Massey Hall
Massey Hall

Music News Digest, June 15, 2018

Yesterday (June 14) was declared Massey Hall Day in Toronto. That was to both mark the storied concert hall's 124th birthday and note the fact that the venue will close down in early July for at least two years while it undergoes a major 'revitalization' with an estimated cost of $142M. A star-studded birthday cum farewell bash was held last night, featuring A-list Canadian stars, many of whom have headlined shows at MH before. Whitehorse did a sterling job of acting as the house band for guest singers as well as reprising some of their best numbers.

Surprise guests on the night were Pete and Leah from July Talk and Joel Plaskett, joining Sam Roberts, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Sarah Harmer, and Jim Cuddy. All shone in their short sets, with Cuddy and Roberts bringing the crowd to its feet, while a killer guitar solo by Luke Doucet on Cuddy's version of "Five Days In May" earned a huge ovation. The massed encores featured a moving version of The Hip classic "Wheat Kings" and a riproaring take on CSNY's "Ohio." A night to remember. We will miss the grande old dame.

– The National Arts Centre in Ottawa has named Christopher Deacon as its new President and CEO. He succeeds Peter Herrndorf in this role as of June 12. Deacon, 59, has more than 35 years of professional experience managing orchestras, including 22 years as Managing Director of the NAC Orchestra. During his career, Deacon has led many of the NAC’s boldest initiatives, including the 2013 China Tour of the Orchestra, their 2014 UK Tour, and Life Reflected, which commissioned four Canadian composers to create new works about four notable Canadian women.

–  SOCAN's Annual General Meeting will be held this at Harbourfront in Toronto on June 19. CEO Eric Baptiste and President and Chair of SOCAN’s Board of Directors Stan Meissner will review the pro's 2017 results. Dr. Catherine Moore, professor of Music Technology & Digital Media at the University of Toronto, is special guest speaker and R&B singer-songwriter Savannah Ré will perform a short set. The meeting is open to any SOCAN member, with on-site registration beginning at 5pm. A live streaming webcast of the AGM portion only can be viewed on SOCAN's English and French pages on Facebook Live

–  In the latest instalment of the 2018 SiriusXM Polaris Cover Sessions, Lindi Ortega covers Leonard Cohen's classic, "Suzanne." The song features on Cohen’s 1967 Slaight Family Polaris Heritage Prize-winning album Songs Of Leonard Cohen. This cover is the second of three Polaris is making this year that will be part of a special promotional 10" release being given away free at select music store retailers this fall with the purchase of Polaris nominated albums.

–  A major new Toronto exhibition of work by famed British street artist Banksy (Art by Banksy) is expected to be a smash hit. A well-attended preview earlier this week drew many musicians, media and music industry types, confirming the cultural impact the anonymous artist has had. Musicians we spied included Dallas Good (The Sadies), Damhnait Doyle and Hill Kourkoutis, alongside Starfish Entertainment's Susan de Cartier, Jude Coombe and Amanda Schenk, publicist Rebecca Webster, scribes Karen Bliss and Liisa Ladouceur, photographer Tom Sandler, and scenesters Richard Flohil and Yvonne Matsell. All seemed highly impressed. Our thanks to Karen Pace.

–  The Up and Downtown (UP+DT )Music Festival in Edmonton runs Oct. 5-7 at ten downtown venues. Notable names in the lineup include Tanya Tagaq, Suuns, Lee 'Scratch' Perry, Jonathan Richman, Mauno, Antibalas, Brant Bjork, Earthless, Mauno, Thao, Michale Graves of the Misfits, Language Arts,  the Maybellines 20 year reunion show, Mad Alchemy, Poor Nameless Boy, and the Velveteins. More names TBA. The festival will also host two podcast tapings, Vancouver’s Stop Podcasting Yourself and the Star Trek-loving The Greatest Generation.

–  Canadian jazz singer and pianist Carol Welsman plays a fundraising show at The Bassment in Saskatoon on Saturday (June 16). Money raised will to help pay for the design, construction and installation of the club's new sign on Fourth Avenue. A six-time Juno nominee, Welsman is the granddaughter of the founder and first conductor of the Toronto Symphony Orchestra.

– The late Canadian actor and musician Don Francks (aka Iron Buffalo) was honoured on Wednesday evening with a laneway and plaque dedication in his adopted home city of Toronto. The public lane in the Bathurst and St. Clair area becomes Don Francks Lane. His widow Lili Francks, other family members, Jazz.FM's Jaymz Bee and City Councillor Joe Mihevc were in attendance. Don Francks died in April 2016. Here's the FYI obit  

Highly-touted Newfoundland duo Fortunate Ones released a new album, Hold Fast, on May 25. They recently wrapped an extensive tour supporting Alan Doyle across Canada and have just announced of a fall national album tour, following cross-country summer fest appearances. Fortunate Ones were one of three winners of the inaugural Allan Slaight Juno Master Class.

–  The current lacklustre state of the Toronto Blue Jays necessitates extra attractions to entice fans. The Friday Fan Festivals will do that via top-notch Canadian music talent. In on July 20 is the MDM roster of Jess Moskaluke, Charlie Major, The Lovelocks, Bobby Wills, and David James. The Jim Cuddy Band performs on Aug. 10 and The Trews are on Aug. 24.

–  Given the torrential downpour in the afternoon, it was smart that Universal Music's annual Rooftop Riot party for NXNE (the sixth edition) was held indoors at The Horseshoe on Wednesday aft. Always a fun soiree, it drew a large crowd. Serenading the throng were spirited sets by Lost Cousins, Ellevator, Juno-winners The Dirty Nil, and Dilly Dally, all showing why they have created a buzz. Notables spied included Ralph James, Parkside Mike Renaud, Noah Mintz, Kim Cooke, Esra Fisratli, Iain Taylor, Michael Perlmutter, Mike Tanner, Amanda Vandenbrock, Tom Power, and Exclaim's Ian Danzig and James Keast. UMC's Jon Box tells FYI "we created the event right after the EMI acquisition because we realized the two companies together had the strongest indie label community in Canada. This is a statement event that no other indie label partner is doing in Canada."

–  Chris Vautour's Songpull event is described as "a curated group of songwriters pouring it on co-operatively for the sake of the song." Anchored by Aaron Comeau, Jason Ball, Hotcha!, and Tape Eagles, it features Scott B, Don Kerr, Noah Zacharin, Laura Repo, Kyp Harness, and more. On at Duggan's Basement in Toronto on June 16.



DJ (Dominic Joseph) Fontana, long-time drummer for Elvis Presley, died on June 13, at age 87. His death was reported by son David Fontana on Facebook.

He played the drums behind Presley from 1954-1968, appearing on approximately 460 of his recordings. As a session drummer, he worked with artists ranging from Red Sovine to Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney. He was inducted into the Rockabilly Hall of Fame in 2009 and joined the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame later that year in the sideman category. Sources: The Tennessean,

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