toronto tabla ensemble, january 24
The screens scattered around the du Maurier Theatre Centre's stage Friday suggested that Ritesh Das and his Toronto Tabla Ensemble were going to spice up their drum talk with some funky home movies.
Having something to look at would have offered a nice change. The Ensemble's rhythmic tapping has sent more than a couple of spectators into a doze over the years. Like everything the TTE does, though, the visuals were a work-in-progress.
Aside from some psychedelic swirls and a nifty bit that had Das talking tabla to himself, it was largely business as usual, with bits of moody jazz and plenty of drum solos that deserved to be at the front of the stage.
waco brothers, january 27
With the Waco Brothers at the Horseshoe to celebrate the legendary Queen West tavern's 53rd birthday, it appeared that the gods of alt-country music had finally smiled on 'Shoe boys Jeff Cohen and Craig Laskey, who've been trying to wrangle a show with the Chicago hombres for seven years.
A deliriously happy Cohen looked to be fighting back tears of joy as he recounted their valiant struggle to secure a date with the group he introduced as "the greatest rock 'n' roll band on the planet."
Red-faced Wacos frontman Jon Langford, looking surprisingly sober for the occasion, was noticeably chuffed by the gushing praise as he led his black-clad pub rock posse through a career-spanning parade of their non-hits while folks shouted along and hoisted Guinness like it was St. Patrick's Day in Boston.
upcoming, banjo special
For some, seeing a banjo onstage is already one too many, so bringing together four banjo players for a night could be asking for trouble. Well, listen to the Banjo Special disc -- released as part of the annual Banjo Special getdown at the Tranzac Club Saturday (February 1). The styles of the four prime pickers, namely Arnie Naiman, Chris Coole, Brian Taheny and the Foggy Hogtown Boys' Chris Quinn, are varied enough to complement each other beautifully in a back-to-back performance.
"Chris Coole and I thought it would be cool to do a show with two other banjo players," explains Quinn. "We figured it'd be fun for us and the 20 other people who show up at the Oasis.
"But the show totally sold out and there were 40 people waiting in line outside. The following year we moved to the larger Tranzac Club but still had to turn away 75 people. That's when we got the idea to turn the Banjo Special into an annual event, make a recording and maybe do some Banjo Special shows in other cities.
"With the Banjo Special disc, we were aware that having four banjos on the same recording could scare people off. The thing about this particular group of players is that we're not obsessed with the banjo -- we have different backgrounds and we listen to all kinds of music -- so there's a greater depth to the music we play than some people might imagine."
women with soul, february 5
Here's your chance to catch a real live Popstar in person. Former Sugar Jones diva Julie Crochetière (the Celine Dionne-esque one) hooks up with a crew of other femme singer-songwriters, including Natasha Waterman and Rachael Berry at the Reverb Wednesday (February 5) for what's billed as A Story That Celebrates Women In Music.
If the Popstars connection weirds you out (Sugar Jones didn't exactly blow up), the rest of the deal is pretty down-to-earth. They're donating some of the proceeds to Women's Family Services. Check out cool grrl DJ Chocolate, breaks/hiphop queen Dahlia and dope MC Eternia, who shows off her lyrical skills as the evening's host. You can shell out $15 at the door, but advance tickets (at Play de Record, CD Replay, Soundscapes) are five bucks less.