(The Blues Side band performing during a Canada South Blues Society membership drive and show at RockStar Music Hall in Windsor, Ontario, on Nov. 2, 2018. Photo above by Robert Tuomi / Eyes On Windsor.)
Messages Found in the Blues
Despite its infectious rhythm, blues is more than music. It is a melodic recording of life and nowhere was this more evident than Friday night at RockStar Music Hall. The Central Avenue entertainment venue was packed with blues fans all treated to the exceptional talents of two of the brightest lights on the local blues scene, the 519 Band and The Blues Side.
One original Blues Side song put the role of the genre into perspective. Titled, appropriately enough, “Put the Phone Down,” it talked of the grief in a city losing its major employers, and the hardships that follow lost jobs.
Reality, laid out bare and sometimes raw, is what the blues does best. It is something the Canada South Blues Society has decided to showcase. In an interview with Eyes on Windsor, Society President Mike McCann talked of his organization’s duo plans.
The first is to bring more live and local music to the community. There are, he says, “many good players locally but no one has heard of them.”
Friday’s event is the start of what he says could be many more. But, in the short term, he has his sights set on bringing one of the hottest acts from Memphis, Tennessee to the city. Southern Avenue will be at RockStar on the evening of December 7.
This Memphis crew, he explains, is made up of twenty somethings, showing conclusively that the blues is alive and well and new generations are following in the footsteps of its historic pioneers.
History, it turns out, is the second plank in McCann’s plans, specifically a program to bring the blues and its full story to local students. Titled “Blues in the Schools,” McCann is optimistic the program, based on one in Detroit, will expand awareness of the music and its musicians in front of a young audience.
Without question, some of the new generation were already present at RockStar, with the audience as varied in age as the city’s general population.
While blues can reflect the personal woes of its songwriters, or of society, it certainly doesn’t lack energy. To wit, the explosive entry of Blues Side’s lead singer Rick LaBonte. Leaping to the stage, he started Muddy Waters “Got My Mojo Working” and from then on had the audience in the palm of his hands. In typical blues fashion the song is a bit of lover’s lament, revealed in its opening lyric: “Got my mojo working, but it just won’t work on you.”
LaBonte was joined on stage by organist Michael Hereford, bassist John Kersey, lead guitarist Denny Bastarache and drummer Matthew David.
A new member of the 519 Band also provides evidence of the popularity of the blues having no age borders. Ryan Thompson, barely out of high school, is the youngest member of the group and, as the audience discovered, an incredible picker.
Most notable was the unmistakable look of satisfaction emanating from his mentor, the band’s lead singer Jamie Thompson, whenever the younger Thompson breezed through even the most complex guitar licks.
Other band members in the septet include bassist Rob Balint, keyboardist Brian Jones, saxophonist Dave Belch, drummer John Zuliani and harmonica player Giles Provost.
The event was also both a fundraiser and a means to increase Society membership. When the music ended, McCann was proud to say the ranks of his organization were bolstered by 14 new members.
For more information about the Canada South Blues Society visit http://www.bluessociety.ca
Article and photos by Robert Tuomi
For over a decade, Robert has covered local news and community events. Initially as a contributor to CBC Radio’s local morning show and then as the long-time producer and host of CJAM’s The Rest of the News and as a journalist at the Windsor Square. A graduate of the Nikon School of Photography he enjoys illustrating his reports with what he sees through his camera’s lens.
Photos of The Blues Side Band by Dan Boshart
Photos by Dan Boshart
Dan Boshart is a talented photographer from Windsor, Ontario, who is looking forward to spending more time on concert photography when he retires from his full time job in the automotive industry. In addition to shooting bands, he has an interest in travel, architectural and street photography. Some of Dan’s photos can be viewed on Instagram and he can be followed on Twitter.