Archive for the ‘music’ Category

We’re almost halfway through winter. We share your suffering. But we can help! And we will. If you come to Graffiti’s this Thursday we’ll warm you up. Guaranteed.

Hicks & Dawe @Graffitti's Jan 29th 2015

Gig Poster

Starting at 7, we’ll be playing three sets of music interspersed with a number of crowd warming activities like watching you drink alcohol. And helping. We’ll be done a bit after 10, so lots of time to get some sleep afore the joys of Friday morning.

Doc and I, joined again by Lost in Sparse – Neil Kitagawa on sax & bass and Martha Aykroyd on percussion and backup vocals. As always a unique set of tunes, never to be heard this way again.

100th person to arrive gets a special door prize…

Hosting Yor Open Mic

Posted: January 18, 2015 in gigs, music, open mic
Tags: , , ,

I’ll be hosting the Yor Magic Open Mic at the Magic Oven on Keele on January 24th.Hosting Yor Magic Open Mic at The Magic Oven on Keele in #JUnctionTO Also coming will be some friends from Hicks & Dawe, and several other folks I’ve been playing tunes with the last few years. And you, too, if you want to come join us! 2-6PM

header 1I’m delighted to announce a new open mic is opening up in The Junction at The Magic Oven on Keele just below Dundas. Roy Barrs will be running the event and doing the sound, with different musical hosts and MC’s every week. Roy has asked me to do the FaceBook and Twitter feeds for him, and host occasionally, and I’m delighted to do it.

If the hyperlinks don’t work for you, the FB page is: https://www.facebook.com/groups/yorjunctionopenmic/

Twitter is at: https://twitter.com/yormagicmic

Premiere mic is January 3rd, with singer/songwriter Pete Janes hosting. I’ll be playing a few tunes, too …

Graffiti's 14/12/04 PosterOK – it’s on. We’ve got the raffle tickets (free!), and some of the decorations. We’ve got a setlist. Neil has broken out the baritone sax and a pennywhistle. Martha has broken out in harmonies.

By way of saying thanks to those who come out, we’ll have some free giveaways for the raffle like last year, but different, of course. Who knows what – and it’s not too late if you have a suggestion …

We’ve got at least 4 seasonal tunes folded in to the mix, but not ones you hear regularly, if at all. Me on banjos, Doc on guitar, Neil Kitagawa and Martha Aykroyd as Lost in Sparse with horns, bass and percussion.

‘Twas a barrel of fun last year, and will be again. Hope you can make it.

New Rickard banjo

New Rickard banjo

Bill Rickard and I have been friends for some years. We share a love of banjos, most banjo music, and motorcycles. For those who don’t know, Bill makes some of the most amazing banjos around these days. But not only that, he has become a major supplier of banjo parts to the industry. Find him at Rickard Banjos.

He has a shop in Aurora, Ontario, about 40 minutes from my basement. He is an accomplished machinist, and is reproducing many vintage style parts from the first Golden Age of the 5-string banjo (~1880 to ~1910). And not just reproducing them, but making them from better materials, and using modern machining methods to make them even stronger.

If you’ve seen me play, I likely had my go-to banjo, the Ghastlytone, Bill made all the metal parts and collaborated with Hugh Hunter at Midnight Special on some of the woodworking.

Rickard peghead

Rickard peghead

And now, at long last, Ghastly has a companion and a true peer. In mid-October Bill delivered the beast you see above. And because I’m a banjo nerd, I have to describe it. I’ll start at the top…

Bill’s new tuners at 1 and 3, and Bill Keith‘s at 2 and 4 so I can get from doubleD tuning to A or A-sawmill in a hurry.

The peghead inlay is my concept, and Bill’s magic construction. How it ended up is a black pearl cloud with a white pearl edge (how Bill cut this I have no idea!), with a german-silver thunderbolt through it on an ebony back over  the cocobolo neck. It throws off dark rainbows in the light.

Rickard neck (top)

Rickard neck (top)

The neck adjustment access is uncovered, and painted black so it blends in.

The inlays on the neck are raindrops, seemingly randomly scattered down the neck. The actual placement is my design, and Bill and I had many discussions (arguments? angst?) about what materials would be best until we decided on german-silver for the big drops at the standard position markers (1,3,5,7,10,12, 17 and 19) and bluish abalone for the rest.

The pictures don’t do it justice.

Rickard neck (middle)

Rickard neck (middle)

The neck itself is made of cocobolo, one piece cut in half and joined on the middle with a maple/ebony/maple strip.

The fingerboard is ebony, unbound, with 21 stainless steel frets. Scale length is 26-1/2 inches, one of the old Vega standards. It is only 21 frets so I could get the bridge closer to the edge of the pot than Bill normally puts them. There is no frailing scoop.

There are railroad spike capos in the neck at 6, 7, and 8, so I can mess about with key changes and modal tunings with less fuss on stage.

Rickard neck (bottom)

Rickard neck (bottom)

I am a fingerstyle player who plays to the end of the neck, so I need low action (1/8th at 15). The action also needs  to be low so the strings are close enough to the humbucker pickup, supplied by John Kavanaugh, to get decent amplification.

I tried to get the height the same as the Ghastlytone, so I would have less fussing about when dealing with DI boxes and PA systems at gigs. The closer they are to each other – the better.

Rickard pot

Rickard pot

The pot is also beautifully figured cocobolo, with antiqued brass metal to hold the head down.

It’s a 12″ pot, of course, so I can get some decent low-end. Bill was insistent on a 1/2″ pot, while I was worried that anything less than 5/8 or even 3/4 wasn’t going to have enough punch. Bill was right, and I was not.

Rickard pot

inside Rickard pot

It is a LOUD banjo. The Dobson tone ring really rings in this configuration. It is so loud that the rich overtones collide with each other when I’m playing jazzier chords at speed. So I had to put some wool between the tailpiece and the head to kill the noise from the strings past the bridge, and a piece of cork on the perch pole just barely touching the head near the pickup.

Now it’s perfect. And very similar to the Ghastlytone. Now I can’t tell which is better, as they’re both better than anything else modern I’ve heard for the way I play. So – 1/2″ cocobolo rim with a Dobson ring sounds reasonably close to a 3/4″ hard maple rim with a tubaphone. Weird, but I couldn’t be happier. I now have two go-to axes.

One is tuned in D and one in C anyway, so I don’t have to retune on stage between tunes. They will both be going with me to every gig.

Rickard's Oettinger

Rickard’s take on the Oettinger style tailpiece

And the tailpiece. Sometimes I wonder if Bill is a mad genius, sometimes I’m certain.

This massive piece of high tolerance engineering is a true wonder. Bill has taken the Oettinger idea from the Jazz Age and brought it to the space age. Steel allen screws into the brass ensure precise calibration of every arm, so string tension can be balanced for even tone and volume across all the strings. And the overall height is just as easily adjusted as the piece clamps to the rim hooks. For a hot rodder like me – this is a joy. Hours of fiddling to get it the way I want, then I can change my mind and do it all over.

So – Bill – this is an amazing instrument. Well worth all of the time and effort it we’ve put into it over however many months (years?) it has taken.

I’ll post a sound clip as soon as I can get one …

oldnick 141027 poster
Forget Hallowe’en. Toronto’s mayoral election is far scarier. Oct 27th is the big day. So scary that we’re making sure to be in a place where we can drown our sorrows at the bar and soothe our souls with some great music as the results roll in.

That place is the Old Nick, where we’re honoured to have been invited back by Elana Harte for another M Factor Mondays. We’ve got another kick-ass set of tunes, but quite different than the last one we played there.

We’ll be joined again by the inimitable Lost in Sparse – Marthalee Aykroyd on percussion and Neil Kitagawa on sax and bass.

Please come out – we want to be among friends when the news comes out, and you do too … group hugs may help

7:30 PM (we’ll be on about 8:30 or so)

What a great host!

Hosting the open mic at MacKenzies in The Annex


is hosting the open mike October 4th at MacKenzies on Bloor in the Annex. If you play, you get a $5 coupon for whatever you want from the bar or kitchen. Last week there were some very talented people playing some excellent music of all sorts. Should be this week as well – will be for sure if you come … bring yourself and your instrument(s) on down ….

pic junction 140916
TWN says Saturday should be sunny and warm. I hope so, because I’m going to be standing in whatever weather happens from 12-2 at the corner of Quebec and Dundas for the Junction Music Festival. Standing and playing banjo and singing, of course.

If you’re in town and want to catch a few minutes, please come on by and say hi. With over 60 other performances happening in venues all over the Junction, including a number of well known and up-and-coming indie artists – there will be some great listening whatever your tastes in music, .

There are also over 20 local eateries putting on special menus and street food. The Junction has become a real foodie strip in recent years – if you haven’t sampled it yet, you’ll be in for a big treat.

Click HERE to see the festival writeup.

And, yes, I’ll have some CD’s for sale if you need one …

graffitis 140911 poster

Never surrender. The schools may be full, the roads may be full, the leaves may look a bit less green than last week. But we shall prevail – summer is not yet done. Help us make it linger by joining us for some musical spell casting next Thursday at Graffiti’s. The more people, the more likely summer will last at least another few weeks; these spells require participation.

For this fine evening, we will be joined by Lost in Sparse, namely Neil Kitagawa on saxophone and bass, and Martha Aykroyd on percussive things and background vocals. As usual, we have a unique 3-set grouping of tunes, 36 to be exact, that we have never played in this way before, nor will again. Some new very cool tunes, too.

First set starts at 7:30, we’re probably done by 10:30 or so. So come on down – it’s Thursday night and you’ll be fine on Friday, even better because you will know deep inside you have helped extend summer.

September 11th, 2014
7:30PM until 11 or so
Graffiti’s Bar & Grill
130 Baldwin Street (Corner of Kensington, in The Market)

here’s a living room take on a favourite tune from my late friend Wayne. Even the dog liked it – she watched, and then just curled up to listen to us. This is my old friend and mfab Tom Gilmore on harmonica – it’s hard to hear him so we will definitely have to make another recording – he was in fine form. Given how hungover we were, that’s saying something.

Nephew Bill got it on his iPhone, hence the low-res style. But the sound’s pretty good … thanks Bill