This night marked our second show at HECFI’s Folk’d Up Friday series. It was a busy night downtown as people made their way to Copps Colosseum to catch a concert by renowned musician and composer Yanni. My earliest memory of Yanni is watching a videocassette (oh yes, this was back in the day) of one of his concerts with my parents when I was younger, I believe it was “Live at the Acropolis”. Sadly, I hadn’t listened to his tunes for a while and promptly YouTubed his music once I got home. Anyways, I’m getting off track here. While some people were on their way to catch Yanni in action, Kristin and I found ourselves back in the Molson Canadian Studio, joined by our contest winners Lizzie Gosse and John Steinberg, for another evening of folk music.
Toronto’s Darren Eedens started off the night. Describing himself as a “folkin/honky tonkin’/ bluegrass musician,” Darren certainly lived up to this colourful description as his sweet acoustic and banjo sounds filled the room. Watching Darren strum away on his banjo as he crooned was definitely something; I’m pretty sure the audience kept their eyes on him the entire time, in awe of his banjo playing and stage presence. I’d taken a listen to some of his tunes beforehand, so it was a delight to hear him perform songs like “Wait For the Freeze” (featuring some fantastic upbeat banjo melody) and “Shadows.” Darren has also got a distinctive, warm voice that carried along the melody wonderfully and lends to the unique style of music he has created, finding his own niche within the folk/roots/bluegrass genre. His music would be perfect for a barn dance, upbeat, fun and I found myself tapping my foot along.
Next up was Hamilton singer-songwriter Ben Somer, also a Tour friend whom Kristin and I had seen at work at Boxcar Sound Recording Studio. While Kristin had seen Ben perform before, including last month at This Ain’t Hollywood, this was my first time hearing his music live and I was looking forward to his set. Avid readers of the blog are well aware of our musical inclination for sweet, acoustic music and it is no surprise why we enjoyed his music. Ben’s got a unique voice and that combined with his songwriting and guitar playing made for a wonderful set. He played some familiar tunes, including “Codeine,” “Stiff Drinks and Hand Grenades” and “Lies in July,” even playing a song on the piano. Kristin and I ended up picking up a copy of his latest album, The Last One, an album we’ve both been listening to since.
Singer Andrew Penner and percussionist Michael Rosenthal of Sunparlour Players finished off the night with a BANG. This was by far one of the most impressive musical sets I have seen throughout the Tour. Like with Darren, I had also listened to some of Sunparlour Players’ music beforehand, but hearing it live and seeing them perform live was something else altogether. The acoustics of the studio are well suited to this musical series as the sound swells and fills the room, reaching all corners. These guys took things up a notch and gave a riveting performance.
Andrew sang with so much emotion and energy alongside Michael’s musical multitasking, which was just wow. He started off the evening singing backup vocals and playing solely drums but soon enough, he had a bass guitar slung around his neck which he took turns playing along with the keyboard, a bell, tambourine and a harmonica (Kristin and I ‘oohed’ to each other when we saw it). Seriously a musical master. There was something dynamic about each of their songs and it was wonderful watching them sing together, their vocal harmonies only adding to the warmth of their music. I was delighted to hear “Green Thumb” live, an upbeat song filled with twinkling piano and sleigh bells, along with “Runner”. Things slowed down for one song, where Andrew played the piano with Michael accompanying him on the bass guitar. Naturally, there was an encore that rounded out their set nicely.
Now we can’t forget about Yanni, as he was very much present at the Molson Canadian Studio. Many jokes were made throughout the evening by each musician about Yanni, including attempts by the Sunparlour Players to sneak backstage and meet Yanni. Adding to the humour throughout the evening, the Players also promoted their mustard (yes, they have their own line of mustard), telling the crowd to drink up and buy mustard from a band.
It was a true Tour affair as Boxcar Sound producer and Tour friend Matt Montour was in attendance. Kristin and I also had a chance to talk with Paula Perri, the organizer of the Folk’d Up Friday series and learned that she not only knew Matt but had contributed her talents to Ghosts of Memphis’ upcoming album! What a small world. Paula along with the rest of the team behind the Folk’d Up Friday series have done a fantastic job with selecting some fantastic local musicians to take the stage and showcase their talents.