oh susanna

Oh Susanna is a veteran in the Canadian music scene by now, but this was my first time seeing her perform. I knew she was a prolific songwriter, excelling at story-telling tunes, but I had no idea how talented she really is until her CMW set. Or how deep her roots within the scene go. She’s also brilliant and adventurous. She had the idea a while back to reach out and ask her musician friends on Facebook to write songs for an album that will be comprised of said songs.

She played many of the songs at this show, and even had a six-song sampler for the upcoming record that she gave out, including tracks by Joel Plaskett, Royal Wood, Keri Latimer, Ron Sexsmith and A. Presley, Jim Bryson and Melissa McClelland. What an interesting and brave project. The album will be called Namedropper.

The album was initially planned to be out last fall, however Oh Susanna was diagnosed with breast cancer and began chemotherapy, hence delaying the progress with the album. In fact, the CMW show, part of the Sonic Unyon showcase, was her first in about a year. I’m happy to report that it went swimmingly and she looked great; so cute with short hair (there’s a definite resemblance to Natalie Portman).

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Her country folk music has ample sweetness and a touch of sass. At this show, the songs she played by other writers took her away from the country feel a little bit and more into rock and pop styles, which she seemed at ease with. Her voice is as strong as ever; she has a clear and strong tone that sounds a lot like Emmylou Harris. Her song ‘I’ll Always Be’ was recorded live on the Mike Bullard show a while back, and highlights the pure tone in her voice, as well as the control she maintains throughout her wide vocal range. It also reveals that sass I mentioned earlier.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.

dinner belles

Dinner Belles are a country folk group based in the Hamilton area. Performing as a six-piece band for their CMW set (guitars, bass, drums, mandolin and keyboards), they ended up playing a more electric set than usual due to technical difficulties with the pick-up in one of the acoustic guitars. It worked well, since it was Saturday night and the crowd was pretty revved up already.

Everyone was loving the music. A dance floor started up in front of the stage, led by a couple really drunk dudes who were literally falling over each other while trying feverishly to dance (it was amusing… for a while).  It was incredible that they managed to fit six musicians on the small stage, especially considering the drum kit took up about a third of the available space.

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Each band member brings something different and important to the mix and each is a proficient musician in their own right. Combined, their power increases ten-fold, like when the Power Rangers combine and make Megazord, an unstoppable force. Being a pianist myself, I was especially enamoured with the work of Greg Brisco, who danced across the keys like nobody’s business and is one of the most talented and FAST keyboardists I’ve seen in a long time.

The main vocals and harmonies are often shared between Brad Germain and Terra Lightfoot, though the others often assist as well (especially Scott Bell). Lightfoot is able to explore her higher (falsetto) range in this group compared with the lower range she tends towards in her solo music. Their voices complement each other like peanut butter and chocolate.

The sense of community fostered by this group is absolutely contagious. People in the audience, once strangers, began dancing together. Boys were twirling girls, girls were twirling girls, boys were twirling boys, and everyone was singing along to the choruses. We begged for an encore, but the schedule was too tight to allow any additions. I’ll post one here for you instead. My favourite song of the night was this sing-along ditty, ‘Til The Dawn’, performed in the barn they rehearse in. The lovely Kennedy Sharon Bell, young daughter of bassist/singer/songwriter Scott Bell, makes a guest appearance.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.

the tallest tree

The Tallest Tree are an indie group from Dundas, Ontario and it took me most of their set before I realized that the two young ladies are actually Dawn and Marra, who have performed around the GTA for the past few years including at the Hamilton Music Awards. Joined by a rhythm section in The Tallest Tree, the group is led by the talented Dawn and Marra, whose artsy and creative songwriting is heightened by their sweet voices often singing in harmony. They incorporate interesting instruments into their music, often switching between them when playing live, Barenaked Ladies-style.

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For their CMW set at Cherry Cola’s –which was part of the Sonic Unyon showcase — they used an accordion, ukelele, guitars, bass, drums and tambourine. They also did a song using body percussion (see photo below) and another with fake trumpet where the bassist imitated the trumpet sound with his mouth.  Quite an inventive group!

They certainly don’t use variety as a crutch; their music is well written, interesting and has a delightful playfulness about it. This might be a strange connection, but at times it reminds me of the movie Juno. It has a certain childhood innocence mixed with quirkiness that just makes me smile.

This video of Dawn and Marra with some friends for ‘Not on Top’ was shot as part of the Southern Souls collection of videos.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.

Julian Taylor Band

Julian Taylor wrote and toured for years with Staggered Crossing, and yet found that despite working hard and constantly touring, there was just not enough profit in that side of the business. [I will resist the urge to go on a tirade about how almost no one wants to pay for original music anymore, and so musicians trying to pave their way using their own voice often end up living on welfare or worse… playing in cover bands so you can afford rent (jokes, well not really…)].

After the band broke up in 2007, Taylor spent time playing top-40 hits. He began writing and performing under his own name while continuing to play cover songs, eventually forming the Julian Taylor Band. Persistence and hard work definitely do pay off, though his immense talent certainly helps! Julian Taylor Band has released seven albums to date. Taylor has also had ten top-40 hits and has shared the stage with some big names including Blue Rodeo, Jeff Healey, Nickelback, Collective Soul and many others. He was also invited to perform at the Olympic Games in Salt Lake City and in Vancouver. Not too shabby!

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The band played at the Shangri La Hotel on Wednesday night for the second of their CMW performances, following a show at the Hideout on Tuesday. They began with a set of strictly original tunes, introducing covers as the night progressed, playing four sets to not only CMW attendees but also the hotel guests. His music is sexy. There’s no better way to put it. You can dance to it, you can sing to it, and you can do lots of other things to it too, wink wink!

His voice reminds me of Stevie Wonder, both in the tone and delivery, though his style ranges from soul to R&B, from funk to rock, and touches other genres like pop in between. The band also emits great energy and it’s absolutely impossible to not groove along when they’re playing. Check out what I mean here with ‘This is Zero to Eleven,’ the second single of their 2013 EP.

The band recently released a full length album called Tech Noir which is available on iTunes as well.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.

Spencer Burton is a country-infused folk musician when performing under the moniker Grey Kingdom.  He and his backing band played a set of mellow beauties at the Dakota Tavern for CMW on Thursday night.

Burton, born in Hamilton, Ontario, was raised in Kelowna, B.C., and then became a resident in the Welland, ON music scene through his teenage years.  Years of playing and touring in the acclaimed band Attack in Black led Burton to reflect.  Reflection turned to writing, writing turned into the formation of Grey Kingdom, and that led to the birth of an album titled Eulogy of her and her and her (Dine Alone Records).

The album was an outlet for storytelling songs that resulted from experiences gleaned through years of constant touring, constant movement with Attack in Black. A release of sorts.

Obviously Burton had more to say. Three additional albums have since been released (The Grey Kingdom, The Weeping Suns and Light, I’ll Call Your Name Out “Darkness”) and he continues to write and to perform in clubs and festivals with artists like Sarah Harmer and Jason Collett.

Burton’s CMW set was a lovely collection of original songs that had a natural grace about them. Each song flowed easily into the next.

The only unfortunate part about the show was perhaps the timing; Burton was on just before popular local band Flash Lightnin’ and the crowd was revved up for heavy rock. The venue was at capacity and the chatter made it difficult to hear this quieter, slower band at times. The laid-back and somewhat somber character of the songs were perhaps ill-timed for this night, but regardless, Burton performed the songs with emotion and a certain gentleness that I found touching.

It’s worth a mention that Aaron Goldstein played the steel guitar for Burton.  Goldstein is a member of Tom Wilson’s project LeE HARVeY OsMOND, has recorded and played with the Cowboy Junkies and played live with City and Colour.  Here is Burton performing Sun Like Moon Light for Streaming Café.

julian taylor band

Greetings from Toronto! Canadian Music Week, moved to May this year (no doubt due to weather…), is upon us! Here are a few recommendations for bands that are part of the festivities this week.

The festival begins Tuesday night, and though it’s not as busy as the rest of the week, it does feature Low Hanging Lights, an electric folk/rock band with definite punk influence. They capitalize on raw, “live show” sounding music, so you know they’re going to sound just as good — if not better — live. They play at Baltic Avenue at 11 p.m.

On Wednesday, Julian Taylor Band is playing a free show in The Lobby Lounge at the Shangri La Hotel at 8 p.m. Julian Taylor is an accomplished artist and frankly, I’m surprised he isn’t more well known. He has released seven albums, has ten top-40 hits and has played over 2000 live shows in the last decade. He and his band put on electrifying live shows that kick it on all levels. He can sing, man can he sing, and is backed by a group of stellar musicians. He also writes hooky songs with great riffs, and did I mention he’s a total babe?

Meredith Shaw is playing at midnight on Wednesday at C’est What. Her song “Hardest Goodbye” was chosen as CBC’s song of the week in March and she’s had a couple tunes from her latest release (also Hardest Goodbye) featured on CBC Radio 2 over the last several months. She’s creating some serious buzz, so come check out what she’s all about.

There are several interesting acts featured on Thursday. Megafauna, a group from Austin, Texas, are playing at 9 p.m. at the Bovine Sex Club. They’re here promoting their recent release, Maximalist, an album that aims to unabashedly bring their supercharged music to the greatest heights. They’re hella hooky songs also boast rhythmic shifts, syncopation and fuse musical styles into something unique that could fall somewhere under the category of rock. They’re innovative and in a sea of hundreds of bands and acts this week, we need that.

Flash Lightnin’ is also playing Thursday, at The Dakota Tavern at 11 p.m. Their brand of gritty rock is just awesome. Recently back from touring with ZZ Top, they just released their album For the Sinners, so grab a beer and check them out. Seriously. They know how to rock.

Le Trouble are playing twice this week, once on Thursday at 11 p.m. at The Hideout, and again on Friday at Handlebar at midnight. Their music is a blast of punk energy with power-pop melodies and danceability. The pianist in me grins delightfully that they have keyboards. They’ll also be playing in Montreal at Osheaga (August 1-3).

Also on Friday, Robyn Dell’Unto and Donovan Woods are both playing at The Vault at 8 p.m. and 10:15 p.m., respectively. Dell’Unto has released two records of sweet and touching pop songs, and is backed by some truly amazing musicians. Juno nominee Donovan Woods is a character. His songs are not only catchy, but also clever and often hilarious. He has this awkwardness on stage that is irresistibly charming. If you enjoy acoustic music and singer-songwriters, you won’t want to miss this night.

Papillon, out of Montreal, plays three times this week; at midnight on Thursday at Cherry Cola’s, at 2 a.m. Friday at the Dakota Tavern and at 10 p.m. on Saturday at the Bovine Sex Club. They’re a fun, energetic rock band and I’m glad they’re bringing some Montreal flare this week.

Also on Saturday, Oh Susanna and the Dinner Belles are playing at 11 p.m. and midnight as part of the Sonic Unyon showcase at Cherry Cola’s. Oh Susanna is a narrative songwriter whose expressive voice carries you into a dreamworld created within her songs. She has been touring regularly since releasing her sixth album Soon the Birds in 2011, and most recently headed to the Yukon with Justin Rutledge and Kim Beggs. She has a lovely voice and is an enchanting performer. The Dinner Belles are an endearing group of acoustic musicians with a southern sound and beautiful harmonies. With roots, country and folk influences, it’s no surprise that the band typically rehearse, write and even perform in a barn filled with antiques and other unusual items. I dare you not to tap your toes along with their music.

Yes, indeed! There is much to keep busy with this week. Look out for show reviews coming soon.

Melissa Bel

Melissa Bel. Wow. I was introduced to this petite powerhouse last weekend at Hamilton’s Artword Artbar and was blown away by, well, everything about her. She truly is a belle, but certainly has the talent to back up the looks.

Perhaps most striking is her voice. It boasts total control. Bel sings with a dynamic range from barely a whisper to belting to the rafters, and hits every note with confidence and clarity. Her physique reminds me of Celine Dion, and I wondered while watching her sing how such big sound can come out of such a small frame.

Melissa Bel

Indeed, her vocals are surprisingly strong, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Her songs are well written and, just as important, cover a range of moods and feels from upbeat, punchy numbers to slower, more ballad-esque tunes. Many of her songs are blues and rock based, though some betray a folk influence, and some are more pop. It’s nice to see an artist who can write in different styles as comfortably and convincingly as Bel. Even more surprising when that artist is only in her mid-twenties. She has an air about her that is far beyond her years both in the way she commands attention during performance and also with her songwriting.

Her sophomore album, Distance, released in 2012, reached No. 1 on Montreal’s CIBL Jazz and Blues charts that summer. Since then, Bel has played regularly in Montreal and other parts of Quebec. She even toured Germany following the success of the album. Bel has played alongside Ron Sexsmith, Colin James, Serena Ryder, Sloan and opened for Matthew Good in New York and London, England. June 2013 saw the release of a 7 song EP, Don’t Forget to Breathe, and Bel is currently writing for a new album in which she plans to move away from the blues and rock that was the core of her previous releases and explore a more contemporary pop sound. No doubt you’ll be hearing more from this petite bombshell.

Photos by Stephanie Beatson.

BS“You pulled on this heart like you pull on a string; like the moon pulls on the ocean waves.” These lyrics, taken from Brydan Smith‘s song “The Pull,” describe the way his music affects people and offer a sampling of the descriptive and touching lyrics that characterize Smith’s writing.

So many artists try to show off their abilities by using all kinds of chords or writing difficult passages, but there’s something so touching and heartfelt in a good old-fashioned, simplistic love song that can’t be equaled. Smith is a romantic through and through. His gift is finding beauty in simplicity. He doesn’t need a bunch of fancy chords to win you over with his technical prowess. His intensely personal songs are tender portraits that grab you with his heartbreaking and sweet lyrics, smokey voice and emotive delivery.

He comments that a lot of people think he draws the most musical inspiration from Ray LaMontagne, but in fact he is more influenced by Joe Purdy. I can hear both. Vocally he sounds more like LaMontagne, but the style of his writing, including the straightforward chord progressions, is reminiscent of Purdy.

Smith’s soul-baring style is brave and admirable. Audiences respond to his genuineness; he doesn’t hide behind his instrument but unabashedly pours his heart out.

“Connecting with the listener, making them feel something is all I hope for… it’s what I strive for every time I perform,” he says in his online bio. He is successful in this endeavour, and then some.

The title of his EP is Beautiful Tragedies; perfect words to describe the tales of loss and longing set to elegant acoustic music by this naturally talented singer-songwriter.

Smith, a Burlington, Ontario native, is now living in Toronto and performing regular shows. Dates and times can be found on his website.

I was fortunate enough to catch a show last week at Cherry Cola’s, a Music City North event. Though singing fairly softly by nature, Smith quieted the chatty audience and held them from the first song through the last, where he invited friend Chris Blachford from an amazingly talented Toronto group called The Fox and the Moon to sing harmonies with him on a new song. It was a great way to end a set of tender, often lonesome songs; with a friend to share the burden.

Here’s a preview of him performing “Amy Dear,” the song that won him a FACTOR grant, live at The Moonshine Cafe, Oakville’s finest live music establishment.

In case you missed it yesterday, or frankly don’t care about the Toronto mayor’s antics anymore, Rob Ford was in a Steak Queen (some sort of Ontario-based fast food chain) in Etobicoke Monday night, presumably drunk, speaking in a Jamaican Patois and complaining about Toronto Police Chief Bill Blair for anyone who could hear (or make a video). He was also apparently hanging with Alessandro Lisi (sure looks like him in a second video), someone he should probably avoid publicly at least until his former driver’s drug trail is over.

Now, less than a day after the footage surfaced, we get the Rob Ford Rassclot Bumbaclot Dancehall Remix courtesy of ReeG on YouTube. You may be getting tired of Rob Ford and so am I. Frankly, he’s a distraction. But this remix is so well done and funny that I couldn’t help sharing. Enjoy!

Definitely not the new kid in town, but last Friday I had the chance to see this blues whiz for the first time at the stellar Pearl Company in Hamilton. When I noticed the band was playing again at Toronto’s Cameron House on Wednesday night, I grabbed the chance to see them again. Twice in one week?  Hell yes!  They’re that good.

In 2013, Paul Reddick was nominated for five Maple Blues Awards (several of which he has already taken home in previous years) for his most recent album Wishbone, including Recording of the Year. Quite an honour! Wishbone was also ranked #3 best blues albums of 2013 by Mojo Magazine. His reputation is growing both nationally and internationally, and it’s no surprise why.

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Reddick’s harmonica playing echoes the legendary Hamiltonian King Biscuit Boy. I’ve never seen moves and sounds like the ones he’s got, certainly not in person. Not only that, but his voice is silky smooth, like a cup of lemon tea on a sore throat. Like a glass of Bailey’s and coffee on Christmas morning. Like the sun’s rays soaking into your skin on a hot summer day. OK, you get the point.

It’s the whole package that make his shows so damn good. An award-winning songwriter and performer, Reddick is backed up by a band of excellent musicians at the top of their game. Greg Cockerill on guitar, Kurt Nielsen on bass and Daniel Neill on drums complete the tight band, filling in some of the solos and keeping the groove going all night long.
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The band is playing a residency at the Cameron House on Wednesday nights through January. If you’re in town, I strongly recommend you check them out. Here’s a video of the band performing at the Toronto Waterfront Blues Festival last summer:

The tune above doesn’t feature much of Reddick’s exceptional harmonica playing, so here’s a short clip of an older show, to whet the palate:

Photos by Stephanie Beatson

Twin Smith delivered a strong set this weekend – despite being short one member – at Measure, a restaurant/bar in Toronto. The group is tight, and one of the most enjoyable features are the two and three part vocal harmonies shared between the two guitar players and the bassist. How would I describe their sound? Psychedelic rock meets old-time spaghetti Western. Think Kill Bill (I overheard an audience member comment that their music should be in a Quentin Tarantino film).

They were the last band to play on Friday, but despite the approaching late hour, they retained their audience who were enthusiastically clapping along until the bar closed. Two young chaps who were very inebriated took their excitement over the music to the extreme, acting out dramatic scenes through dance for the entire set. It was pretty ridiculous, and fun to watch, albeit a bit distracting. I’m not sure how the band members managed to keep a straight face while these two were acting out scenes from a Western shoot-em-up movie basically on stage, sound effects and all, but they did. They even thanked their “interpretive dancers” and played a song about trolls for them, an irony which I think was lost on them but everyone else found quite amusing.

They’re building up a nice local fan base, but don’t have many recordings of videos out yet. In this clip, the video quality is shite, but you can get a sense of their unique and fun sound. They’re even tighter and stronger now, so if you happen to be in the area when they’re playing, check out a show. They’re quite a force live!

Never a dull moment in Toronto’s City Hall these days, is there? By now everyone knows that Rob Ford’s career is quite possibly the worst train wreck in Canadian political history. What is perhaps less understood by the general public are the ties between the Harper gang running the country and the Ford brothers in Hog town (somehow the old nickname just seems that much more fitting right now).

Conservative Finance Minister Jim Flaherty nearly broke down in tears last week at a press conference when a journalist asked him whether he had any advice for this old friend of the family. He said simply that he hoped the man got help ( I think we’re past the point of AA meetings here, Jimbo).

Of course, Tories are all heart when it comes to their own. Whereas when we’re talking about the unfortunate souls addicted to heroin who count on safe injection sites all over the country, they have no patience and will again try and thwart any attempt to provide this type of harm reduction during this session of Parliament.

Other members of the Harper government were less sympathetic towards Ford, but none of them were willing to go as far as to call for the Mayor to turn in his official necklace and do the city, country and office he’s repeatedly disgraced with his various drunken shenanigans, a massive favour by quitting. This is a far cry from Harper’s infamous 2011 BBQ footage in which he praised Ford for cleaning up the previous administration’s “mess” created by Mayor David Miller, loosely affiliated with the NDP (Ah yes. Remember when Toronto’s biggest problem was a garbage strike?) .

The reasons for the measured criticisms are clear: “Ford Nation” suburbanites, many of whom inexplicably still back the Mayor, are largely found in the same 905 area code ridings that are critical to any Conservative victory in the next Federal Election. The Fords were staunch Harper allies in the last election and the Mayor’s shady brother Doug Ford has mused openly about running for the Tories in the upcoming election (presumably on some sort of tough on drug crime platform).

Obvious political and personal hypocrisy notwithstanding, there is also the fact that “Fordzilla”(as one wag on twitter dubbed him) is currently a lame duck Mayor whose personal problems are preventing him from governing the most populous and still most economically important city in Canada. This is as much a crisis in leadership and administration as it is a tragicomedy media circus playing out before an international audience.

Although the solution to the current crisis in Toronto is being debated, the answer may lie in the resolution reached by the Quebec government during the Vaillancourt scandal in which the gangster (this is the technical term used in his indictment) Mayor of Laval was removed from office. In that instance, the city was effectively run by a panel of three technocrats appointed by the provincial government until municipal elections were held, on November 3rd. This might not be the most democratic option for the Wynn government in Ontario but it remains a viable path forward.

It’s time for Federal Tories (especially those representing the Greater Toronto Area) to set aside their talking points and their election strategy book, grow some spine and join the rest of their fellow elected representatives of all stripes in denouncing the Mayor and calling for his immediate resignation.

* Top image by designwallah via Flickr, used under Creative Commons

Davyn Calfchild served in the Canadian military and earned three medals over five years. He attended Remembrance Day events in Toronto yesterday not as a protester but as a veteran.

He was carrying a Haudenosaunee flag, the flag of his people, while his friend stood next to him carrying a Mowhawk Warrior flag. They were there to represent Native veterans who served or are serving in the Canadian military.

Toronto police didn’t see it that way and arrested both men for refusing to take down their flags along with a third Native man who was filming the incident. This despite repeated pleas from Calfchild that he was a veteran and there to support veterans, which, after all, is the purpose of Remembrance Day.

While most mainstream media focused on how Rob Ford was booed while one veteran refused to shake his hand or what Stephen Harper was doing, this video made the rounds online, showing how, sadly, not all veterans are welcome at official Remembrance Day events.

Rob Ford, the mayor of Toronto, smokes crack when he’s hammered. He admitted as much and after doing so, his approval rating went up.

It’s not a surprise, really. Admitting you’ve done probably the most stigmatized drug out there, using a drunken stupor as your excuse and then announcing that not only are you not stepping down but plan to run again for mayor of Canada’s largest city takes not only balls but but a certain amount of political genius.

Politics are far too scandal-driven and I think people are sick of it. I’m sick of it. When I see surveillance photos of Ford pissing discretely by a bush, I remember that on more than one occasion, when, say, drinking with friends in a park, I too have temporarily excused myself from the group and taken a discreet leak against a tree.

It’s true that I wasn’t waiting for a crack dealer at the time nor was I the mayor of anything. The first difference is important, the second shouldn’t be, but it is.

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Politicians are people and people have failings. If those failings affect their ability to carry out the job they were hired to do, then the public has a right to know them and judge them accordingly. If not, then they don’t, aside from cases of murder, rape or physical violence.

Until now, that hasn’t been the case. Any personal transgression, such as drug use, excessive alcohol use, cheating on a spouse or sleeping with a sex worker have been grounds for resignation or the kind of stuff opponents dig up during a campaign to prevent a candidate from being elected.

Now all that may change. If Ford sticks with his plan to run again and makes it to the election (let’s be honest, he’s not in the best health), then there’s really nothing his opponents could dig up on him. Anything they do find would most likely pale in comparison to what’s already out there and admitted to.

He may win. Hell, if I lived in Toronto, I might even vote for him. Not because he smokes crack, but because he’s planning to run in spite of scandal.

He’s the litmus test for the elimination of the power of scandal in politics. Unfortunately, he’s also Rob Ford.

He’s the mayor who thinks it’s okay to divert city busses for the football team he coaches. That’s a problem, falling over while throwing a football isn’t.

He’s the mayor who wants to make things as difficult for cyclists (and even joggers) as possible. That’s a problem, having a physique that doesn’t lend itself to those activities isn’t.

He’s also the mayor who gropes his former opponents at public functions when he’s loaded. The groping is a problem, so is his being drunk at a public function, alcoholism on his own time is a personal issue and not the public’s concern.

His hypocrisy is. He was elected as a Harper-loving, law and order anti-gang, anti-drug candidate, but apparently what’s good for others isn’t good for him. If you want to hang with drug dealers in your spare time, don’t try to jail them when at work and not just because some of them may have cameras.

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Billboards supporting Ford have been popping up around Toronto (photo by Stephanie Smyth via Twitter)

I wish the crackhead mayor was someone else, someone whose politics I could get behind. Then eliminating the politics of personal scandal would be a truly positive change.

Defeating Rob Ford should be about defeating what he stands for politically. Unfortunately, if he does lose or resign, almost everyone will think it’s because of the crack and drinking and nothing else.

If Ford wins, it will deal a blow to personal identity scandal politics, which is a good thing, but it will also reinforce his lousy policies. If he loses or resigns, almost everyone will think it’s about the crack and drinking and nothing else, what he stood for politically will still be viable and personal scandal will still be a way to defeat political opponents.

Rob Ford should lose or resign, but not because of crack or drinking, but rather in spite of them.

Toronto band The Real recently played a show at Tranzac as part of Montreal band Alligator Baby’s album launch tour.  Lead singer Justin Idems commented that the name The Real was chosen because if they were going to get up and play, they wanted to keep it real, to be the real deal and deliver.  And deliver they do!  The five piece band features guitar, keyboards, bass and drums; a strong support system for Justin’s killer vocals.  Quiet and calm in “real life,” Justin’s whole persona shifts onstage and he becomes an animated character who moves around the stage and belts out intense and powerful vocal melodies.

The-RealThe whole band is made up of excellent musicians.  Bass player CK Armstrong particularly stood out, commanding a seven string bass and making it look easy (it’s not).   The keyboards add a nice dimension to the sound, at times adding a synth layer that is also prevalent on their album Another First Step.  The Real sound a little like Incubus in terms of the instrumentation and the way Justin sings.  In addition to their repertoire of original tunes, they played some awesome covers including a polished version of “Superstition” and “All Along the Watchtower.”  It was groovy.

The band is tight.  The songs are interesting and powerful.  Their stage presence rocked.  The Real play regularly in the Toronto area so check them out if you can!   the-real.ca

Songs off Another First Step are loaded on their You Tube channel.  Check out “Caught Up”