That’s Funky Awesome is fortunate that readers from around the world have made this site a frequent stop to help quell their music and entertainment jonesin’. And although today’s post may not directly affect you, for everyone living in my small corner of the globe, Stratford, Ontario, the deaths of eleven people last week at a sleepy rural corner about ten minutes outside of town as the result of a two vehicle accident has been devastating.
The crash claimed the lives of ten migrant workers travelling in an extended passenger van after a long shift at a nearby chicken farm. Some of the victims had been on the job for only one day. It also killed a London, Ontario man, Christopher Fulton, who was on his way home to celebrate his wedding anniversary with his wife of eleven years.
Today the Hampstead Fundraiser was announced, which will raise money for the families of the victims involved. It will be happening on February 25th in Stratford at the Masonic Hall, starting at 9:30 PM. Not only will it showcase live music from a variety of artists like Whoa Miss Mojo!, Plum Loco (featuring former Janis Joplin guitarist John Till) and Brittlestar frontman Stewart Reynolds, you can rest assured you’ll put your dancing shoes to good use when Myagi hits the stage for a DJed set. There will be food, booze (at what will no doubt be a well stocked cash bar), everything you could want to make for an unforgettable Saturday night. All for only $25. Pop into Down the Street Bar & Restaurant or Sputnik for tickets.
If you can’t make it out that night but would still like to donate money to the families, you’ll find more information on organizations that have set up additional collections here. Scroll down to the bottom of the article for the details.
Also, if you’re able to volunteer your time for the evening, any help is greatly appreciated. You can contact organizers Susan Dunfield (owner of Down the Street Bar & Restaurant) by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 519-273-5886 or Stewart Reynolds at email@example.com. I’m donating my time for the evening…will you?
You can also head to the Down the Street website for more info and updates on the evening.
UPDATES: There is now also a Facebook page for the Hampstead Fundraiser. Click here to check it out.
The full lineup for the night’s entertainment has been confirmed!
Here’s a little Brittlestar for you now. The track is Shining Star. You’ll see him with acoustic guitar in hand on the 25th. See you there!
This past Friday night I found myself sitting at the judges’ table at the annual Stratford high school Battle of the Bands competition, an event that takes place each year coinciding with the arrival of the Fall Fair and all the carnie-induced mischief that comes along with it.
Under the lights of the almost full sized ferris wheel and within ear shot of carnival barkers tempting people into trying to win a variety of crudely fabricated stuffed prizes modelled after penguins or what can only be described as sickly, probably rabid dogs on their last legs, this year’s Battle of the Bands (featuring the talent of the students from Stratford’s three area high schools) once again made its home at the Stratford Rotary Complex. By day, this facility is usually home to a more sporting crowd-hockey players and the like. On this night, though, the ice was covered and the venue taken over by seven local bands and their friends, family, and of course, fans.
There were a few things that left a lasting impression with both me and my fellow judges that night, which also included local musician Gerry Reynolds and Brittlestar‘s pop maestro Stewart Reynolds (no relation, just kinda weird that in a town of 30 000 people we get two judges with the same last name). One was the crazy amount of talent on display in front of us. Granted, some of the acts were obviously better than others, but what some of the bands lacked in musical ability they more than made up for in showmanship (hey, people didn’t go see the Sex Pistols because they could play their instruments, right?). Secondly, for a city that has now forever been branded with the Justin Bieber uber-pop label, there was a refreshing lack of it onstage this particular night. In fact, it was quite the opposite. For the most part what we heard was heavy, loud, and perfectly suited for the mosh pits that often formed during sets. And with covers from artists like the Meat Puppets, Smashing Pumpkins, and the Dead Milkmen, it’s safe to say the bands on this particular night were taking their musical cues from the heyday of nineties rock and not what’s dominating the charts today.
And speaking of heavy, it was Kryptic, a four piece outfit with an affinity for Black Sabbath and Megadeth, that demonstrated they had what it takes to earn the title of Best Band this year. The members of Kryptic (Brady Lewis on guitar and vocals, Braeden Dill on guitar, Eric Hawley on drums and Ryan Campbell on bass) are all great players on their respective instruments, and together they combined for a tight and explosive set that kept throwing dynamic curveballs at the audience and had the kids in attendance quite literally banging their heads. I was truly amazed at the complexity of the songs these guys had written, and while they tell me it’s usually Lewis or Dill that start off the songwriting process with a basic riff, it’s then built upon by the entire group until they flesh out a complete number. All of this takes place during their twice weekly rehearsals in Lewis’ garage, at least when they’re not being shut down by the local police because of noise complaints from the neighbours. Besides having the deadly duelling guitars of Lewis and Dill leading the way, they also have one of the tightest drum and bass combos I’ve heard in a while, with Hawley and Campbell in perfect synchronization with one another. No small feat, considering the start/stop/start/stop/ half time/double time/straight time arrangements of their songs. In fact, I left the night with Hawley as my overall favourite drummer.
If Kryptic has an achilles heel, it’s the vocals of Lewis, which lack the ‘oomph’ needed to compete with the substantial wall of sound being generated by the band behind him. Because of this, Kryptic are holding off on releasing their debut EP, which they tell me is finished except for the vocals and which they are hoping they will be able to record with a stronger singer. Once that happens, Kryptic might just become an official musical juggernaut.
Below you can check out the track Fight of Your Life from a performance earlier this year at the Chrysalids Theatre in Kitchener. After that you’ll find Valley of Euphoriah from a gig in London. Kryptic will also be performing in Stratford this Friday, September 30, at the New Era Coffee House.
Listen to Kryptic on Myspace.
Like them on Facebook.
Watch them on YouTube.
What happens when you combine four talented musicians with a low budget and questionable wardrobe? This.
A lot has been happening in the world since we talked last. The U.S. government avoided getting its Discover card cancelled by finding a solution (of sorts) to its debt ceiling crisis, the Smurfs movie managed to poop a giant blue turd on the impressive career run of modern day song and dance man Neil Patrick Harris (somehow I’ll find a way to blame the Smurfette-voicing Katy Perry for this), and U2 wrapped up their 360 tour after playing to so many people Bono fell into the habit of asking, “Would you like fries with that?” after every introduction at fan meet and greets.
Today, however, I’ve decided to take a bit of a risk. How so? Well, by showcasing a video done by people I know, and who, if they weren’t such nice guys, could find me pretty easily and leave me with a noticeable limp after reading today’s post.
“What’s the big deal?”, you may be asking yourself.
The video in question is…how do I put this nicely…entertaining, but for all the wrong reasons?
First, a little back story.
The band in question was called Plan B, and it was made up of four extremely talented musicians, some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of working with in the past, both live and in the studio. Two of the members of the group (guitarist David Kalmusky and drummer Jay Riehl) are in-demand session guys and studio wizards who now work full time out of Nashville after years honing their craft around Stratford, Ontario. In fact, Riehl’s old studio just outside of Stratford is where some kid named Bieber recorded his pre-Fever demo tracks, but don’t hold that against Jay. Bassist Scott Matthews (who originally got my attention when he posted this video to his Facebook page) is the Head of Audio at the Stratford Festival, the largest classical repertory theatre in North America. In 1993 they put on their Sunday best and made a performance video for their song I’ll Find a Way. And so here we are.
If you compiled a list of cliches to include in a ‘live’ rock video, I’ll Find a Way would find you checking off pretty much all of them, including:
Drummer in tank top? Check.
Hair that would make Cher’s stylist green with envy? Check.
Close up shot of fingers on the fretboard during the guitar solo? Check.
Periodic inclusion of crew members in the shot-just to remind you there’s a video being made? Check.
Bitchin’ matching Kramer guitar and bass? Check.
Over sized drum kit, with enough hardware to double as a shark cage if necessary? Check.
My point is this: the video is bad, but I can’t stop watching it. It brings me back to a simpler time, before grunge made it completely unacceptable to wear a checkered suit coat in a music video. And I’ll Find a Way is just a very brief snippet from the careers of some players who now make a living doing what I could only dream of ever accomplishing-being involved in the creation and production of music every day. Baggy work out pants and all.
You Will Come With Me (Right click to open in iTunes)
Forgive me, but I’m going to drop a bit of personal nostalgia on you for this post.
About 20 years ago, I was a high school kid who played drums in a few bands around the Stratford area. Most of the people I played with were my age, give or take a year or two. One day I found myself being asked to jam with a newly formed group, consisting of local musicians that I had admired from afar for a time-Larry McCabe(vocals), Paul Muller(bass), Jeff Leney(guitar) and Alan Ferguson(guitar). Everyone in the band was in university, and I still couldn’t legally get into a bar. Needless to say I was flattered and excited to be asked to be involved, but at the same time I was…how should I say this…pooping my pants with fear? The other guys in the band were all friends of my brother and so I had seen them around, and I was also a big fan of other groups they had been part of. These guys could really play. Their musical abilities far exceeded my own, but things clicked and a band was born.
We spent a summer writing and rehearsing material in an empty garage in an industrial park within spitting range of train tracks and not much else. We christened ourselves Molesky B (picked randomly out of a phonebook) but later changed it to Spook Matis. We did a couple shows that summer, including a debut at Woolfy’s (now Pearl Sushi) in Stratford as well as the Actors’ Cabaret in the Chalmers Lounge located in the Avon Theatre. Summer came to an end, school called and in the fall we all went our separate ways.
We reconvened again the next summer, but unfortunately one member short. Our guitarist Alan was off pursuing other ventures, so we were for a time a 4 piece (vocals, acoustic guitar, bass, drums). We had a couple guitarists come and go, but nothing quite gelled. Word got back to us that Alan may be able to return for a show, so we recorded some of the newer material direct off the soundboard at rehearsal into a tape deck so he didn’t have to come back completely unfamiliar with the tunes. They were rough, but got the basic jist across. The songs were recorded with one mic on the drums, one vocal mic, and the guitar and bass running direct into the board, with all of them mixed on the fly. Of course, cassettes were the norm back then, so no post recording edits or tweaking could be done.
Skip ahead to last week, when Alan emailed some of those songs we recorded. He had kept the tape we had given him way back when, and recently transferred the songs onto his computer. The tape had stretched a little here and there, and of course the mix was god awful, but they were a nifty time capsule from a great summer. Alan managed to clean the recordings up somewhat with today’s technology, so I am posting one of the tunes for your listening enjoyment. It is unedited, including a few seconds at the very start where you can hear Jeff and Larry giving Alan a little shout out before we played the song.
Stratford's RM214 with producer Stewart Reynolds Photo by Terry Manzo
RM214, the Stratford teen sensations who make Menudo look like talentless hacks are going to be all over your television, thanks to an appearance tomorrow morning on CTV’s Canada AM. Word is they’ll be performing their self-written/performed/recorded iTunes darling of a hit, ‘Summer Never Ends’, a song when released last month bested competing tracks by several major pop stars, including Rihanna. They also managed to edge out Nickleback for a time, proving that there may indeed be a God.
The group, comprised of eight local teens from Stratford Central High School, should be hitting the planks at the Canada AM Toronto studio around 8:40AM. Canada should be in a full on RM214 lovefest by 8:45AM, and I’m willing to bet by the end of it host Seamus O’ Regan has that tattoo of Corey Hart on his right bicep replaced with the likeness of RM214’s producer Stewart Reynolds, who will also accompany the kids tomorrow.
‘Summer Never Ends’ is available on iTunes and back alleys across the greater Perth County area. Download it here for less than a buck, with all proceeds going to Stratford Central’s high skills major program.