Music News Digest, June 21, 2017

The Evening Standard called it “a jaw dropping spectacle,” and The Telegraph “a care-banishing blast of wild-child zaniness.”

Call it what you may, the opening of the three-hour epic Wagnerian jukebox musical, Bat Out Of Hell, at London’s Coliseum last night rocked the staid music home of English National Opera and is sure to become the talk of the town.

Executive producers Michael Cohl, Randy Lennox and Tony Smith have made a calculated bet on this epic Mama Mia meets We Will Rock You spectacle that’s based on lyricist Jim Steinman’s fairy-tale story giving a full torque R&R adrenalin rush to trusty themes from J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan, Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, and Bruce Springsteen’s Born to Run, gussied up for the stage with artistic flourishes right out of Mad Max’s storyboard.

Daisy Bowie-Sell, writing in WhatsOnStage, has her own pretty good description for this over-the-top musical: “Bat Out of Hell? Bat shi*t crazy more like.

“Jim Steinman's jukebox rock musical is like nothing you're going to see anywhere else right now. The story embodies everything Steinman's '70s and '80s mad, slightly camp rock music did with not a hint of shame. Everything that made Meat Loaf awful but also really great is wholeheartedly here, from the love-wracked crooning, the light-goth look, the rock, the roll to the uber sex appeal…”

The show has its North American premiere Oct. 14 at Ed Mirvish Theatre in Toronto.

— George Koller has produced Black Moonlight, a dreamy throwback song collection of lesser known jazz-blues standards from the era of 78s for the silken voiced Linda Carone. She’s appearing at Toronto’s TD Jazz Festival on the 25th of this month.

— The battle lines are drawn between Edmonton’s Breakout West Festival and the Canadian Federation of Musicians over a $100 per artist temporary union membership that the event’s organizers are dismissing. The union is fighting back with the threat of pulling its members from the Sept. 13-17 shindig. MetroNews has the story, and the line-up announced can be viewed here.

— The Atlantic Presenters Association (APA) has announced the showcasing line up for Contact East 2017 taking place Sept. 21 - 24 in Membertou, Cape Breton. Over 150 regional, national and international delegates will take in three days of artistic discovery. 

— American gay rapper Cazwell (Luke Caswell) is taking on the White House with a new song video called “Loose Wrists.” Unsettled by the Trump administration’s approach to  LGBTQ rights, he rhymes, “ “I’m a big boss, big balls, on a phone call” who's going to “hit the White House, rearrange some things.”

— Live Nation reports Midnight Oil’s upcoming tour stops in Calgary, Edmonton and Winnipeg with Matthew Good are cancelled “due to unforeseen family circumstances” relating to the Aussie band. No other details have been given.

— Canadian dancehall star Snow (Darrin Kenneth O’Brien) is planning his return with a new album that’s being shopped by Paul Farberman, legal eagle to the stars. We’ll tell you more when we’re in the know but Snow was at the SOCAN Awards Monday night in Toronto shaking hands and generally looking pleased to be back in the limelight, so to speak.

— The times they are a changing. Time Warner, the media giant that owns HBO, Turner, and Warner Bros., will create 10 shows annually for Snapchat as part of a two-year deal reportedly worth US$100M.

— Singer-songwriter Tyler Shaw has earned a SOCAN Award in the Pop Music category for his single “Wicked.” The award recognizes songs that have reached the 100K airplay mark on domestic radio. The track is from his 2015 debut album Yesterday. He’s currently hustling his starring role in the film The Meaning of Life, which premiered in LA last month, and will be releasing new music this summer.

The Legendary Horseshoe Tavern: A Complete History is set for publication on Sept. 23. This book offers a history of the Queen West saloon and is timed to coincide with its seventieth anniversary. As the blurb spouts, this book, written in cooperation with and support of the Tavern, with a foreword by Jim Cuddy, “highlights the Tavern's place as more than just a venue: it is a beacon for music lovers and an integral part of Toronto's rich musical landscape.”

Author David McPherson has launched a companion site,, where visitors can upload their own photos to an online gallery. Users can additionally read the introduction and pre-order the book. Keeping in mind the imminence of Canada Day, here’s Canada’s man in black at what was formerly known as known as the Country Roots n' Rockabilly Music Tavern.

— The Who’s Pete Townshend knew four Grenfell Tower families and has "written some cheques" for the victims, British newspaper The Mirror reports. The Tommy tunesmith grew up near the site of the London tower block fire and is now part of Artists for Grenfell, a quickly configured group that is releasing a charity single to raise money to aid those affected.

Assembled by Simon Cowell, Artists for Grenfell include Roger Daltrey, Jessie J and Louis Tomlinson, and they've recorded a version of Simon and Garfunkel classic "Bridge Over Troubled Water."

— It has been five years since a stage collapse prior to a Radiohead concert in Toronto's Downsview Park, killing the group's drum technician Scott Johnson. A new trial has now been ordered following a mistrial when an earlier judge was appointed to the Ontario Superior Court late last year and ruled he no longer had jurisdiction over the case. The earlier case had promoter Live Nation, Toronto-area contractor Optex Staging and an engineer facing a total of 13 charges under the Occupational Health and Safety Act.

— Whitehorse releases Panther In The Dollhouse with a launch party July 11 at Revival Bar in Toronto with guests Dan Savage, and famed sex advice author, and dominatrix/Supreme Court challenger Terri-Jean Bedford. They'll be discussing body politics, privacy laws and related topics followed by a Q&A and, of course, there's Whitehorse in performance. The band's national tour begins Oct. 12 and closes at Massey Hall on Dec. 8

— The Oscar Peterson Prize recipient is given out by the Montreal International Jazz Festival to a Canadan jazz artist for their contributions. This year's recipient will be saxophonist/composer/bandleader Christine Jensen who is to receive it on June 30.

On the same day, Jensen and her group Infinitude perform a concert at the festival, closing out its national tour. Infinitude is headed by Christine, her sister Ingrid Jensen (trumpet) and Ben Monder (guitar). 

Jensen is no stranger to awards, having won back-to-back Junos for Best Contemporary Jazz Album for Treelines (2013) and Habitat (2014), both with her 18-piece Jazz Orchestra. Earlier recipients of The Oscar Peterson Prize include Oliver Jones, Paul Bley, Maynard Ferguson, Kenny Wheeler, Diana Krall, and Moe Koffman.

— Vancouver indie label Mint Records has signed Woolworm. A press release describes the group as "a hardcore band who have decided to play pop music." Together for over a decade, the Vancouver outfit has recorded a new album, Deserve to Die, with Jesse Gander (White Lung, Japandroids). Mint releases it on Aug. 25

— Cascades is a musical collaboration between two noted Montreal-based musicians: neo-classical pianist Jean-Michel Blais and Grammy Award-nominated electronic producer Mike Silver (aka CFCF). It was premiered as part of the 2016 Red Bull Music Academy in Montreal, and that led to a self-titled 30-minute EP released on Arts & Crafts in March.

Performances by the dynamic duo are rare, but a Toronto debut will take place as part of the Luminato Festival on June 24 at The Great Hall.

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