian Lenders.

Special guest Tom Barlow rocked the house

But it wasn’t until the second set that this crowd began to dance.  Special guest Tom Barlow set the pace with the song that caused riots in England back in 1955 when Bill Haley and the Comets introduced “Rock Around The Clock” to the first generation to be called “teenagers”.  When he segued into “Johnny B. Goode” every available space on the floor was filled with dancers, and they didn’t sit down for the rest of the night.

But the second set had started out with the granddaddy of rock ‘n roll (if you don’t count Louis Jordan), Fats Domino, featuring Tyler’s once again perfect mimic of the original vocals.  Bass player Alec Fraser who layed down a great bottom throughout the night, switching from double bass to electric Fender when the style progressed from swing to rock ‘n roll, was given the vocal spotlight with a Bo Diddley mashup that started with “Who Do You Love” and merged with Buddy Holly’s Diddley imitation, “Not Fade Away” and culminated in the famous Bo Diddley chant.

At the end of the second set, Tyler acknowledged his (and our) debt to Chris Scerri by inviting him up on stage for a rendition of Robert Johnson’s “Crossroads”.  Chris has a vocal style that really shines with a song like this and this particular band really went to town with it, including some amazing sax and guitar solos.  It was a preview of what audiences at Blue Mountain Village can expect this summer when Chris holds court on the weekends with a band that includes a number of these same players.

John Bride got hotter as the night went on

Guitarist John Bride didn’t get a chance to shine until the band got into the rock and roll numbers.  Jazz guitar calls for chord comping, which he did well, but it wasn’t until they moved into rock that he was really able to show off, starting with Johnny B. Goode and carrying through to the finale.  He even had a chance to do some fancy playing behind his back and playing with his teeth moves a la Jimi Hendrix.

Vocalist Gracie spanned several styles as she performed most of the vocals through the night.  From Anita O’Day and Billie Holiday, through Bill Withers tunes, Merry Clayton’s iconic vocals on “Gimme Shelter” to an energized rendering of Amy Winehouse, she projected her effervescence and vocal chops into every song she did.

The room was lined with balloons which randomly popped with a bang, always on the downbeat.

It was, as billed, an amazing time machine experience, and a fitting tribute to Florian Lenders who has donated so much time and energy to building the music aspect of the community centre and has come to the point where it is time to pass along the baton.  When he was presented on stage with a special plaque the audience rose to give him a standing ovation.

Thanks Florian!

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One Response to Time Travel at The Marsh Street Centre

  1. Debra Carroll says:

    It was a great concert with a fabulous group of musicians! Gracie was spectacular… Florian and the volunteers deserve many many thanks…a thoroughly enjoyable evening!

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