The Trews, Sloan, I Mother Earth, Finger Eleven and more came out to Toronto’s Phoenix Concert Theatre on Feb. 9 to have a bit of fun with some well-chosen covers at the return edition of the Unison Jam – the Karaoke Edition.
Organized, curated and managed by The Phoenix co-owners/operators Lisa Zbitnew and Zeke Myers, the musicians select songs from the backing band Good Enough Live Karaoke’s impressive 250-song repertoire. The night was emceed by Sloan’s Chris Murphy and IME’s Christian Tanna and DJed by Bedouin Soundclash’s Eon Sinclair.
“This was not to be positioned as a fundraiser, but rather an opportunity to give back to the community,” Zbitnew explains to FYI Music News. “Complimentary tickets were given to members of Unison, including musicians and music workers. It was intended as a fun night out for a community that was hardest hit during the pandemic,” adding, “That said, the event also raised $20,000 for Unison Fund.”
Unison Fund is a non-profit, registered charity that provides counselling and emergency relief services to the Canadian music community.
Jaymz Bee and John Finley opened The Unison Jam with Ain’t No Sunshine. Dani Strong followed with Respect, then Murphy blazed through Surrender and War Pigs, before settling in for the evening as host, while his bandmate Patrick Pentland chose Ziggy Stardust.
IME and F-11 joined forces on Horse With No Name and Lola; Nick Earle did Watermelon Sugar, before IME’s keyboardist Jesse Karwat showed his vocal soul on Superstition, and 11-year-old Liam Tanna, son of Christian, sang No Rain.
Only one industry member took the stage, Unison board member Vanessa Thomas, who rocked out on Hit Me With Your Best Shot. Clarissa Diokno killed it on You Oughtta Know, The Dirty Nil’s Luke Bentham did That’s Life; The Trews delivered Don’t Look Back in Anger and smoked it on Sweet Child O’ Mine and Domanique Grant sang Truth Hurts.
The night ended with Jasmine Kharazmi taking on Rolling In The Deep, her first-ever performance in front of a live audience. Zbitnew said she wasn’t able to perform in her home country of Iran.
“We are incredibly grateful to Lisa and her team for organizing this event to benefit Unison,” The Unison Fund executive director Amanda Power told FYI. “Lisa was an original Board Director when Jodie [Ferneyhough] and Catharine [Saxberg] launched Unison back in 2011. Lisa was instrumental in helping get Unison off the ground.”
Power adds that the on-site raffle for concert and Toronto Blue Jays tickets raised $1000, and a couple of hundred dollars came in via the on-screen QR code. Money also came through ticket sales.
“The event was supported by the City of Toronto through the ShowLoveTO program launched in 2020,” says Power. “The City of Toronto supported the event with a $12,500 donation to Unison. With the uncertainty of COVID, the event was unfortunately postponed multiple times since 2020.”
Adds Zbitnew, “ShowLoveTO (SLTO) was organized by TORR and the Economic Development and Culture Division of the City of Toronto. This important initiative included a partnership program designed to amplify, showcase and provide additional support to community organizations who were producing activations across Toronto.”
Also pictured from the night, Liam Tanna, I Child Earth, son of I Mother Earth’s Christian Tanna (right) and country artist Dani Strong— photo credit: Sabrina Citta.
And Domanique Grant — photo credit: Sabrina Citta