The Dakota Tavern

Four Chords and the Truth: Marc Jordan, Tim Hicks, Damhnait Doyle, Andrea Ramolo, Bill Bell & Friends

Thursday night in Toronto we visited one of our favourite venues to listen to the stories and songs of five songwriters at Four Chords and the Truth. And while we were there, we were reminded of something…

As much as we love and believe in the power of concerts and big crowds, the quiet and ability to hear a pin drop while honest, raw, and vulnerable stories are sung is magical, and powerful on a whole other level.

Four Chords and the Truth is a quarterly event, bringing songwriters to the beautiful stage of The Dakota Tavern to share their stories, sing their songs, and offer an up close and personal connection to the music lovers in the audience. On Thursday night we had the pleasure and honour of watching and listening as Marc Jordan, Tim Hicks, Andrea Ramolo, Bill Bell, Damhnait Doyle, and special guests, shared the warmly lit stage and put their musical hearts on their sleeves for more than two hours of stripped down, vulnerable, and honest storytelling and singing.

Sadly, the event creator, and regular host of Four Chords and the Truth, Andrea England was sick and unable to stay on stage Thursday night, but in her place Damhnait Doyle shepherded us all through three rounds of songs and stories and laughs.

1 – Marc Jordan: This

Marc Jordan, he of more than 40 years in the music industry as a singer and songwriter, proved himself to be a charming, funny, and captivating storyteller on Thursday night.

And as he played This, released by Rod Stewart in 1995, Jordan proved himself to be a strong, steady, and present performer, connecting with the quiet audience from start to finish.

2 – Tim Hicks: Forever Rebels

Hicks’ current single, Forever Rebels symbolizes his own journey to making his dreams come true, and passes that message and wish onto listeners as well.

The Dakota Tavern may only be a couple of miles from the stage Tim Hicks played covers on for years, but Thursday night he was a long way from there as the Canadian country music star with 10 Top 10 singles and fans from coast to coast.

3 – Andrea Ramolo: Hey, Hey, Hey

Andrea was raw and honest in her music and storytelling at Four Chords and the Truth. She talked about the depression that followed a breakup, and the friends and songwriting that helped her get through it.

And she shared songs that took her back to that place, which is as strong a thing as anyone can do – revisiting a dark time, in a room full of strangers, and opening yourself up to feel those things all over again.

4 – Bill Bell w/ Justin Nozuka: Soulless Man

Bill Bell has a heck of a resume, playing, writing, and performing with big names all over Canada and the world. And on Thursday night he was humble and gracious, sharing the stage on each of his songs.

Bell and Justin Nozuka played a vulnerable and almost heartbreaking version of Soulless Man that filled the room with feelings and sound as if the two were connected.

Damhnait Doyle at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth

5 – Damhnait Doyle: Better Life

As undeniably powerful as any other song of the night, Better Life offers a powerful account of the sacrifice, life long impact, and love that goes into the decision to offer a baby up for adoption to give it a better chance in life.

It felt real and true and didn’t sugarcoat the reasons, feelings, or reality of the situation, and that’s what made it matter.

6 – Marc Jordan: Marina Del Rey

Released in 1978, Marina Del Rey sits near the beginning of Marc’s career, and his life in California. He told The Dakota Tavern crowd about driving down the highway when he arrived on the US west coast, and remembering the sign and the rest is musical history.

7 – Tim Hicks: Worry About Me

Tim Hicks told the crowd that he and Deric Ruttan wrote this song for that one dude who always says he doesn’t like country music. There’s one at every show and every party, and so they decided to put something together for that guy.

The song is fun, we dug it, and it would fit well in Hicks catalog.

8 – Andrea Ramolo: You’re Everywhere

Andrea told the room that You’re Everywhere was a 10 minute write, which isn’t her usual process. But, in that post-breakup time she told us all about earlier, there came a moment when everything needed to flood out – and it did, and it became this song.

9 – Bill Bell w/ Tom Cochrane: Crawl

Canadian legend Tom Cochrane joined Bill Bell on his second song of the night, and the duo played and sang Crawl, the story of a 17 year old girl who was abused and down… until she got away.

To see the room find another level of attention to give when Cochrane sat down was amazing, and to be just a few feet away as Bill and Tom sang the 1996 single from Ragged Ass Road was something special.

10 – Damhnait Doyle: I Can See You

Written in direct response to the current state of affairs in the public when it comes to politics, particularly in the United States, Doyle’s new song is unafraid to take shots at those who hide behind their religion as a way to avoid taking a stand and doing what’s right.

It’s poignant and relevant and well done.

11 – Marc Jordan: Little Lambs

If you want your heart to break, if you want to think about the most horrible thing, if (in the words of Damhnait Doyle) you want to hear the best song you wish would end half way through, Little Lambs is for you.

This dagger to the heart tells the story of orphans, taken to and taken in by the church, and hurt and abused and forgotten… it will hurt you if you’re open to it.

12 – Tim Hicks: Throw A Ball

Hicks told a story about his son being upset that daddy wrote songs for mommy and his sister, but not him, so the country star sat down with him in mind. The result is a sweet song about playing catch with his dad, and his son, connecting his life between generations and experiences.

Truthfully, it broke me. As a baseball kid who lost my dad last year, and as a guy who is getting ready to be a first time dad next year, Throw A Ball hit me hard, in the saddest and sweetest and most emotional way of the night.

13 – Andrea Ramolo: Hold Me

In an attempt to lighten the mood from her previous songs, Andrea played Hold Me, a song inspired by the music of the 50s and 60s, and written as she was pushing herself to explore major keys in her creative process. It’s still sharing the same sadness… but it’s a different vibe, and it works.

14 – Bill Bell w/ Justine Giles: I Won’t Give Up

On his final song of the night, Bill Bell welcomed Justine Giles to the stage, and the duo sang a duetted rendition of Jason Mraz’s 2012 hit, I Won’t Give Up.

The pair sang the song well, with heart and feeling, and let it all hang out as they took their turns, and came together. A hit is a hit is a hit. Remember that.

15 – Marc Jordan w/ everyone: Rhythm Of My Heart
The most well-known song of the night came last, as Damhnait Doyle gave up her last turn to let Marc Jordan play the piano and sing, as everyone else joined in.

Written by Marc and John Capek, originally recorded in 1986 by René Shuman, and made popular by Rod Stewart in 1991, this song is a classic, and the entire room knew the chorus. The singing wasn’t loud and obnoxious, but you could see the lips moving, and you could feel the love in the room.

It was a great end to a great evening. And we will be back for the next round of Four Chords and the Truth.

More Photos from Four Chords and the Truth – November 23, 2017

Andrea England, Bill Bell, Damhnait Doyle and Tim Hicks at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth

Andrea England, Four Chords and the Truth

Justin Nozuka, Bill Bell and Andrea Ramolo at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth

Justin Nozuka with Bill Bell

Tom Cochrane at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth Tim Hicks at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth Bill Bell, Andrea Ramolo and Tim Hicks at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth Marc Jordan at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth Damhnait Doyle at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth Andrea Ramolo, Tim Hicks and Marc Jordan at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth Bill Bell at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth Andrea Ramolo and Tim Hicks at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth Andrea Ramolo and Tim Hicks at The Dakota Four Chords and the Truth Andrea England, Damhnait Doyle and Tim Hicks at The Dakota Four Chords and the Truth Marc Jordan, Tim Hicks, Andrea Ramolo, Bill Bell and Damhnait Doyle at The Dakota - Four Chords and the Truth

Country Sorta Way: Danielle Bourjeaurd at Indie Week 2017, presented by M88 Entertainment Group

M88 Entertainment Group LogoPresented by M88 Entertainment Group

Danielle Bourjeaurd came to Toronto for Indie Week 2017, hitting The Dakota Tavern for a set with her band on Wednesday night. But before she climbed up with her boys to play, we had the chance to hang out with Country Sorta Way singer/songwriter for a little acoustic performance and more.

She may be country girl, but Danielle was ready to sing on a chilly night in the city as we found a light in the alley beside the venue. And as you’ll see when you press play, her voice carried into the evening in a fantastic live rendition of What Difference Does She Make.

On stage Wednesday night, Danielle was revved up and ready to go. With the support of her band, her songs rang out and connected with the mid-week crowd at The Dakota Tavern.

With songs like Lakeside, What Difference Does She Make, and Happy Hour from her EP, Country Sorta Way, Danielle showed Toronto that she has the chops to hang with anyone in the genre we’re seeing right now.

But, as impressive as she was singing the songs that put a smile on her face from start to finish, we were further blown away when she slowed it down to sing an emotional tribute to her father with, This Guitar. She told the crowd that it was going to be a hard one, and as she sang we saw her look to the sky a couple of times. And whether it was for strength, or with thanks, it was the kind of thing that reminds us exactly how powerful music can be.

Danielle also shared some of her Nashville learned southern hospitality, leading the crowd in a toast during her set. It was a show of charm, but not the only one of the evening. Throughout the set she showed the crowd as much love as they showed her as we watched people singing along with her songs.

One of our other favourite performances of the night from Danielle was Bigger Glass. As suckers for a ‘getting over you’ song, this one is a winner. And both the live solo performance and the album version with Drew Smith are a great listen.

Note: We aren’t the only ones who thought Danielle had a great show. It was later announced by Indie Week that she was the winner of the Wednesday night showcase, and will be playing Saturday night at the Cameron House. Congratulations to Danielle!

This was our first chance to see Danielle Bourjeaurd live on stage. If we’re lucky, it won’t be our last. And if you’re looking for new music, and a new artist to add to your list of indie favourites, we suggest you look up this singer/songwriter soon.

While we had Danielle with us before the show, we sat with her for a round of 5 Quick Questions… check it out along with some more photos from the evening!

Q1) If you could put one album on in the car on a long drive, and let it play on repeat without skipping songs, which album would you choose?

DB) Jagged Little Pill by Alanis Morissette

That’s a good choice. Go put it on and don’t even try to pretend that you don’t want to sing along!

Q2) What is your favourite Shania jam?

DB) Any Man Of Mine… or Whose Bed Have Your Boots Been Under

We forgive her for choosing two songs… that’s a hard question.

Indie Week 2017 - Wednesday - Danielle Bourjeaurd at The Dakota Tavern

Q3) What is your favourite late night fast food joint?

DB) McDonald’s.

We asked about her go to order, and she told us it’s cheeseburger happy meal, with a strawberry milkshake. Nice!

Q4) What is the one thing you always have to have in a writing session?

DB) My phone

Danielle told us that she uses her phone for notes, to brainstorm, and to help her write.

Q5) Is there an artist that you think people should be listening to more and paying more attention to?

DB) Ian Janes

She raved about his voice and talent, and because she thinks he’s that good, he sang on her album.

Indie Week 2017 - Wednesday - Danielle Bourjeaurd in the alley behind The Dakota Tavern

Indie Week 2017 Women of Country Music: The Dakota Tavern, presented by M88 Entertainment Group

M88 Entertainment Group LogoPresented by M88 Entertainment Group

Wednesday night was good for country music at Indie Week 2017 in Toronto with some very talented women taking the stage at the Dakota Tavern.

The energy in the room was fantastic from the start, with a great crowd coming in early, and support for the Indie Week artists on full display. In one of our favourite rooms in the city, we got to experience some fantastic live country music from Shae Dupuy, Julia Haggarty, and Dani Strong – that’s a pretty great way to spend a Wednesday night.

Indie Week 2017 - Wednesday - Shae Dupuy at The Dakota Tavern

The mid-week entertainment started with Shae Dupuy on stage, bringing a full band and a full sound with her.

With a set that included Tin Man, Drink About It, a cover of Little Big Town’s Boondocks, a brand new song called Top Shelf Whiskey, and her upcoming single, Liar, Shae showed the Indie Week crowd what she brings to the party.

The energy and enthusiasm from Shae and her band filled the room and did an excellent job of getting things started, which isn’t always easy. But it was clear that the country singer was ready and comfortable on the Dakota Tavern stage.

Stay tuned for more from Shae Dupuy, it sounds like exciting things are coming from her very soon. We’re ready.

Julia Haggarty was next to take the Dakota Tavern stage, giving us our first chance to see the London, Ontario native perform live.

The singer/songwriter did her thing in a strong way on Wednesday, and with the band keeping pace, she put in work. In the live setting Julia showed that she’s got a lot to offer to music fans, starting with a powerful voice that can go for miles.

On songs including Him, Skydive, I Can’t Stand Still, and a track she co-wrote with Jessica Mitchell – Alone In Love, she shared herself with the Indie Week crowd, and they responded with praise and applause.

Julia Haggarty’s set ended with a stripped down version of her song, Anybody Like You, and the opportunity to hear it all scaled back was a great way to finish her time on stage.

Dani Strong followed with her band, doing everything we know she can when she gets up in front of a crowd.

Dani is one of the hardest working indie artists we know, and she has fun doing it. Through laughs, jokes, and sweet stories, she played a set that included Fallout, Mountains, Mrs. Jones, Where The Heck Is Dixieland, Wild One, and more.

We had the chance to see Dani recently at the Rivoli with Johnson Crook, and heard her play Healing, a song she wrote about mental illness, with thoughts of people she knows and cares about in mind. Having that song as well as, my personal favourite, What You Need, in the set was wonderful, and did all of the things that we know music can do when it comes to feelings and depth.

The Indie Week showcase at the Dakota Tavern was further proof that there’s a whole lot of female talent in country music, right here, and ready to play. We hope we get the chance to see all of these women again soon, and to hear new songs and stories.

Check out more photos from Wednesday night, and stay tuned for more Indie Week coverage!

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The Album: Johnson Crook Album Review

We’ve been on the Johnson Crook train for the last 2-plus years, catching live shows, talking to the boys, and waiting for the moment that came on Friday, August 4, 2017 when Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared released their debut full length album, The Album.

The 12 track release (Coalition Music) comes on the heels of Johnson Crook’s self-titled EP release in May of this year, and features the four songs from that disc, including Mr. Nobody, featuring the legendary voice of Canadian Music Hall of Fame member, Tom Cochrane. We caught the release party in May at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern, where the band banged out a monster 23 song set, including all of the tracks heard on the full length record.

In truth, these songs have been part of the Johnson Crook live show for some time now. We know their rhythms, lyrics, and harmonies – and we love them. And while you may not hear them on country radio as much as you hear other Canadian country acts, you will find that their tour calendar is just as full.

Note: Go listen to Feel Some Love (track 5) and listen to the harmonies… then close your eyes and remember what it was like when you heard Alabama singing their best harmonies. Try it.

The Album does a great job of capturing the energy, talent, and feel of Johnson Crook that we’ve come to know in a live setting. The harmonies of all four band members are ever-present, and flow through songs that are both upbeat and slowed down. And don’t sleep on the musicianship that Johnson Crook brings to the table. From the lead guitar work of Nathan Crook, through the rhythms of Trevor Crook on drums and Jared Craig on bass (stand up and electric), and to the acoustic strumming of Noel Johnson as he sings lead, this is a tight outfit from the first song to the last.

Where The Album truly wins is in its mix of ‘sit and listen’ and ‘get up and dance’ tracks. Songs like Mr. Nobody, Shadows, and Hardwired encourage you to let the melody and lyrics wash over you and evoke memories and emotions that only music can bring out. While at the same time, songs like Call Me Home, Canada To Heartbreak, and Old School Rock & Roll ring through the speakers, making your toes tap almost involuntarily, and reminding you that music is also made for a good time and dancing.

Note: Old Crow (track 6) is the typical start to the Johnson Crook live show, and is the instant introduction to the audience that these 4 voices are capable of coming together in some of Canada’s best country music harmonies.

This mix is part of who Johnson Crook is as a band and as songwriters. They explore and embrace the range that is showcased in these songs, and they should be proud of it. Whether you’re looking for songs to put on a kitchen party dance playlist, or you want to sit and drink and remember days gone by, The Album has what you need.

Johnson Crook

To have seen the band progress from the first time we saw them play at the Gladstone Hotel on Toronto’s Queen Street West in May 2015, to where they are now is special. With this album released and a live show that takes them to festivals, has them opening for rising stars, and impresses music fans at every stop along the way, Johnson Crook have put themselves on a lot of radars, and they’ve earned it.

Hit play on the Spotify playlist here to listen to Johnson Crook’s The Album – and check them out live when you have the chance. Trust us.

Johnson Crook, The Album – Track List

1. Minnedosa
2. Mining For Freedom
3. Call Me Home
4. Mr. Nobody (feat. Tom Cochrane)
5. Feel Some Love
6. Old Crow
7. Down The River
8. Hardwired
9. Old School Rock & Roll
10. Shadows
11. Canada To Heartbreak
12. Desert Rose

Johnson Crook - The Dakota Tavern

The Making Of: The Middle Coast and Johnson Crook take Toronto

For future reference, The Dakota Tavern is an excellent place visit on a Friday night to start your long weekend.

To kick off our May Long, we hit our favourite basement in Toronto to see The Middle Coast and Johnson Crook – two bands with deep Manitoba roots, making good music, and having good times.

You’ve heard us talk about Johnson Crook before. Heck, we were just at their EP release party at The Dakota a couple of weeks ago. But now we’re here to talk about those boys AND The Middle Coast!

Related: Call Me Home: Johnson Crook EP Release Party, Toronto

Johnson Crook - The Dakota Tavern

The evening started with Johnson Crook on stage, kicking things off with Old Crow and their sweet harmonies. And from there Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared rolled through their set with smiles on their faces and all of the comfort and confidence that we’ve seen them build over the last two years.

The songs from the EP, and the upcoming full-length album continue to sound great live, and we know that summer 2017 is going to be a good one for these dudes from Manitoba/ Alberta/ Pennsylvania.

The Johnson Crook set wrapped with Minnedosa, Canada To Heartbreak, and a fun collaboration with The Middle Coast on The Doobie Brothers’ classic, Long Train Running.

Note: The entire night was being filmed for a live concert video that we can’t wait to see… and that you’re going to want to see as well. Stay tuned for more on that!

Johnson Crook and The Middle Coast - The Dakota Tavern

And after a brief change over on stage, The Middle Coast hopped up for their turn.

Liam (keys), Dylan (guitar), and Roman (drums) came back to the stage to do their thing, and they wasted no time getting into a groove.

With slick three part harmonies, and Dylan and Roman taking turns singing lead in a very Glenn Frey/ Don Henley, The Eagles kind of way, The Middle Coast filled the room with music, and musicianship.

One of the coolest things about this band is how young they are, and how good they are already. And if current trends continue (we’re told they get better every time Johnson Crook sees them), these dudes are going to be a band that you’re going to be pretty familiar with.

The Middle Coast - The Dakota Tavern

All three of The Middle Coast members are likeable and witty on stage. They come across as laid back, hang out and have a beer, sing a song in the kitchen, kinds of guys… and that’s always alright by us. Also, Dylan gives some pretty awesome guitar face when he gets in a groove.

The boys played through tracks from 2017’s The Making Of, including Every Now And Then, Prey On Me, This Isn’t Love, Wasted, Paycheck, and more. And as we watched toes tap and heads bob, we realized that we want to see them again the next time they’re in Toronto.

The Middle Coast set wrapped much like the Johnson Crook set, with both bands on stage together – this time jamming out to The Band’s Up On Cripple Creek. It’s easy to see that these guys all truly like each other, and they enjoy the hell out of the chance to play together at the same time.

Here’s hoping they get to do it again soon, and we’re there to see it and sing along.

The Middle Coast - The Dakota Tavern

More Photos of The Middle Coast with Johnson Crook!

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More Photos of The Middle Coast!

The Middle Coast - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Dylan MacDonald - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Roman Clarke - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Liam Duncan - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Dylan MacDonald - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Roman Clarke - The Dakota TavernThe Middle Coast - Liam Duncan - The Dakota Tavern

More Photos of Johnson Crook!

Johnson Crook - The Dakota TavernJohnson Crook - The Dakota TavernJohnson Crook - Jared Craig - The Dakota TavernJohnson Crook - The Dakota Tavern

Call Me Home: Johnson Crook EP Release Party, Toronto

Saturday, May 6 was a night of celebration at the Dakota Tavern in Toronto as Johnson Crook hit the stage for a monster set, showcasing their debut EP and more.

Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared make up the band Johnson Crook, a collection of dudes that we’ve had the chance to watch and listen to for the last two years, and in that time we’ve seen them push forward, and work hard to get to where they are now in 2017. From our first meeting at The Gladstone, through two appearances at Boots & Hearts, a great night at the Horseshoe Tavern, sets during Canadian Country Music Week in London, ON, and opening slots for rising star JJ Shiplett, we’ve seen Johnson Crook debut songs, get tighter on stage, and show music fans what they have to offer.

And on Saturday night we were happy to be there for the celebration of their debut release, a four song EP that serves as a taste for a full-length album that will be released this August.

Johnson Crook started their set in front of a sold out audience with an acoustic runthrough of the EP, playing Minnedosa, Call Me Home, Canada To Heartbreak, and Mr. Nobody. The harmonies shone in the stripped down versions of the songs, and the crowd responded to each song with applause and appreciation.

Note: While he does appear on Mr. Nobody on the EP, Tom Cochrane was not at the Dakota Tavern on Saturday night. Too bad for us.

And where we’ve seen other artists bow out gracefully after showing off the songs of their release, Johnson Crook were just getting started. The boys played for nearly two full hours, playing 23 songs by my count, and truly looked like they were loving every minute of it.

With a busy summer coming up, including performances booked for Dauphin Countryfest, Rockin’ The Fields Of Minnedosa, and Moose & Fiddle Music Festival, this show was a warm up – and a thank you to everyone that has been around during the first three years of the band’s life.

The vibe inside of the cozy, warm, cellphone averse Dakota Tavern was upbeat and celebratory from start to finish. Before the band took the stage you could see each of the members chatting with friends and supporters. And during the set it was easy to spot those same supporters singing along to the songs from the EP, and others that we’ve seen live over the last 24 months worth of shows. We heard Mining For Freedom, Hardwired, Old Crow, Feel Some Love, Desert Rose, High Road, and more as the night pressed on, the drinks flowed, and people tapped their toes and danced in the crowd.

The Johnson Crook songbook takes you from whiskey to women, heartbreak to love, singing to songwriting, dancing and more. And we heard it all.

But to close the show, to the delight of the crowd, and in a turn that we don’t often see, the boys played the EP again. This time they were plugged in, as they are on the EP, and the audience was twice as loud, singing along to all four songs, and making memories for Noel, Nathan, Trevor, and Jared.

And as the crowd cheered after the second playing of Canada To Heartbreak, we know there were smiles before the encore.

There are more big nights coming for Johnson Crook, namely the release party for their album later this summer, but Saturday night shouldn’t be overlooked, or underappreciated for what it signifies for a hardworking, talented, good hearted group of dudes who love to play music.

Hit play on the EP, and get tickets for a show near you soon, including May 19 and the Dakota Tavern in Toronto. You won’t be sorry you did.

Drinkin’ Problem: Midland Comes North to Toronto

On a quiet Tuesday in Toronto, with much of the music community still hungover from Canadian Music Week, three dudes from Texas made their first visit to Canada and played a showcase at the Dakota Tavern.

Midland, all the way from small town Dripping Springs, TX, hit the small stage in front of fans and industry and showed everyone why they’re being pegged as fast risers and the next big thing.

Mark Wystrach, Jess Carson, and Cameron Duddy make up the band. Writing, singing, and playing together, these guys are legit. They strum and pick and croon together, offering harmonies that reminded us of Alabama in their smoothness, richness, and quality. Don’t get us wrong, they aren’t Alabama 2.0, that’s not their sound, but they are sweet, sweet, sweet to listen to.

Their debut EP, Midland, was released in October 2016, and features 5 tracks that do an excellent job of introducing the band to fans of country music. They also hooked up with Spotify at SXSW 2016, which turned into the Spotify Sessions playlist that was released in January of this year.

Note: The boys quickly became familiar with Toronto and Canada press, hitting three TV outlets on their day in the city, before even thinking about getting to the Dakota for a cold beer and their stage time.

Having taken a listen to the Spotify Sessions, I felt like I had a heads up for what has going to come in the stripped down live show… and maybe I did, but my expectations were still quickly blown away. To see three guys so locked in, in such a small and intimate setting, was awesome. To hear their voices play off of, and join each other, was fantastic. And to remember that we’re going to have the chance to watch them do it again, bigger and louder, at Boots & Hearts 2017, was the bonus.

We heard Midland move through tracks we’ve heard including, Check Cashing Country (hit play on the video clip), This Old Heart, Burn Out, and Champagne For The Pain… and we were treated to Altitude Adjustment, which is a wonderfully cheeky love song to the state of Colorado, and their legalized weed.

Midland: Check Cashing Country

We also heard Mark, Jess, and Cameron roll through Fourteen Gears, Gator Boys, and their current Canadian country charts top 40 single, Drinkin’ Problem. And through each one of those songs we nodded and tapped our toes and sang along when we felt like we had a handle on the words. It was the small venue gig coming through with the moments and memories that all music fans dream of.

It also needs to be noted that Midland are funny. All three of the hatted performers took their turns hitting punch lines, taking shots at eachother and themselves, and generally having a good time as entertainers. There were laughs and whistles in the crowd, and they were all well deserved.

Country music fans are starting to learn a little about Midland now through their radio play and press… and soon, sooner rather than later, they’re going to know a whole lot more about who they are and what they can do on stage and in the studio.

Stay tuned – you’re going to like it!

Brave: Shae Dupuy at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern

On Friday evening we hit the Dakota Tavern to catch country up-and-comer Shae Dupuy – and we don’t regret it for a minute.

We’ve had the chance to hang out with Shae, hear her sing, learn a little more about her and her music, but on Friday we finally got to see her stand up on stage and give us an hour of her songs and the songs she loves from others all in one tight little set.

With her band of three merry men behind her, Shae gave a stripped down feeling with her songs – using a wooden box instead of drums, and rolling with acoustic strings in the homey, friendly atmosphere.

Shae Dupuy - The Dakota February 2017

We talked to Shae briefly before her set and she told us that she was excited to finally get up on the Dakota stage after all of the planning and rehearsing with the band. She loved the look already and the sound that Before The Flood was bringing as the evening’s opening act. And when she got on stage it was clear to see that she was ready to go, and ready to bring her own sound to the stage and to the fans gathered in the room.

Note: We need to give a shout out to Before The Flood who did a great job opening the show. The 4 pieces (usually a 5) action on stage was tight and fun, playing well together and sounding great as they did it. They fit the room and the stage well, and we would gladly see them play again at the Dakota or around a campfire, whichever comes first.

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Shae’s set on Friday included a selection of her own songs (check out her 2016 EP, Brave) and some of her favourites from artists we know and love. On all of them she brought her own voice, soft and sweet when called for, and plenty of power when she reached for it. It was great to hear Tin Man, Liar, Drink About It, Grandpa’s Truck, No Worries, and Good For Me mixed with her covers of We Were Us (K. Urban/M. Lambert), Mean (T. Swift), Boondocks (Little Big Town), Fire Away (C. Stapleton), and more. And hearing all of them showed us that Shae Dupuy has the ability to sing whatever kind of country music she wants to when the stage is hers.

Note: The Dakota Tavern truly is one of my favourite venues in the city. If you’ve been, you know why. And if you haven’t, I highly recommend that you check out a performance, any performance, on the white lit, low ceiling stage. The sound sticks with you, the music is happening right in front of you, and the feeling is perfectly intimate. Plus, they have Molson Stock Ale.

Shae Dupuy has her entire career ahead of her, and if shows like Friday evening at the Dakota Tavern are an indication of how it’s going to go, we can tell you that it will be fun. She’ll have fun on stage, fans will have fun in the crowd, and we’ll have fun watching it all happen.

Keep an eye on Shae!

Shae Dupuy - The Dakota February 2017Shae Dupuy - The Dakota February 2017Shae Dupuy - The Dakota February 2017Shae Dupuy - The Dakota February 2017Shae Dupuy - The Dakota February 2017

Always For You: JJ Shiplett and Johnson Crook Hit Toronto and Oshawa!

On back-to-back nights in Toronto and Oshawa, ON – JJ Shiplett and Johnson Crook took the stage and put on the kinds of shows that make music fans want to hear more, see more, and do it all over again.

Friday night’s show saw the 2 acts play early sets at Toronto’s Dakota Tavern and Saturday saw them travel down the 401 to Oshawa’s Moustache Club to wrap up their weekend. We were there on both nights to grab photos, videos, and on Saturday we had a chance to sit down with JJ to talk about his new album, the holidays, what’s coming up in 2017 and more.

Johnson Crook opened both shows, bringing their personal brand of country harmonies to the stage playing songs that we’ve heard them hit at previous shows, and showing us that they are more and more ready for bigger things each time. During the set lead singer Noel Johnson told the crowd that the band’s debut EP will be available in February 2017, which is exciting for us to hear. And exciting for the boys too.

AND, without spoiling any surprises, we are telling you now that you should be on the lookout for a very special appearance on one of the tracks from a Canadian legend!

You can download or stream Johnson Crook’s lead single Minnedosa now, and with their EP release be ready for tracks like Canada To Heartbreak, Hardwired, and Mr. Nobody.

Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern

After the brief break between bands, JJ Shiplett and his accompanying musicians hit the stage to put on their show… and ain’t nobody disappointed that they were there to see it on either night.

JJ has been putting in work, from coast-to-coast, sharing his music, exposing people to the tracks they know, and ones that they’ll hear on his upcoming record – release date: Late January 2017.

I asked JJ about the album on Saturday when we sat down and in his responses it was clear to see that he’s ready for everyone to hear it and dig in. In fact, the album has been ready for a bit now, the design elements have been finished up, and now all that’s left to do is the waiting… and Mr. Shiplett is ready for that part to be over.

It’s kinda hard, he said, to see people digging the songs that he’s playing on stage, but knowing that they can’t yet go home and listen to them again. Soon, that will change.

On stage in Toronto and Oshawa we heard the songs we have been able to listen to at home in Higher Ground, Always For You, and Something To Believe In (all featured on JJ’s 2016 EP, The EP) and they truly are songs to listen to over and over again.

JJ Shiplett at The Dakota

As JJ sipped our pre-show beers I also asked him about his recent stop at the House of Strombo to play for cameras, Facebook Live, and the man himself who has been Canada’s Boyfriend, and a beacon for music for Canadians since his early days at Much Music and The Edge 102.1.

JJ told me that going to Stroumboulopoulos’ house was the first time they’d met – and that he sat down to hang out and play two songs, one cover and one original… and while I didn’t ask which original he played at the house (I’m sure it will show up on The Strombo Show YouTube channel), I did watch the video of his Tom Waits’ Hold On cover, and I dug it. As a music fan it’s cool to watch those videos, as a performer it sounds like it’s a cool experience as well. And I like that.

And before we finished our beers and JJ headed upstairs to get ready for his Saturday set at The Moustache Club, I asked him to look into the future a little bit and tell me what’s coming next.

Starting with the holidays, JJ told me that things will get a little quieter. He’ll head home to Calgary and spend time with this family (who are apparently really great debaters), and with his new (used) piano that he just got tuned and can’t wait to play. So if you’re JJ’s neighbour and you start hearing keys and Christmas carols in the next few weeks, that’s exactly what’s going on!

I also poked a little bit, asking about 2017 and touring and what’s going to happen. And while there weren’t a lot of details, it’s clear that JJ wants to be out on the road, playing the new album and introducing people to the songs they’ll be able to go home and listen to. He knows that he’s got to put in the work, and he’s all for it.

And having seen the man do his thing on a few occasions in 2016, we can tell you that he’s more than up to the challenge of getting out there, hitting the road and showing each and every one of you what he’s got to give.

Before JJ Shiplett wrapped his sets this weekend with Something To Believe In, he gave us something that we’ve seen and loved from Canadian musicians in 2016… a tribute to The Tragically Hip. JJ and his boys played Grace, Too – and while it wasn’t quite as emotional as Gord was in Kingston (or Calgary, where JJ saw two shows), it was special and appreciated. And you can watch it right here.

JJ Shiplett at The Dakota

Keep your eyes and ears open for more from both Johnson Crook and JJ Shiplett – these are names that are ready to be on the tip of your tongue when you’re talking about music with your friends and fellow fans.

And keep your eyes on this space for more, because we aren’t done with these guys yet!

More photos of JJ Shiplett at The Dakota Tavern, Toronto.

JJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The DakotaJJ Shiplett at The Dakota

More photos of Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern, Toronto.

Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern Johnson Crook at The Dakota Tavern

1 year ago

CMW 2016 Spotlight: JJ Shiplett

Tuesday night, just after midnight, we walked down the stairs into The Dakota Tavern and were greeted by the start of a set from self proclaimed, “Canadiana roots rockin’ red head”.

With his band on stage, JJ Shiplett dove into his set headfirst and never let up. His gravelly voice flows with a smoothness that doesn’t match it’s description… but it’s true. In fact, maybe it’s more like a good Canadian whisky with a smooth finish than it is like gravel.

JJ Shiplett The Dakota Tavern CMW 2016

Around JJ’s voice, filling in the sound, was a sweet display of musicianship. The band, Shiplett included, were tight, ready, and willing to put on a show in the intimate venue. And forget that it was Tuesday, the crowd had drinks in their hands, smiles on their faces, and when they knew the words or grabbed the hook, they sang along just like we were at a house party on a Saturday night. That’s part of the beauty of Canadian Music Week… it doesn’t matter what day it is if the music is good.

Note: It was also awesome to see SATE at The Dakota the night before she hit Lee’s Palace for her own set. And a nice coincidence to see 1 artist from my Top 5 Must-See list supporting another.

JJ Shiplett The Dakota Tavern CMW 2016Shiplett did a nice job of leading the crowd through the upbeat, and slowed down tracks in his set. When he was soft, there was a vulnerable sweetness that came through in his voice, and when he went harder and louder, it was just as believable. And that’s all we can ever ask for from an artist. Shiplett made us believe everything he was singing as he moved through tracks like Always For You, Higher GroundSomething To Believe In, and Seeking Shelter.

JJ Shiplett is poised for a breakout. He’s fresh off a tour with Canadian heavyweight Johnny Reid, and released a new video for Something To Believe In that should help get even more eyes and ears on the red headed roots rocker from Calgary.

Do yourself a favour and find out when JJ is coming to a town hear you, you’re going to want to see this live for yourself… and if you’re lucky, you’ll be a in room as cool as we were, for a show that was just as much fun.

JJ Shiplett The Dakota Tavern CMW 2016JJ Shiplett The Dakota Tavern CMW 2016JJ Shiplett The Dakota Tavern CMW 2016JJ Shiplett The Dakota Tavern CMW 2016JJ Shiplett The Dakota Tavern CMW 2016

2 years ago

CMW 2016 Preview – Joshua’s Top 5 Must-Sees

CMW is coming… and I am excited!

For an entire week Toronto is set to come alive and overflow with music, musicians, and fans. There are 58 official CMW venues, with more than 800 bands, in 7 nights – and while it is impossible to see everyone, and sometimes even everyone you want to see – I want to help.

Trish shared her Top 5 list earlier in the week… and now it’s my turn.

I need to apologize a little, because I really did pick 5 acts that I truly think you should see, but it isn’t that easy, because the scheduling is HARD to manage.

So, have a look, watch the videos, and if you’re looking to slot someone in to a slow night in your schedule between May 2 and May 7, give these acts a shot!

Demi Louise at The Central on Wednesday, May 4th – 7:00 PM & Friday, May 6 at Supermarket – 10:45pm

I caught Demi Louise at CMW 2015 when she took the stage in the backroom at The Cameron House, and I thoroughly enjoyed it. She’s got a sweet singer-songwriter vibe that shines when she stands at a microphone with her acoustic guitar.

Demi is also completely adorable when she interacts with the crowd between songs, and having 2 chances to see her at CMW 2016 is a nice bonus with a crazy schedule to navigate!

Jonathan Roy at The Great Hall on Saturday, May 7 – 8:15pm

Another singer-songwriter, the Qubébécois native brings his accent, guitar, and new music to the stage at CMW 2016, and I’m looking forward to it. And if you’re worried about the accent, don’t be, you won’t notice it in-song unless you’re really looking for it.

Fast Fact: Jonathan Roy hung up his skates to pick up his guitar. And if his last name sounds familiar, it’s because his dad is Saint Patrick Roy, 4 time Stanley Cup champion.

Listen to Daniella Denmark to get yourself ready.

SATE at Lee’s Palace on Wednesady, May 4 – 8pm

We saw SATE take the Mod Club stage a few weeks ago, and it was awesome. She melted my damn face off with her energy and volume and stage presence… she truly is a show-stopper. And if you’re in the building when she gets up there and grabs her mic, you’ll know it.

CMW slots SATE in as Blues, Rock, Soul… and says, “SATE is raw to the core and was built on the shoulders of giants like Tina Turner, Jimi Hendrix and Bessie Smith.”

If you want a big energy show that makes you feel kinda like you got punched in the face in the best way possible, get to Lee’s on Wednesday.

Texas King at UG3 on Friday, May 6 – 10:40pm & Saturday, May 7 at Nightowl – 9pm

On the small stage at Adelaide Hall, Texas King could barely be contained. Their rock show was fantastic, they sounded tight, they were a lot of fun whether they were going crazy, or slowing it down – and I’m happy to see that they’re coming back from London, ON to play 2 CMW shows in 2016.

If you’re in need of a show with enough energy on stage to give you a second wind, these are your guys. Get that boost and you’ll either need a nap, or you’ll be ready to go all night!

REPARTEE at The Drake Underground on Friday, May 6 – 9pm & Saturday, May 7 at Supermarket – 11pm

These indie pop lovers are coming in to CMW fresh off the release of their new album, All Lit Up, including a release party back home in St. John’s that I really wish I could have checked out!

But, since I wasn’t in Newfoundland, I’m going to check out REPARTEE here in Toronto instead. Having already seen them as part of the Toronto Women in Music show at Adelaide Hall a little while ago, I know what I’m getting into… and I can tell you that you owe it to yourself to come and see the show.

Here’s a thing I wrote… “they’re the kind of band, playing the kind of music, that you’d be 100% hearing sometime between 12am and whenever you were too tired to stop dancing.” – and they might be on a little earlier than that at CMW, but you’ll still want to dance!

BONUS: JJ Shiplett at The Dakota Tavern on Tuesday, May 3 – Midnight

You didn’t think I’d get through this entire post without recommending an artist with a country touch, did you?

JJ Shiplett is a country/roots/rocker ready to make a big splash. He toured with Johny Reid, he’s gaining fans everywhere he goes, and he’s earned them.

JJ is also playing at one of my favourite CMW venues, so that’s a bonus too… honestly, if you’ve never caught a show at The Dakota, this is a great way to enjoy an early week set on a cool stage in a great place. It’ll be the perfect match of music and setting.

Trust me.

2 years ago

CMW 2015: Ireland’s Ryan O’Shaugnessy [Interview]

This afternoon we had the chance to chat with Ryan O’Shaugnessy from Dublin, Ireland. He’ll be playing Canadian Music Week‘s Music From Ireland Official Showcase as well as a couple of other gigs during the festival. A finalist on Britain’s Got Talent, Ryan’s genre is listed as “Acoustic, Blues, Singer-Songwriter”.

Thanks to Ryan for taking the time to talk with us.

T: How was the trip over?

R: It was long enough, it was a seven hour journey. I didn’t really know how long it would take. I thought it would be like four hours or something like that, but we had some inflight entertainment, so that was ok.

T: Movies?

R: Yeah, there were a couple of movies. I actually watched “Mr. Turner”, it’s about William Turner, the artist. I watched that movie and I watched “Exodus” as well but I was getting off the flight at the end of it, so I missed the ending.

T: You’ll have to catch the end of it some other time.

R: Yeah, it was ok. I’m glad to be here. I got to see my brother who I haven’t seen in two years.

T: Did you travel over alone?

R: Well, my mother’s coming over as well around the same time. You see, my brother just had a child with his girlfriend. So my mom wanted to come over and visit and it was working out good timing with me and Canadian Music Week, so the two of us flew over together.

T: Amazing. How’d you get involved with the Music From Ireland Official Showcase?

R: Basically a family friend got in touch, who’d actually heard of me online and said there were a few opportunities for Canadian Music Week and it all just kinda came together. It clicked nicely.

Ryan O'Shaugnessy 2

T: I see you have three different sets during the festival. The set at The Supermarket, which is not the Ireland Showcase, do you know how they put together the band list?

R: I don’t really know to be honest. I know that Ben, who organized the Showcases, he got on to me and said there were a few different opportunities and all I have to do is bring my guitar and myself, and show up and play.

T: That sounds pretty easy. I was doing a little bit of research, and I was looking at the bands in the Music from Ireland Showcase and everyone is from Dublin. Clearly Ireland’s a big place, I was wondering does everyone go to Dublin for exposure?

R: The thing about Ireland is, it’s such a small place, and Dublin is the hub for music. There’ve been so many great acts coming out of Dublin. All the way from Glen Hunter, U2, there’s been so many people, Damien Rice. Yeah it’s like a magical hub for music. There’s some great venues and great promoters. There’s always something on every night of the week.

T: So it’s like for people in Ontario, Toronto’s really the place to be.

R: Yeah, so I hear. I’ve only been here two or three days now. I’m still getting to know everything. I think I brought the weather with me because it was nice when I was leaving Ireland and now it’s raining.

T: Good because I’m not there right now. I’m in Bermuda but I’m heading home tomorrow and I’m hoping that it’s nice and sunny when I get there.

R: Yeah well I hope it stays like this, because it’s beautiful today.

Ryan O'Shaugnessy

photo credit @bsphotographyls (instagram)

T: I’m going to switch channels and talk about social media. You seem to have a nice presence on social media and I was wondering, are you directly involved or do you have someone running it for you?

R: Well I used to have someone running for me but I just find it much easier to run it myself. It’s a lot more personal than having someone who’s paid to do it all for you.

T: Well it’s a lot more spontaneous when it’s coming from you.

R: Exactly and it makes people feel like they’ve got more of a connection with you.

T: I wanted to ask about your Twitter header picture, I was hoping that would be your answer. What can you tell me about the floating leaf photo.

R: Oh yeah, my friend, Christian Tierney. He’s only 18 years old but he’s getting really good. He does acoustic videos for his YouTube channel and we shot a video one day and that was just a little snap from it. It was another spontaneous photograph.

T: I really liked it, it was really cool. What can we expect from your performances?

R: I’ll just be playing acoustic guitar, keeping it as natural as I can, which I’ve always tried to do. My sound is kind of old school mixed in with a little bit of soul. So yeah, I just hope people keep their ears open and enjoy it.

T: Can you tell me what’s coming up in the future?

R: I’m not really sure. I just take every day as it comes. I’m happy to be here to see my brother and his family, and I’m over the moon to be playing three gigs this week. I’m just taking it as it comes.

T: Wrapping things up, I have to ask, are you planning to go back to acting?

R: A lot of people ask me that but I kinda did it for nine years. By the time I left the role I played as an actor, I’d been doing it for half of my life. So at the moment I’m not really thinking about acting. At the moment I’m just writing music and playing music and that’s what I love at the moment but you never know what tomorrow might bring.

T: Right, never say no to an opportunity.

R: That’s it. I never have.

T: It was lovely chatting with you, hopefully I get to meet you on Saturday. Have a wonderful show and good luck.

R: Thanks Trish, I’m looking forward to it.

Ryan is playing three sets starting tonight at The Supermarket at 9:00pm, followed by the Music From Ireland Official Showcase Thursday 8:00pm at The Rivoli and a final set Saturday at The Dakota Tavern another 9:00PM start. Go check him out!

Ryan O'Shaugnessy

You can find Ryan here:

Twitter: @Ryan_Acoustic
Facebook: MrRyanAcoustic
YouTube: MrRyanAcoustic
Instgram: Ryan_Acoustic

3 years ago

CMW 2015 Tuesday Round Up!

Tuesday night we were back out in the city taking in the Canadian Music Week festivities… and we went exploring!

We started at The Cameron House (408 Queen St W), moved on to The Hideout (484 Queen St W), then to Cherry Cola’s (200 Bathurst St), and finally to The Dakota Tavern (249 Ossington Ave) before calling it a night and heading home to rest up for Wednesday night!

It was another night of discovery as we saw performances from 5 acts we’d never seen before, and wouldn’t mind seeing again. And that’s always a nice bonus.

Tuesday Night’s CMW Entertainment

Cyprian (The Cameron House)
The GTs (The Hideout)
TV Sets (Cherry Cola’s)
Chasing Jane (The Dakota Tavern)
Whale Eye (The Dakota Tavern)

Let’s go…
Cyprian 2 Cameron House CMW 2015


Making their CMW debut, this Toronto band took to the back room stage at the Cameron House ready to rumble.

Cyprian is a 3 dude act with a guitar, bass, and drums – exactly what you’d expect, plus a little backing track action thrown in the mix.

Certainly not afraid of volume, these hometown boys played their rock ‘n’ roll. They’re billed as Alternative/Garage/Indie in the official CMW guide, and that’s pretty spot on.

While there was a little bit of a “happy to be here” vibe in the way they spoke between songs and at the end of the set, Cyprian is a band that we could certainly see again in future years at CMW. More shows and more songs and more experience is only going to make them stronger.

GTs 2 The Hideout CMW 2015The GTs

Visiting from Montreal for CMW 2015, The GTs (Paul Trudel & Samantha Diamond) were up on The Hideout stage to showcase their 2-piece rock and roll on Tuesday night.

In a classy touch, Paul dedicated the 1st song of their set to his mom, who came in from Montreal to see the band play. Very sweet. Happy early Mother’s Day.

Labelled as Alternative/Garage/Indie, The GTs played fast and fun, but not so fast that you couldn’t keep up with the lyrics or the song. This was uptempo rock that was fun to listen to and understand. I dug it.

note: They mentioned barn rehearsals leading up to the show. And to be honest, that sounds like a lot of fun, wish we could have been there for that.

Paul also intro’d the song Bad by telling the crowd that the last time they were in Toronto they had dedicated it to Rob Ford… and then asked if he was still around. There was no resounding answer from the crowd – but the song was fun.

Bon job, Paul & Samantha.

TV Sets 1 Cherry Cola's CMW 2015TV Sets

TV Sets label themselves as lo-fi, bedroom pop – and after seeing them at Cherry Cola’s on Tuesday night, that makes some sense.

The Toronto trio mixes together an electro-pop sound with mellowed out pop lyrics that combine to give you a song that you can both tap your feet to at a steady pace, and also listen to the lyrics, 1 line at time, to soak it all in. It’s a solid juxtaposition that we have no beef with at all.

The 2 voices on stage play together, and off of each other nicely. Another added bonus, because who doesn’t love it when the voices in your music sound pretty?

All said and done, TV Sets can really continue to do what they’re doing, evolve, expand, whatever they want really – they’re making music that works, and we’re pretty certain you’ll see their names again.

Chasing Jane 1 Dakota Tavern CMW 2015Chasing Jane

Admittedly, we only caught the very tail end of the Chasing Jane set at The Dakota Tavern… BUT, if the crowd reaction to their finale was any indication, they did a pretty swell job Tuesday night.

With a 4 piece set-up, these Toronto Blues/Funk/Rockers brought a lot of energy with them, as evidenced by the constant movement and sweat on stage.

note: The hip-hop style lyrics we heard, paired with their uptempo rock sound made it easy to see why they’ve shared the stage with USS in the past.

The 3 voices up on stage worked well together, and with the loud instrumental being laid down. Where 1 voice may have been washed out, the 3 microphones worked well in the room and kept the lyrics from being overpowered.

Good on ya boys.

Whale Eye 2 Dakota Tavern CMW 2015Whale Eye

Wrapping up our Tuesday night (we could have been out later, but there’s a lot of week left to cover) was Whale Eye, also at The Dakota Tavern.

The solo project of Dylan Turner (who has a great beard) is a stripped down, acoustic, singer-songwriter, folk, rock sound that was probably exactly what the doctor ordered for us.

As lovers of that acoustic sound, Whale Eye offers strong vocals that filled the Dakota while accompanied by the guitar… and here’s a shout out to Midnight Vista who lent Dylan an acoustic after some early tuning issues.

The strong lyrics of Whale Eye are well written and uncomplicated. An underrated combination in too much music, where you might get 1, but not both. Plus, the room was full of foot tapping and swaying and dancing – always a good sign.

We grabbed a download card for the Whale Eye EP before we left, and look forward to listening to that… and seeing Dylan Turner’s Whale Eye again.

Stay tuned for more from Canadian Music Week… and Be Awesome!

Cameron House CMW 2015Cyprian 1 Cameron House CMW 2015GTs 1 The Hideout CMW 2015Chasing Jane 2 Dakota Tavern CMW 2015Whale Eye 1 Dakota Tavern CMW 2015

3 years ago

CMW Night 1: The Horseshoe & Dakota Taverns ft. Daniel Lanois

Canadian Music Week kicked off Friday night in Toronto, and we celebrated by checking out 5 bands at 2 venues, with a nice walk in the spring night air thrown in the middle.

This is an awesome 10 day stretch in the city, with new bands, and main stage performers mixing to play for bars and clubs full of longtime fans and curious music lovers alike. We’re glad to be covering the action… including these 5 artists:

Thomas D’Arcy
Terra Lightfoot
Daniel Lanois
Our Friend and the Spiders

thomas d’arcy
Thomas D'arcy 2

Thomas D’Arcy

Our Canadian Music Week 2015 adventure kicked off with Canadian artist, and Toronto music scene veteran, Thomas D’Arcy.

Admittedly not a fan himself of solo acoustic acts, D’Arcy seemed determined to make sure that he was significantly more entertaining than the average open mic musician. And even without his polished lyrics and well rehearsed songs, Thomas D’Arcy would be as entertaining as all of in the room at the Horseshoe could have hoped.

D’Arcy was accompanied on stage for a few songs in the middle of his set by a keyboard player, in an effort not to be the boring acoustic guy, as he said himself. He also nailed, what he also told us, was his 1st attempt to use a looping pedal in a live show.

He was also witty, in a “this all sounds way better with a full band” self-deprecating kind of way.

Verdict: Big ups to Thomas D’Arcy for giving us a good set of music to start a 10 day music adventure in Toronto.

terra lightfoot
Terra Lightfoot 2

Terra Lightfoot

Replacing a previously billed artist isn’t always an easy task, but Terra Lightfoot did just that when Rocco Deluca needed a fill in at the Horseshoe Tavern.

As Lightfoot put it after her first song wrapped up in front of an increasingly full room, it wasn’t “planned, but opening for Daniel Lanois, I think that was on my bucket list.”

With a full band, the sound in the bar picked up a level, it was a nice progression in the evening. Backed by a bass, drums, and backup vocals, this was rock and roll that you could love at any bar on any night.

ps. Terra Lightfoot plays a mean guitar. Really. It was a lot of fun to watch her play and flip her hair and be awesome.

The entire band plays well together and should continue to get progressively more awesome as time goes by and more sets are played.

Recommendation: If you see Terra Lightfoot’s name on a chalkboard sign or a marque, pay the cover, buy the ticket, get a drink and enjoy the show!

daniel lanois
Daniel Lanois 2

Daniel Lanois

In front of a fully packed house at the Horseshoe Tavern, Daniel Lanois took the stage at 11pm and put on a show. It was the reason people were in the bar Friday night.

I knew going in that I had no idea what to expect from Lanois who has been known to get creative with his live performances when he makes them.

The music industry vet confident, a little cocky, and convinced that he was in complete control of his situation. His set was part experimental jam session (with a computer on stage to go with his steel and electric guitars, as well as his drummer and bass player) – part performance art (with a cameraman and at least 2 GoPro cams set up on the stage to capture the action) – and part I’m Daniel Lanois, you know that what I’m going to do is awesome.

The truth of the matter is this: When an artist/producer/man of Daniel Lanois’s reputation, nobody is ever going to tell you that you can’t try something new, do what you want, and put on your kind of show. The closest they come is calling out from the crowd to play more music (which they did) after having a pint or 3.

Verdict: Daniel Lanois played what he wanted to play for a crowded house of people who wanted to hear him play it. It was 100% worth seeing a Canadian legend up on stage as he did what he does, and told the crowd, “it’s Canadian Music Week every week of my fucking life.”

our friend and the spiders
Our Friend and the Spiders 1

Our Friend And The Spiders

After a nice little walk through Trinity Bellwoods park, Our Friend And The Spiders were on the stage at The Dakota Tavern on Ossington.

These 4 dudes from Montreal are proud to represent their home city, and they do it well with good rock and roll, and as many references and mentions of their home as they could fit in.

As a 4 piece rock band, Our Friend And The Spiders are tight with no 1 piece of the music outshining any of the other pieces involved. They were steady, fluid, and easy to listen to (but not easy listening, you know what I mean) in a room like the Dakota.

note: I would have Tweeted and Instagrammed for y’all, but there’s a charming lack of signal in the basement venue.

This was a rock set that reminded me of Edge 102.1 in the late 90s and early 2000s when I was listening. The kind of rock and roll that works. The kind of rock and roll that you can put on at any time and know that you won’t be let down.

Recommendation: Look them up (here’s their website: and let me know what you think.


Redsteps - Dakota Tavern, CMW 2015


The Dakota Tavern’s 1am set belonged to hometown band, Toronto based, the Redsteps.

From the start of their first song I had them pegged as Southern Rock with shades of Country. But when I read their listing in the CMW 2015 guide I saw Rock, Roots, Soul… and while that might not be incorrect – any band that’s playing trucking songs and has a voice with the kind of twang these boys are bringing needs to have Country in their descriptor.

It also shouldn’t have been a surprise to hear some twang from the Redsteps since they’ve previously played a residency at The Dakota Tavern.

From the first song in the set the band had ladies up and dancing in front of the stage. A testament to the music that the 5 piece band played on Friday night.

Verdict: Do what I’m going to do and find their self titled debut album from 2014 and give it a listen.

Thomas D'Arcy - The Horseshoe Tavern CMW 2015Terra Lightfoot - The Horseshoe Tavern CMW 2015Daniel Lanois - The Horseshoe Tavern CMW 2015Our Friend and the Spiders - The Dakota Tavern CMW 2015Redsteps - The Dakota Tavern CMW 2015The Horseshoe Tavern CMW 2015Dakota Tavern Stock Ale CMW 2015

3 years ago
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