All entries in the shows category

Video Demo Time

I had two full (and successful) test shows a week ago. But when I reached out to a booking agent I had never met, I realized from his response (and at least temporary rejection) that he didn’t fully comprehend what I was providing. Therefore, I decided that I must provide a clear video demo to book new shows. After editing a demo at home, I shared it with a few friends/family, asking for feedback. Wow — there was a lot of constructive feedback. I got pretty upset at first — not because of criticisms — but because I realized that I had to do it all over again. Time feels so short and I’m missing some of my primary goals with these detours. I don’t even know if the demo will capture anything for me.
Correction — after typing that, I know it HAS TO capture stuff for me! This ain’t no boring, “Listen to my mp3” way of doing things. Onward!

Photo by Vanessa Aquarius

Photo by Vanessa Aquarius

Soon Time to Test

As part of following the Lean Startup method, I’m letting you know that I am 2 weeks away from testing something new in front of a live audience. The attached thingy came in the mail today and is part of the cruelty-free test.

iguana plush

He’s almost cute.

SHOW – Green Party Rhino Bar & Grill

(back-dated to night of show)
I was surprised and pleased that the Rhino Bar & Grill donated a large upstairs space to the Green Party cause, specifically for Canadian Federal Green Party hopeful Mark O’Brien. In addition to being a good speaker, he danced, he sang, and he played live Andean folk music as well! His band of 7 was decent and musically honest. The massive pan pipes blew me away — no pun intended.
As for my own performance, I performed a new grand total of 6 slide-show songs. They went on basically without a hitch. I noticed several people puzzled with my unorthodox presentation, including Provincial Green Frank de Jong, who was a very pleasant fellow and conveyed the usual good qualities of a leader.
I chatted with various other people there, including Alex, Andrew, Sam, Gary, and others. There were quite a few South Americans at this show, definitely due to Mark O’Brien’s ties to the band and his family. Those of us Canadian-born would not have hit the dancefloor were it not for their easy dancing, especially this wee little fellow (Mark’s son I think) whose bundled energy kept him running and dancing around all night. Pretty cute.
Anyway — good show, good times — good luck to the Greens on Canada’s Jan 23 election.

SHOW: TARS Get-Together

(back-dated to evening of performance)
Mid-week I got a call from Toronto Animal Rights Society head honcho Adam Wilson to play their bi-weekly potluck again. It’s a great local group — about 45 people attended this time with veg*n food to share and veg*n minds to confer. The feature of the evening was vegan writer Erik Marcus, who drove through the terrible weather from Boston to speak about his new book Meat Market. He spoke well and must have unloaded at least 30 copies of his book. He spoke of a “4th Movement” (in addition to health, environment, and ethics) for veg*ns to focus on in order to make real changes in the world. Specifically, the activist focus should be on dismantling the animal farming industry rather than taking other approaches. Animal farming is where the vast majority of all animal exploitation takes place, and the arguments against the practice are strong and compelling. You should order his book if you want the full scoop. I made sure to grab a copy. Apparently he also has podcasts on Vegan.com each week which I plan to check out.
As for my own performance, I went on late and therefore only got through about 6 songs. I am starting to make some of my songs a bit weirder so my show is more entertaining. And as I’ve noticed before, some people love it and some people think I belong on the Gong Show. Yee-har!
I am planning to have some simple video text footage accompany me in the near future for additional impact, and I wanted to try the idea out for the very first time at this gig — but I was unable to solve all the technical issues in time. No matter, it will happen soon methinks.
I saw quite a few people I knew at the show. I greeted Kera, Taunya from the Toronto Vegetarian Association and her boyfriend, Holly and her sister Brooke, Patrick, William, Paul, John, and a few others. I sold a handful of cd’s and hopefully made some new friends through my e-mail list. I will now endlessly spam Jenny, Angie, Somal, Rosemary, James, Isabelle, Gideon, and Nitasha. Welcome to Planet Dyniss!
In conclusion, it was an enjoyable evening as usual with the TARS gang.

SHOW: Zoocheck – Steam Whistle Brewery

(back-dated to night of performance)
This was my first show at the Steam Whistle Brewery in Toronto near the CN Tower. Neat place, right downtown. I was playing a benefit for Zoocheck, an animal rights organization. I hadn’t heard of them before, but I was rather impressed to hear that it was their 20th anniversary. Organizer Mel had enthusiasm and seemed to be great with the PR, and I met the Zoocheck founder Rob, who was well-spoken and clearly had been dealing with animal rights issues for a long time. I drilled him for more info on the organization which he gave without hesitation. It was neat to discover that he was straight-edge like me.
As for entertainment that night, there was a big drum troupe, human acrobats, a fire-breather/dancer, and musicians. Quebecois musician Julie Crochetiere had a lovely voice and some jazz-influenced songs. She was backed by a guitarist and a violinist (Alex), who I chatted with for a bit and found out he quit mechanical (?) engineering to play music. Friendly DJ Hali did double-duty as the live sound guy. He cobbled together and ran the sound system for the night.
I pre-mixed myself (vocal, guitar, and iPod) through my spankin’ new Roland AC-60 amplifier. I know the amp will be a future life-saver when I won’t be able to count on a good sound person, which happens often.
It was my first night out of the house after being in bed for a week with a fever. I had a decent performance, although my runny nose ran and my cracking voice cracked. People were having a good time, and I estimated at least 120 people in attendance.
I saw some of my veg*n friends like Kira, Paul, and Holly, and my friend Laura hung out with us.
The best moment of the night however had to be watching one particular attendee dance. A young fellow in a wheelchair, obviously living without the use of his legs, hit the dance floor with two young women. He looked happy, they looked happy, and they all danced enthusiastically. The guy just swung his head to the beats (quite well, I might add). It was beautiful, and I wish I saw this sort of thing all the time.
DJ Hali spun some good funky stuff to close the evening, but feeling a bit ill meant I had to go before it was all over.

SHOW: El Mocambo – Acoustic Syndicate

(Back-dated to date of performance)
The El Mocambo upstairs was WAY nicer than the last time I was there (we’re talking several years ago), with mirrored walls, nice ceiling lights and speakers, and a stage at one end instead of the centered (but awkward) location it used to be at. Actually, mirrors are usually the worst thing you can put in a live music club for sound, but the trade-off here was the gain of artificial space.
I found out that the organizers had to pay $100 just to use the space, which is cheap as far as renting anywhere in Toronto goes. But many live venues are also in fact free to play at. The clubs really just want you to bring people out. Sadly, the rental fee didn’t include a house sound guy, which was evident through some occasional feedback and troubled mixes. But this was totally DIY, so a big fat “A” must go out to whoever was at the controls.
Supreme Organizer Jay Cleary added me to the list of acts for his first of hopefully many future evenings of the Acoustic Syndicate. I went on 2nd. I played 4 songs and gave out a free cd to the fellow who correctly identified the Green Party as the “best” Canadian political party (whatever “best” means) before I sang The Green Anthem. Do you think I’m politically biased? Naw!
I was feeling rushed to play my songs quickly, so I ran out of breath a wee bit while singing during my set. Must… learn… …to… …relax…
My performance of my slightly-silly song Seekers didn’t really go over all funny-like with the crowd like I had hoped, making me think that I should have whipped out only my delicate singer-songwriter tunes instead. But nay.
I stayed for about a half-dozen more performers. Some were “green” in terms of stage experience, some were decent. “Fin” followed me, along with some names I remember like Ben (somebody) and Little Girl. Todd from Trucks Leaving was on before me. It was a common mix for a singer-songwriter evening. Actually, I think I was the oldest dude there, next to a dad who came in to see his daughter play and who promptly left after her performance (along with the daughter).
The crowd appeared to be content and were attentive. The mood was good, the vibe was good. People were enjoying their drinky-drinks, and there seemed to be a fair number of couples hanging out. It was great to be back at the Elmo, where I’d played many times before in other bands as a drummer.
(Feel free to comment on this show, especially if you were there…)

SHOW: Rancho Relaxo

(Back-dated to date of performance)
Going up the stairs via the understated door on 300 College Street brought me into Rancho Relaxo around 8:30pm. Things were barely set up for the other two bands, so I went downstairs to the restaurant and got an herbal tea. Without question, a hot herbal tea before a gig really helps vocals!
People were coming in at a steady pace and filling up the room even before I was on, but there was no doorperson. I later announced on stage to the audience that the musicians would be oh-so-happy if the cover charge got paid, and I’m pretty sure that a bunch of people paid.
There was no time for me to soundcheck, so when I hit the stage I started playing right away.
The crowd was smiley, upbeat, and attentive. I tried my song Do You Want to Love Iguanas? for the very first time in front of an audience, and methinks it was a success with some woo-hooing in mid-song that followed my baboon impression. However, I forgot some words in my song I Lost It, which is about ignoring homeless people. Oh well. The scary part on stage for me during the set was when I played The Green Anthem, when I thought I had broken a guitar string. I thought, “CRAP! I didn’t bring a backup guitar! I knew it, I KNEW it!” But I hadn’t broken any strings — I had simply hallucinated from pressing too hard on the guitar neck.
My friend Loran was kindly videotaping me at the back of the club. I snickered when he showed me some footage afterward — I had this weird rock pose going on at one point.
The Blueberry Trees followed me. I chit-chatted with Marc from the band for a bit, he seems to be a drummer gone songwriter with a pretty straight attitude. I talked with his brother who bought a CD and told me about his DJ-ing, and spoke with his girlfriend. All very positive folks. The other bandmembers should all also be added to the “nice guy” list. The band’s sound was sort of Barenaked Ladies meets R.E.M. — it had a nice and happy vibe overall.
The Fortunates closed the evening with an hour-plus set. It was the first time I had seen or heard them without me playing with them, and my absence was irrelevant, as they put on a good performance of original tunes plus one Beatles song. The crowd really perked up for the Beatles song, which goes to show how much people will respond to songs they already know!
I must mention the soundperson “Spock”, who kept my curiosity peaked while he played flute on and off at the soundboard while he was doing sound. I can’t say that I’ve seen that before. He had a bit of a fight throughout the evening, since a pesky hum just wouldn’t disappear from the speakers and monitors when the bands were on.
And The Fortunates had their friend Ian Gibbons whom Mike had spoken highly of many times taping their show on both video and audio. He appeared to be very attentive to technical considerations and well-prepared.
It was good to see my old bandmates again: Mike, Jay, Darren, and Anthony — and their significant others: Alex, Christine, and Laura. Jay and Christine are getting married in 5 weeks, zowie! Darren and I shot the s**t for awhile.
Loran and I were almost the last folks to leave the club, having thoroughly enjoyed the evening.
(Comment on this show by clicking below right)

SHOW: TARS Get-Together

(Back-dated to date of performance)
This show was the TARS (Toronto Animal Rights Society) bi-weekly get-together — my fave animal rights association. There was a decent turnout (60+ people) — I thought there would be low attendance with the snow and cold outside. I told a woman afterward that I didn’t eat before playing because I would have burped while singing — certainly not conducive to superior vocals…
I naturally began with my song My Guinea Pig. During my set, people were pretty chatty, but I was happy that my fellow animal rights friends were in such good spirits.
I met some new people like Pat, Suzanne and Cheryl(?). Saw folks I knew from before like Adam, Jill Binder, Holly, Paul (I met his kids who seemed pretty cool), Erik, William, Vishal, Alan, Kirti and others.
I had rented a 100-watt Yorkville combo amp that handles acoustic guitar and vocals, but I don’t think I’ll buy it — it’s lacking in a few features that I want, like eq for the vocal channel.
The documentary we watched after my performance had an excellent explanation of one animal rights lawyer’s take on the “legal wall” separating non-human animals from humans. He had a very realistic opinion of when the first inroad might be made giving animals rights : 10 to 15 years for maybe a chimpanzee. And the right would be very basic.
The realistic downer of the documentary was one woman’s comment saying that by the time we get some real non-human animal rights in effect, it may be too late to help any of them. Creatures such as chimps and whales are considered more “intelligent” than other animals, so they are the likely first recipients of any rights given to non-human animals. The problem is that by the time we give them any rights, they may be extinct.

SHOW: One Sixty Lounge, Toronto, Dec 12 2004

A last-minute invite brought me to the One Sixty Lounge above Metropolis Records in Toronto. The hosts were KA’rina and Gaspare, two local New Age gurus whose parties I had attended before.
However, I was a bit freaked-out upon arrival. Going up the dark empty stairs to the gig, I heard loud and mildly distorting choir music. The choir seemed to be repeating itself with an unpleasant tune. At first I didn’t know if it was real, and mixed in with it was some other droning music. But as I reached the door at the top of the steps, I realized my musician friend Michael Moon was in fact playing on the stage inside. The blend of his music and the stairwell’s pre-recorded music was an unnerving mix. Scary!
No matter — I came in and joined the small crowd. The place was decked-out with a variety of New Age paraphenalia: an altar covered with nik-naks, video displays, a computer display, candles, incense, a bed with all sorts of things attached to it, geometric structures, some groovy lights, and paper angels.
I barely sat down before KA’rina on stage invited everybody in the place to join hands in a circle. I wanted to opt out, but I quickly realized that I would be the only person abstaining. I didn’t want to be that anti-conformist.
If you wanted to stereotype what we looked like, you might say that it was some kind of Satanic ritual. Our hand-in-hand circle surrounded an altar. There were some “Omms”, some “Ahhs”, and some deep breathing with eyes closed. Once in the circle, I went through the usual thoughts of, “Is my hand sweaty to the next person?” and so on. By the time it was over I felt pretty good — I had been a bit grumpy before. We had concentrated on our heart flames and such things. It wasn’t my usual world, but I often try to drop my prejudices and accept everything with a positive open mind, and it was a positive experience indeed.
Shortly thereafter, I set myself up on stage, fighting a bit with the line mixer to get things happening.
I got the name of the woman closest to me in the audience (Johanna) and sang my Christmas song to her. She was really taken by it, coming right up on stage and hugging me quite genuinely. I think I blushed a wee bit.
Anyhoo, I did 3 more songs and that was it. I had chosen mellow ones to go with the mellow evening.
I chatted with magician Loran, a friendly Quebecois acquaintance of mine. He subsequently did some entertaining magic on stage. I said goodbye to Laura Nashman, my excellent flutist friend who was also there hanging out. Met some dude named Alex.
I said my farewells early, I had things to do that night.

SHOW: Clinton’s Toronto Dec 10 2004

I live very close to Clinton’s, so it was a very short bus ride to this gig. Clinton’s has some historical meaning for me — it’s where I used to hang out in my university days. Many evenings were spent there when I should have been studying.
I was added to the roster last minute, having e-mailed friendly Trevor of Solstice, the headlining folk/roots local act.
A Christmas benefit! I thought. I could play my Christmas song…
And that is what I did. The benefit was for the Daily Bread Food Bank. I donated two vegetarian organic items: one can and one carton of soup.
As is usual for most indie gigs, things were running late. I chilled out and watched the performers before me, including Canadian folk treasure Bob Snider. I chatted it up with my old friend James, my ex-girlfriend Simonee, her mom Neusa, and the soundman Fletch of Sex Without Souls fame (I had recorded that band some years earlier). Neusa told me while we were chatting that she had been laid-off from Kodak only a few hours earlier. Tough day for her.
I hit the stage. I mentioned that my Christmas song was kind of related to the night’s benefit. Christmas is so commercialized while people go hungry! (But you already knew that.)
I spent a full minute trying to get the attention of the girl nearest to the stage. Although I was loud and obnoxious trying to get her attention, she was the only person in the club not looking at me. Finally, I got her attention and her name (Judy), and sang my song to her. She was quite a good sport while I repented my love for her repeatedly in the song (I think she was on a date with some guy — sorry dude).
I got an encore from the audience (after 1 song? *stunned* — must have been friends), so I played a 2nd song, Generaligion.
Other acts followed me, including Virginia Dimoglou, whose Patsy Klein-esqe purity of voice just blew me away. I chatted with old friend Cathy, wife to James. Solstice finished the evening with some funky folky country twangy tunes. James joined them on a few tunes with banjo. They need a drummer to really complete the band IMHO, but I shouldn’t talk — I was playing solo.