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Bubbles of Fun

A report from Canada Music Week in Toronto

by Ryan O’Connor

The East Coast Music Awards—Atlantic Canada’s yearly celebration of its music industry—is well known to Prince Edward Islanders. But what about Canadian Music Week? Billed as “Canada’s largest annual entertainment event dedicated to the expression and growth of the country's music, media, and entertainment industries,” it is the big one for the Canadian music industry, and is held annually in Toronto.

Being in the neighbourhood, I decided to take in CMW 2004, from March 3-6, to see what the hype I’ve been hearing is all about. As could be expected I saw my share of good, not so good, and even downright rotten bands. But there’s no need to focus on that. Instead, I’ll fill you in on some highlights.

Thursday and Friday proved fairly interesting. I saw great sets from Montreal’s psychedelic garage rockers Tricky Woo, as well as Dartmouth’s Matt Mays and El Torpedo. I was amazed by the amount of Islanders I ran into, especially on Friday, when I bumped into four-fifths of the Rude Mechanicals. The strangest event that night came when Todd MacLean and myself were heading outside of the Horseshoe Tavern after the El Torpedo set. Running into Mike Smith, who plays Bubbles on Trailer Park Boys, we stopped to chat. After discussing the upcoming season and a variety of sundry topics, Todd and I headed outside. Moments later we saw Smith and cast mates Jean Paul Tremblay [Julian] and Robb Wells [Ricky] jump into a humongous white limo parked on Queen Street West.

Saturday night trumped the previous nights. Once again attending the Horseshoe Tavern, I caught a performance by The Smugglers, a British Columbia-based rock outfit featuring CBC Radio personality Grant Lawrence. A long-time fan of the band, this was my first time seeing them in concert, having missed their only Charlottetown date ten years ago. This show proved extra special, as it was the launch of their latest CD, Mutiny In Stereo. The Smugglers were great, delivering a raucous mix of old and new material, even incorporating one of their patented dance contests into the works. And while this was great, the next band, Nardwuar the Human Serviette’s Evaporators, would rise even higher.

The Evaporators’ amusing punk songs, such as “[I’ve Got a Disease] I’m Addicted to Cheese” were alright, but their performance was incredible. Nardwuar’s crazy antics—like crowd surfing while playing his organ—got everyone going. The highlight came when his surprise guest, Canada’s metal legend Thor, took the stage. Singing two of his classics, “Keep the Dogs Away” and “Anger is My Middle Name,” Thor proceeded to amaze us all with his feats of strength—blowing a hot water bottle up to the size of a beach ball with his awesome lung power, and bending a thick piece of steel with his bare hands.

If you love music and are in the Toronto area next March, I highly recommend you take in the festivities of CMW.

A Free Gift

Arianna

Review by Katy Pobjoy

Ogres. Witches. Magic. Is this just another fairy tale? No indeed! Arianna is not your typical fairy tale. The outdoor show, written by Thomas Morgan Jones, succeeded, not only in keeping the children's rapt attention, but in entertaining the adults and teens in the audience at the Confederation Centre Amphitheatre this summer. The latter found themselves impressed by the more realistic approach that does not have good triumphing over evil. And the children? I saw their eyes grow round and their smiles widen as they hummed along to the catchy songs and watched the energetic performances.

The main characters, Nathaniel, Sasha and Murphy, were played by Craig Fair, Fiona Vroom and Robert Laughton, three fresh-faced young actors who pulled off the roles of children with remarkable ease. In fact the entire cast appeared to enjoy performing as much as we enjoyed watching them. With roles from playful children to mislead ogres, student-less wizards to "Diva-Witches," brainless politicians to sorceresses with a fetish for freezing people's feet in place, the performances were as varied as they were entertaining.

In Arianna, evil does not manifest itself as the cloaked, ornery, villain we've come to recognise in children's stories. Rather, it comes in the form of a condition called "The Sleep," that is incurable and irreversible, and affects those who neglect their personal relationships and cease to care about life. Is this a gentle metaphor for teaching children about life's sad realities? Perhaps.

The only consolation the protagonists receive from the play's namesake sorceress, Arianna, is to never stop thinking of the ones lost but to keep them in our hearts and minds.

As the show came to a close, I found myself surprised; the conclusion manages to pull at your heart strings without using cheesy cliches. "We are gone, lost but not forgotten," sing the magic folk as Sasha comes to terms with the fact that she has lost her parents for good. Murphy discovers that his mentor, the mayor, has been taken. Nathaniel realises that he has lost his father forever, and perhaps his mother as well. The final scene brought a tingle of goose bumps to my arms and a sad smile to my lips.

Composed by Jean-Francois Poulin and directed by Julia Grey, this performance, with its strong voices, characters that effortlessly bring a smile to your face and an ease that pulls you in, was a gift to tourists and Islanders alike.

Guitar Artist

By Peter Richards

Former Rolling Stones guitarist Mick Taylor will perform at Myron's Cabaret in Charlottetown on Wednesday, August 13. Taylor's CV is a who's-who of rock royalty. John Mayall brought him in to replace Eric Clapton in 1967 [at the age of 17!], and over the years, Taylor has appeared on 16 records with John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers. It was in 1969 that Taylor was brought in once more as a replacement, this time taking over the guitar duties of Brian Jones, when he left the Rolling Stones. Taylor would play lead guitar for the Stones from 1969 through 1973, and appears on many classic Stones records, including Exile On Main Street, Sticky Fingers, Let it Bleed and Goat's Head Soup. His distinctive guitar work can be heard on Stones hits such as "Brown Sugar," "Tumbling Dice" and "Honkey Tonk Women."

After deciding to leave The Stones, Taylor embarked on a prolific and varied career, recording and performing with dozens of artists. He has recorded and toured extensively with Bob Dylan (appearing on Infidels and Real Live). He also toured with Jack Bruce (Clapton's Cream bandmate) for several years. Taylor's solo music is guitar driven blues, featuring his trade-mark slide, made so famous during his years with the Stones.

We reached Mick on his "mobile" in England at home in the back yard and had a chance to talk to him about his amazing career. He is modestly happy to talk about the early days with John Mayall, and how playing six nights a week as a Bluesbreakers developed his playing and opened his ears.

Mick Jagger's phone call inviting him to join the Rolling Stones-"my first rock and roll band"-is obviously the key carreer moment, but it is still apparent that what means most to Mick Taylor is the music. The best thing for him about being a Rolling Stone?-the opportunity to be spend so much time in the studio (six major Stones albums) and so much time performing. "It was a constant inspiration" says Mick. "They were very innovative albums, quite adventurous." He learned a lot about recording and began songwriting. "It was a very productive period, and a really good time."

Other perks included being able to meet and play with many of his blues heroes in Chicago, and travel the world.

Since leaving the Stones Mick has never stopped playing, and tours often these days as a solo artist. At the end of July he played a special UNICEF benefit concert in Liverpool with Eric Clapton and John Mayall. The show was also a celebration of Mayall's birthday. At 70 years old "he's just amazing", says Mick. "We played for two hours; it was so much fun…I enjoy playing even more than ever now."

A now he's coming to Myron's. We expect every electric guitar player on PEI (especially you Les Paul dudes) to be on hand to give Mick a warm, enthusastic and respectful welcome. You will hear one of the finest electric guitar artists that England has ever produced.

The Myron's show will be the only performance by Mick Taylor east of Montreal this summer.

Memorable Songs

The Soda Shoppe Gang raises its voice to raise money for good causes

by Angela Walker

Members of Halifax's Soda Shoppe Gang including PEI native Heather Arsenault (front left) and her daughter Nicole (front centre)

Some of Heather Arsenault's fondest memories revolve around trips to the family cottage with her dad, Loman MacAulay. As a broadcaster with CFCY radio for 46 years, he knew and loved all the old songs. It's a love he shared with his family. "We'd just sit in the car and sing the whole way to the cottage," Arsenault recalls. "When the kids came along, they just joined in and learned the parts and the songs."

That love of music is very much a part of Arsenault's life today. Arsenault, and her daughter Nicole, are both members of the popular Soda Shoppe Gang in Halifax. It's an incredibly talented group of musicians who sing and play songs from the 50s, 60s and 70s. Arsenault was one of the founding members. The group began when a few friends from church got together to sing some of the old classic rock and roll songs. It grew to include many accomplished musicians.

For example, the horn player used to be the director of the Stadacona band. However, he wasn't one of the original recruits. Heather notes he came to the group after their first year, wondering why they hadn't asked him. "We told him we thought he would be way out of our league," she said. "However, he said he would love to be part of the group."

All Soda Shoppe Gang performances raise money for charities. In Halifax, they do an annual show for Dalhousie Medical Research. Here on PEI, their shows raise money for projects of the Lady Holland Chapter of the IODE and the Schizophrenia Society of P.E.I. The IODE has used the money to refurbish the Upper Room Soup Kitchen and a bedroom at Anderson House. The Schizophrenia Society has used its funds to place literature on Schizophrenia in Island schools.

Heather says picking out the music for the shows is an interesting process. "Every singer is supposed to bring four songs that they want to do, and then we work that out and see how the harmonies are going to work," she explained. "For this show we decided to do a name segment…like Oh Donna and Corina-Corina and some songs like that, that were name songs from that era."

The Soda Shoppe gang will be back at the Confederation Centre of the Arts on April 5 with a brand new show called "Rockin at the Hop." And Arsenault says there are few things she enjoys as much as returning to the Island to play at the Confederation Centre. "Oh, My gosh yes. It's such a big high," she says. "I kept telling everybody here, if we could just get to the Island you would love it there-- our first show we did there, they absolutely loved it. They said that was their favorite show and their favorite audience was on the Island because they're just so into it and so responsive."

Surf's Up

Wave performs at Confed Centre during Faces of Canada

by John Bruce Affleck

Dave Thomson and Paul Gigliotti of the pop band Wave

Some would say Canadian bands rarely have songs that make any impact on radio or television stations. This all changed in the summer of 2001, when the pop group Wave released their single California. The catchy melody and sugary sweet lyrics took the nation by storm, receiving massive airplay.

Singer, Paul Gigliotti and guitarist, Dave Thomson started a band in Niagara Falls after high school. They recorded their first record Nothing As It Seems and now two years later are touring in support of their second album, State of Mind. During a telephone interview in February, guitaris Dave Thomson said "During the last tour our songwriting grew and the songs had a new level of maturity to them." Wave has already released two singles off their new disc but it is difficult to say whether it will bring them the commercial success that California did. Dave Thomson admits to feeling the pressure after having a big hit and said, "in the beginning I did try to rewrite that song." Expectations are high but Thomson says, "Personally I just tried to let go of the pressure and just write songs that are true to myself." He says he is writing at a tremendous rate and describes Wave's music pure "pop rock."

Wave is making their first appearance in Charlottetown, on February 27 at the Confederation Centre with Kristen Barons opening. Wave will also be touring in other parts of the Maritimes and the rest of Canada. "We just plan to keep writing songs and touring," says the guitar player from Wave. They plan to tour US and Europe for this album but they have experienced no commercial success there yet. They hope to reach the next level of stardom and make it into the US market like fellow Canadians, Nickleback, Sum 41, and Avril Lavigne. Wave have a positive outlook on life, which comes across heavily as almost a no worries attitude. Dave says that it comes out "naturally" in their music . Wave's poppy, happy-go-lucky songwriting, with their melodic choruses, is a formula that could appeal to a variety of music fans. Be sure not to miss Wave's live show because it is a "good reflection of our new album," says Dave. You should get your boards waxed folks because Wave is coming to town and we'll be surfing in not time.

Le vent bohème

Lennie Gallant releases new French language CD

by Brian Lamey

Lennie Gallant is one of Canada's finest songwriters; and, in true-to-Canadian form, his collection of recordings is bilingual. With his new album, Le vent bohème, Gallant has returned to the recording studio to explore his Acadian roots. Drawing from folk, Acadian traditional ("Laisse aller") and modern rock styles ("Je ne changerais rien"), the result is an eclectic mix of influences that make up Gallant's own sound.

Le vent bohème is Gallant's first full-length French album, but he has always had a few French tunes on his set-lists and earlier releases. Three of his grandparents spoke French and he has always been influenced by Acadian bands. "With this album I've come full circle, in that when I started recording songs I was exposed to a lot of Acadian acts: like Harmonium, and Paul Piché. I was interested in what was happening in that scene at that time. French stuff was very unique. English bands were trying to copy what was going on south of the border. The French bands were doing their own thing," said Gallant from his Halifax office. Still, while Le vent bohème was a homecoming for of sorts, it wasn't without its difficulties for Gallant, "This has been a real lesson in how complicated the French language can be." Well-known musician and songwriter Ronald Bourgeois co-wrote three tracks and helped with lyrics. "He's very meticulous at putting a song together and will work at taking the time to write a song." Lennie's uncle, Tiomon Gallant also worked on lyrics, making sure the diction was just right.

Born and raised in Rustico, Gallant always had a dedicated following on the Island throughout his career, but his music has made a name for himself all around the world. Gallant is the winner of eleven East Coast Music Awards, and nominated for two Junos. Performing has taken him to Europe, the Middle East, Guatemala, the U.S., and he frequently traverses Canada.

The craft he brings to lyrics and songs is gaining notice from many other artists. This past March, million-seller Jimmy Buffett released a version of Gallant's "Mademoiselle voulez-vous danser?" Tara MacLean, Matt Minglewood, and others have been quick to record other Gallant originals.

His last album Lennie Gallant Live (2000), was a friendly reminder that he is an extraordinary performer as well as a talented songwriter. With the three members of the Halifax-based band Mir backing him, his live album brought new energy to many of his most requested songs. Le vent bohème features eight new tracks, but offers new light on a few fan-favourites as well. "Y'a que l'amour" ("There Is Only Love") is the French version of "Lifeline," the title track from his successful 1997 album.

Lennie Gallant's new album, Le vent bohème (The Gypsy Wind) will be released on October 1st. Visit: www.lenniegallant.com. He will be in Charlottetown to perform at UPEI's new Student Union Centre on October 5th. Says Lennie, "It will be a mostly English show, but we will throw a few French tunes in there, too."

Take a Trip

The Seagals

Review by Andrea McVean

"I think it was Stan Rogers who recognized that farm wives are actually farmers," says Margie Carmichael, as she begins to strum a heart wrenching tale of a farm wife turning her back on the family farm. I feel my eyes well up, as I listen to Carmichael, a seasoned pro who is able to capture the same human spirit that Stan Rogers loved to sing about. It's the second set of The Seagals opening night at the Benevolent Irish Society, and the audience is starting to loosen up and really enjoy themselves. I am excited to see four women on stage, experimenting with poetry and song, while re-forging an age-old Island identity.

The Seagals performance group is comprised of Margie Carmichael, Laurie Murphy, Christina Forgeron and Amanda Mark. These names should ring a bell, most recently from their collaborative work in Murphy's improvisation troupe, The F.I.G.H.T. Club, and their individual work as singer/songwriters, comedians and actors. The show is a Prince Edward Island mosaic, jam packed with all sorts of goodies, somber tales of making it on the land, knee slapping, howlin' coyote tunes, and sweet love poetry, all written by the gals.

The show's format is roughly based on the good ol' Rise and Follies of Cape Breton, but with a feminist edge. It's quite an undertaking, when you consider how Cape Bretoners eat and sleep music, but these women have some serious talent to draw upon. You can tell that Carmichael and Forgeron, the musical backbone of the group, have been raised on a steady diet of music, and just love to perform. Mark adds a sweet edge to the show with her ironic poetry and great bass playing, and Murphy shows a different side of herself, putting the comedian on the back burner, and showing us the poet and singer.

The show possesses a raw energy with room to evolve into a polished performance. I have a feeling that this is just the beginning for the Seagals.

Little Show, Big Heart

Ireland Meets Scotland

Review by P. Joan Smith

We buy tickets at the door from stage manger and director Nan Jeffrey, and learn from our programmes that through music, dance, verse and drama, this company of five artists plans to take us back in imagination over three hundred years. Kevin Jeffrey, the show's writer, producer and narrator invites us to follow the Island's Irish and Scottish immigrants back to their roots; we find it is to be a journey of the heart.

During the musical prelude we meet the players-Kevin plays guitar, while his son, Colin Jeffrey, a classically trained professional musician, plays fiddle; Amanda Mark a flautist in the PEI Symphony, provides the perfect complement to the traditional airs on a variety of instruments; and we meet the two young dancers who are to enthrall and bewitch us, Brittany Banks, aged twelve, an experienced competitor in Maritime Celtic Dance, and nine-year-old Gwyneth Islay, another member of the Jeffrey family.

Using the minimum of stage props and costumes, the narrator Kevin takes us to the first scene: the Sligo Fair, 1689, "during a time in Ireland's turbulent history." He recites Yeats' poem "The Fiddler of Dooney" that assures us that a merry heart is worth more than anything else. A Gaelic medley follows with the step dancers wearing traditional Celtic dress.

Scene Two shifts to Scotland in the year 1746, when the Highland clans were losing their power "and much of their cherished culture." Colin plays a violin solo, "Rosaline Castle" that captures the heart-wrenching beauty of the times. The mood continues with a gentle rendition of the "Skye Boat Song," with Brittany singing solo, and finally we sense the pride in the "Jacobite Sword Dance," performed by the girls, in Highland dress.

During the intermission, the performers offer Scottish oat cakes and Irish cream scones and pour our coffee and tea.

Following the intermission, Act 2 tells of the immigrations to Canada (we'll let you discover the details for yourselves, when you attend) .

This is a family affair that, while small in number, is large in heart and soul.

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