Sunday, September 19, 2010

Barrie New Music Fest 2010 - September 16th - 19th, 2010, Barrie

There’s nothing better than a music festival in your hometown. I actually thought the talent overall was better than what I found at NXNE earlier this summer. I suppose that is partly because it’s primarily an Indie Rock showcase whereas Barrie NMF had artists from several different genres. It was also much easier for me to catch shows back to back since the venues are all within walking distance of each other in the downtown core with the exception of the Georgian College venue The Last Class. Wristbands were $15, which got you into all the events all weekend (much more affordable than NXNE’s wristband prices). Here are the artists I saw:

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

Avery Island
This is a rock outfit from Toronto led by vocalist and gear-head Lauren Heenan. Sporting a microKorg and a tray full of effects pedals, Lauren teamed up with her brother Brandon on guitars, bassist/multi-instrumentalist Jordan Plishewsky and drummer Kyle Rawn to create the alt-rock sound that is Avery Island. Lauren, Brandon and Jordan all trade instruments around with all of them playing guitar at some point. One song they performed, ‘Jive Talking’ reminded me of Rush with the synth and straight-up rock drumbeats. They incorporate guitar arpeggios into many of the songs, they’re skilled enough for some interesting time changes and they have some good vocal harmonies. The overall tone of their songs is a bit somber, however.

Paisley Jura
With two A-list musicians accompanying this upright-bass-playing songstress, the Mansion was filled with sounds of Jazz-Pop and I couldn’t get over how good the keyboard player sounded. I spoke with the drummer who usually plays for Sarah Slean and he mentioned that he feels his vintage 24” bass drum compliments upright bass, and fills in the spaces where there is no upright bass, as was the case for a couple Paisley’s numbers. Paisley mentioned that it was tricky to learn how to sing and play together, having come from an orchestra background. She also mentioned that her newest album was produced by Barenaked Ladies’ producer Michael Phillip Wojewoda. Good for you Paisley.

River City Junction
This band was a solid Blues Rock trio from Brockville, Ontario. Vocalist Caroline Addison said she has only been playing for 3 years; she could have fooled me. It’s not often you see a female lead vocalist playing drums. These guys were tight and I had quite the conversation with guitarist Jason Fryer about gear. Caroline reminded me of Alannah Myles and Jason sounded a bit like Richie Sambora on the few songs I heard. Hooters is not the worst venue in Barrie for sound as there’s a lot of wood in the room.

Sly Violet
Sly Violet is a strong vocalist and decent guitarist. She plays folk music occasionally incorporating harmonica Dylan style into her performance. I told her she reminded me of Bruce Cockburn because of her earthy vibe and her open tuning and finger style guitar pieces. Although her music is not as complex as that of Bruce Cockburn, she does write her lyrics from personal perspective and has a Canadian flavor with songs about experiences from different places she’s lived in Canada. Sly has two albums and is very comfortable talking to the audience.

Cold Jack
This 7-piece band features lead singer/songwriter John Fraser, Michael Kernen on sax, flute and clarinet, and Daryl Yaeger on trumpet and flugelhorn. In searching around the Internet for tidbits about this band, I found it difficult to locate the names of the current members of the band. I don’t want to say Cold Jack is a funk band, but I think their sound is somewhere between Tower of Power and Steely Dan.

It was a treat to walk into the Mansion and find these guys playing something out of the ordinary for this venue. The bass player was slapping out a groove while the keyboard player had a wide selection of sounds to choose from with a keyboard stack consisting of a Korg Triton, a Hammond XK-3c and what I believe was a Yamaha stage piano. Apparently, the guitarist was a new graduate from Mohawk and he had some bits of African guitar flavor along with the other kinds of licks you might expect. Congratulations on receiving the 2010 NMF Best Jazz Award.

Friday, September 17th, 2010

Ten Feet Deep
This band came all the way from New York City to play the Barrie New Music Festival. Telling the audience they didn’t have work visas, they gave away copies of their album. They played covers of Michael Jackson’s Thriller and R Kelly’s Ignition, along with their original material. They have a tight sounding pop rock feel with strong vocals. An interesting piece on the stage was a Gibson/Trace Elliot cabinet upholstered with red velvet. It’s unfortunate they didn’t get a better sounding venue as The Last Class has a layout with low ceiling at the bar and a gigantic ceiling above the raised stage with all windows and hard surfaces, requiring more of a sound tamer than a sound engineer. Hats off to J.C. for getting the best out of the room.

For The Birds
Barrie local band For The Birds has a full-force, hard rock grunge sound that flooded the ears of their moderate fan base showing up to see them at The Last Class. One die-hard fan returned a fallen guitar pick to singer Caitlyn McCann, another enthusiastic, burly dancing fan worked up quite a sweat rocking out to the performance. Unfortunately, the money the drummer will have to pay to replace the cymbal he smashed would have more than covered the cost of a metronome.

He is exciting to watch however, sort of a combination of Animal from the Muppets and Keith Moon after several Red Bulls. Caitlyn is very confident with the audience but her vocals are hiding behind two Marshall stacks that were on stage. The sound guy pointed out that they were both solid-state heads, which would partly account for why neither Fender Telecaster was discernable from the other. Their stage performance was well rehearsed, however, the performance came pretty close to the decibel levels heard at the Silver Dollar when I saw Teenanger.

The Grey Owls
These guys were my personal favorite for the festival. Sometimes I wonder if bands have forgotten what Rock ‘N’ Roll sounds like. Well, The Grey Owls haven’t. Songwriters Jordan Faye and Brian Scarth both sing and harmonize with Jordan reminding me a bit of Jerry Garcia both vocally and with the curly hair and glasses. The lyrics are mature, mid-20’s relevant, and without references to anything too trendy, which could lend themselves well to a band with staying power. Bands that came to mind while watching the performance were The Rolling Stones and Neil Young & Crazy Horse.

I was actually more excited hearing them live than listening to their MySpace, which is a good thing. Jordan’s vocals are a bit nasally and the drummer, Travis Thoms’ drumming style is not terribly exciting, although he keeps solid tempo as they all do. I like how, although both guitarists were playing telecasters, they chose amps with different tonal qualities (Vox and Fender) so each guitar was a distinct voice, in contrast with the two Marshall stacks used by For The Birds which blended into mush. The bassist also had some nice melodic bass lines to complement the whole sound. The Flat Iron Grill doesn’t give much stage room but the sound isn’t too bad compared with other venues in Barrie. It didn’t hurt that The Grey Owls were able to keep their decibels at a comfortable level for the room.

Cameron Austin
I made it to Oscars to catch the last show of the evening where Singer/Guitarist Cameron Austin and percussionist Rick Roy were performing. Oscars is a small room where small ensembles play near the entrance, or as I have seen before, the back dining area can be converted into a stage for larger bands that need more elbow room. Cameron’s intimate folk/world fusion or rhythm and groove as he puts, it is suited for this venue with him playing acoustic guitar, singing and playing harmonica. Rick played a snare drum with brushes and a caj√≥n. I really liked his tune Storm Winds & Lifeboats, which he mentioned was a crowd favorite, and another one he played with a 12-bar structure and call and answer style lyrics. Cameron has a very enjoyable performance with diverse musical influences and a strong voice.
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