Michael Wekerle may be good at making money but he loves R&R
Michael Wekerle may be good at making money but he loves R&R

Music News Digest: April 26, 2017

Michael Wekerle and his company El Mocambo Entertainment Inc. have announced the signing of Vancouver's celebrated alt-rocker outfit 54•40 to their new artist and label services arm, El Mocambo Records.

The signing includes the release of 54•40’s title track from the band's forthcoming summer album release, entitled “Keep on Walking,” and coincides with the band’s induction into the Halls of Fame of both the Independent Music Awards (The Indies) and the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards.

“This is a great first signing for us,” says Andy Curran, the newly appointed General Manager/Head of A&R for El Mocambo Entertainment. “54•40 is a band with a serious pedigree.”

“Wek is a passionate supporter of Canadian music, and we are thrilled to be part of this new venture,” says Neil Osborne, lead singer of 54•40.

El Mocambo Entertainment was founded by Wekerle, who now owns the 464 Spadina Avenue club which first opened its doors in 1948 and is one of Toronto’s oldest live music establishments.

In November 2014, the multi-millionaire CEO of Difference Capital and dragon investor on the reality show Dragon's Den purchased the neon palms nightclub for $3.8M and has since taken the building down to bare walls, raised the ceiling and plans to reopen it as a multi-platform stage in September. The re-born El Mocambo will include a nightclub, hi-tech recording studio and is to be festooned with memorabilia recognizing its cultural significance as a music hall.

Below, 54•40 at the Commodore Ballroom in Vancouver performing in Oct. 2015

-- The Osheaga Music and Arts Festival has unveiled the day-by-day lineup for its 12th edition, Aug. 4 to 6 on Île Notre-Dame. Lorde headlines on Friday, Aug. 4, Muse tops the bill on Saturday, and The Weeknd will close the festival on Sunday the 6th. All told, more than 100 acts will perform over the three days.

-- The Montreal International Jazz Festival has announced some more major names for its 38th edition. The list includes Feist, Thievery Corporation, double bills of Melissa Etheridge and Joss Stone and The O’Jays and the Four Tops, Bobby Bazini, Serena Ryder, Charles Bradley, Ron Sexsmith, and Joey Bada$$. The annual runs June 29 – July 8.

-- Former David Letterman musical director and foil Paul Shaffer reassembled the original World’s Most Dangerous Band, with whom he played for 22 years on CBS, for his newly released album on Rhino Records. Guests include Bill Murray, Darius Rucker and Shaggy.

-- Carly Rae Jepsen strings along with the TSO at Roy Thomson Hall on June 17. The performance is part of the orchestra’s Canada Mosaic—a Canada 150 Signature Project. Jepsen shares the stage with long-time collaborator Tavish Crowe, the TSO and conductor Lucas Waldin.

-- Eclectic Toronto songstress/bon vivant Lily Frost is about to launch Big City Social, a concept she terms “a retro-roundup of smart cocktails, hard-swing, rockabilly and sexy stage acts.” It premieres at Lula Lounge in T.O. on Thursday, featuring sets with herself And The Gentlemen Callers, The Millwinders, Paige Turner and more. The gig coincides with Frost’s new single and video, “Rebound Bitch.”

-- The nominees for the 2017 Western Canadian Music Awards and Industry Awards have been announced. Andy Shauf leads the list with five nominations, while The Zolas earned three. Dual nominees include Corb Lund, Dan Davidson and Dear Rouge. Here’s a full list of nominees for both awards. Winners will be announced and honoured during the 15th annual BreakOutWest conference in Edmonton, Sept. 13-17.

-- Hardcore troubadour Fred Eaglesmith made a stop in Toronto on Monday night, just prior to heading off on a European tour. He sold out the show ($50 a pop) in the intimate environs of the Cadillac Lounge where he entertained his faithful fan base with two enthusiastic sets. Wife Tif Ginn sang backup and played a wide array of instruments, and the star of the show was in full comedic form, playing on subjects ranging from man buns (he detests them) to crazy T.O. house prices to impressions of Bob Dylan and Willie Nelson. Cadillac owner Sam Grosso informed that he’s planning more such shows with name artists, and that’s good news.

-- Revivals and tributes have always been a big part of Hugh’s Room’s business over the years. On May 26, Toronto’s west-end club (now known as Hugh's Room Live) celebrates Joe Cocker’s Mad Dogs & Englishmen featuring a song cycle recalling the all-star 1970 tour that spun off a successful double-album and film. The same month features headliners Alfie Zappacosta, The Shuffle Demons, Crystal Shawanda, and Garland Jeffreys.

-- Last week, the commemorative posters honouring the recently announced winners of the Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize were unveiled at a low-key gathering at The Drake in Toronto. This Prize honours classic Canadian albums of the pre-Polaris era.

The albums being honoured and the artists who designed their posters are:

Arcade Fire – Funeral by Ivo Matić 

Blue Rodeo – Five Days In July by Carl Wiens 

Leonard Cohen – Songs Of Leonard Cohen by Lauren Tamaki

Lhasa – La Llorona by Maxime Francout 

Kate & Anna McGarrigle – Kate & Anna McGarrigle by Kirsten McCrea

Mary Margaret O’Hara – Miss America by Courtney Wotherspoon 

Rush – Moving Pictures by Miles Tsang 

Neil Young - After The Gold Rush by Jud Haynes

-- The allure of Record Store Day, the annual love-in for physical record stores, seems to remain, judging from our unscientific survey in a store-heavy Toronto area Saturday morning.

Collectors and vinyl junkies were lining up at June Records, while Greg Davis at Soundscapes reported steady business from his store’s early opening at 7 am. We ran into Warner Music Canada head and self-confessed vinyl junkie Steve Kane, and he was justifiably bemused at the late opening of nearby stores--11 am for June Records, noon for Neurotica.

Where’s the business logic in this, given that this is the busiest day of the year for the music shops?

-- The deadline for submissions for the Emerging Artist Mentorship Program attached to Canada's Walk of Fame is April 30. Details and submission form here.

-- Popular Quebec singer Mary Wells launched the lead single from her debut EP at Painted Lady on April 21. The 24-year-old has lived with a pacemaker for the past two years and earned a name for herself first with her band the Garlics. Below is the music video for "We All Want Love."

-- In case you've missed it, here's the music video for Nickelback's latest release, "Feed the Machine." It's the title track from the band's new album set for release on June 16. Tour dates in major Canadian cities are scheduled in the fall. The song tackles the heady issue of false prophets and the sham of using religion to breed hatred and feed the war machine.

-- Tinie Tempah, Amir Obè, Yukon Blonde, Lizzo, River Tiber, Franklin Electric and others join Passion Pit; Tyler, the Creator and Post Malone at the 2017 edition of NXNE that runs June 23-25.

-- CIMA has put out a call for submissions for The Great Escape in Brighton, England. The showcasing opportunity is May 18-20. Details and submissions here.

--  Apple Music has launched House of Strombo, a 10 episode concert series "featuring a combination of international legends, young and upcoming artists" playing from George Stroumboulopoulos’ downtown Toronto home." Episode one debuted last Thursday and featured A Tribe Called Red.

-- Music PEI stages its third annual Bell Aliant Canadian Song Conference at theThe Rodd Charlottetown Hotel, May 10-13.

-- Almost four years after trying to sell her Florida estate for US$72.5M, pop superstar Céline Dion has finally sold the multimillion-dollar Jupiter Island home for close to $38.5M. Separately, the world's top paid female singer is rumoured to have renewed with concert firm AEG in a contract said to be worth $50M. The terms of the deal have not been reported.

--The BC Music Fund's Careers of BC Artists Program has its deadline fast approaching on May 1. Artist-entrepreneurs and music companies are eligible to apply for a grant to cover up to 50% of marketing and promotional activities to support the career of an artist or group of BC artists with a program budget of $1.5M this year. The deadline for applications is May 1. Details here.


Patrick "Fitzy" Fitzpatrick, an Irish musician often referred to as "the sixth member of Aslan," died earlier this week from liver cancer at age 60. Born in Belfast, and trained at the Royal College of Music in London, his touch on the keyboards led him to perform and record with numerous acts including Katmandu, Van Morrison, The Blades and Something Happens.

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