Lonesome Town Painters


When watching The Lonesome Town Painters perform it is impossible to keep a smile off your face or keep your feet from tapping.

As one of the top bluegrass acts in the lower mainland the band not only have the sounds to transport you back in time, they also have the look and the drawl of southern gentlemen.

The Painters are heavily influenced by the early pioneers of the style, including Bill Monroe, whose band the Bluegrass Boys are the origin of the name. As is typical of bluegrass bands each member of the band took turns in taking the lead, and having such a talented bunch of musicians, it was always a treat. The combination of mandolin, banjo, guitar and upright bass provided a full and warm sounds that perfectly complemented the balmy lunchtime weather which thankfully had cooled own from it earlier highs, allowing the crowd to spread out on the grass in comfort, and fully enjoy the show.

The set was a great mix of classic bluegrass tunes from the likes of the Stanley Brothers, Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs, as well as some of their own original tracks from their first self-titled album, and their recently second offering Play and Sing Blue Grass Music. Their original numbers reflected the humour of the band members, including songs about criminals from New West and Cheating in East Vancouver…neither of which, the band assured us, where autobiographical 😊

It was a wonderful way to spend a sunny noontime hour.  If you want to hear more from the boys they are headed over to Coombs, where they will be performing at the Coombs Bluegrass Festival, and no doubt charming the goats on the roof – two great reasons to head to the island for the weekend.

You can check out their extensive list of gigs and find out more about the band at their website https://www.lonesometownpainters.com.

In the meantime, check out a few photos from today’s show.

Photos: Stewart Johnstone




Centre of the Performing Arts – Vancouver

Toto kicked of the North America leg of the 40 Trips Around the Sun tour in Vancouver on Monday night. It was a hot a steamy night in Vancouver, and unfortunately the venue, The Centre of the Performing Arts in Vancouver, struggled with the A/C for a while at the start of the show, or maybe it was just the excitement of the audience creating the heat.

Either way, there was a buzz in the theatre, and when the band hit the stage at 8pm the crowd was ready for action. The set kicked off with Alone, a previously unreleased song on the 40 Trips Around the Sun album, which features a handful of previously written, but published tracks in addition to tracks spanning the history of the band.  Whilst the track was well received, the audience were on their feet within the opening bars of the perennial favourite, Hold the Line, which was next up, followed the David Paich penned track Lovers in the Night from the bands most successful album Toto IV.

At this point in the show Joseph Williams introduced keyboard player Xavier Taplin.  A veteran of Prince’s band, he was a last minute stand in for David Paich, who unfortunately was not able to make the start of the tour. Taplin did a phenomenal job throughout the night, and it is hard to believe he managed to master the material on short notice.

Following this short intro, it was straight back in the music, with a great rendition of I Will Remember, which featured one of many blazing solos from Steve Lukather. With Toto’s extensive history as session musicians, as well as band in their own right, they are heavy on solos from all members of the band. English Eyes featured bassist Shem Von Schroek on bass, and Warren Ham on the flute.  It should be noted that both musicians also provided some incredible backing vocals throughout the night, with Von Schroeck singing many of the high notes brilliantly.

Following English Eyes, we had a full-on percussion battle to kick off Jake to the Bone. Shannon Forrest providing drums that would have been at home at a metal concert, as a counter to Lenny Castro congas and other instruments. Not to be outdone this song also featured some fantastic jazz tones from Taplin and to top it off, so top notch shredding from Lukather.

Bring the tempo back down to give the crowd a shot breather, the melodic Lea was next up before everyone was back on their feet for Rosanna, during which Taplin was treated to a nice back massage from Williams for his efforts, who also led some audience participation.

At this point in the show the band had a sit down on and ran through to partial renditions of tracks that the band don’t often play. Each track was introduced by one of the band, with a back story on about the tune.  This was a terrific way to learn a bit about the band’s history, as well and listening to a bunch of songs in a short time, including the Michael Jackson hit Human Nature, with Steve Porcaro penned during the recording of Africa, after his daughter had a difficult day at school.

Girl Goodbye was up next before and after introducing all the band members Steve Lukather introduced the wrong song, which momentarily non-plussed his bandmates who had a laugh at his expense…these things can be expected to happen on the first night of the tour though 😊.  Following Lion and the Dune Desert theme, Lukather introduced While My Guitar Gently Weeps, and absolutely killed it with another outstanding guitar solo. I had seen Joe Satriani earlier in the year, and it made me think it would be awesome if the two of them got together for a session. Following some wonderful sax playing from Ham on Make Believe it was time for the bands most famous hit Africa, which was nicely extended to feature Castro percussion to the max, with Williams again getting the audience to participate in the singing, which of course they did enthusiastically.

After leaving the stage, the band returned for an encore and had a treat in store for the audience. As many will know, the popularity of Africa has had a boost recently, not least because it was covered by the band Weezer. Lukather commented that the band loved the cover, and that fact that to had happened at all, and then announced that the band had decided to return the favour by covering Weezer’s hit Hash Pipe. Mentioning that they had been smoking hash since before Weezer were born and telling the audience (tongue in cheek) not to post it on YouTube “even though we know you will” the band launched into the song, which was a great end to the night.

Overall it was a great start to this leg of the tour, and a great return to Vancouver for Toto.

Photos: Stewart Johnstone


jen hodge

Sweet Dreams of New Orleans

For days now, the good people of the city had struggled with the stifling heat, the sun beating down mercilessly during the day, as the humidity built to make the nights sweaty, and sleep impossible. The only thing they had left to cling onto was the promise of the sweet sounds of sultry jazz filling the air as they sought some respite in the noon hour….New Orleans?? No – Vancouver.

Today, our prayers were answered, at least on the Jazz front, if not the heat, as the Jen Hodge All Stars brought their musical skills to the fore at the CBC Outdoor Plaza.

Jen Hodge is a graduate of the Cap U Jazz Studies program and knew from a very young age that she wanted to play bass for a living.  Her passion, and determination have made that dream come true, and she is now an accomplished bass player, and musical arranger, contributing to many other projects as well as leading a band of her own.

Today’s hour of swinging bass, trombone, guitar, sax and clarinet was just what we needed to forget our sweaty weather woes for a while, and image ourselves on the bayou with a cool Sazerac, and some sweet beignets.

Follow Jen at http://jenhodgebass.com, where you can find details of upcoming gigs, and access to her music with the All Stars and other groups she performs with.

Photos: Stewart Johnstone

The Long War

CBC Outdoor Plaza – Vancouver

The Long War have had a very busy year. Having won the CBC Searchlight in 2017, the band were commissioned by the CBC to write a song as part of the Canada 150 celebration, performing “Oh Canada (Carry The Flame)” at Canada day celebrations in Ottawa. In addition to this recording, they also managed to find time between festivals and other performances to record their debut album Landscapes released earlier this year.

Today the five-piece rockers were back at the CBC Outdoor Plaza, almost a year to the day that they last graced the stage. Once again, they did not disappoint. The band are even tighter now than they were a year ago, and the addition of a new set of songs from the album was a welcome addition to the set.

If today’s show whetted your appetite you can catch the band at The Rickshaw Theatre on July 27th where they will be headlining with Jasper Sloan Yip, Year of the Wolf and Old.Soul.Rebel. also on the bill.

They will be back in town for a show at the Imperial in September, with more detail coming shortly.

Keep tabs on the band at https://www.thelongwarband.com

Photos from today’s show: Stewart Johnstone





CBC Outdoor Plaza – Vancouver

Victoria based Fallbrigade made the trip from the island to delight the crowd at the CBC Outdoor Plaza on Wednesday.  The band was originally formed by brother and sister duo Caleb Scott and Esther Jungclaus in 2012 and were later joined by Esther’s husband Matthew Jungclaus.

Their music is hard to categorize, with many of their songs start of slowly and quietly, showcasing either Esther or Caleb’s vocals, and lulling you into a false sense of security before suddenly ramping up the tempo and before you know it you are listening to a full-on rocker.

Whilst many of the tracks, such as Lost at Sea, Wanted Man and These Walls were upbeat, there were also reflective moments, provided by songs like Crimson Red.

The band saw out the afternoon with the hold crowd clapping along to a track called Together Now, which was a great ending to the set.

If you are on the island you can catch the band at The Duke Saloon in Victoria on August 17th.  Follow them on the website at https://www.fallbrigade.com for more shows and links to get hold of their music.


Photos: Stewart Johnstone


portraits of us


CBC Outdoor Plaza – Vancouver

Portraits of Us is a duo from the Fraser Valley, BC comprising married couple Jason and Anna Ratzlaff. Although both have musical backgrounds, they only formed the duo as recently as 2016, although in the brief time since then they have managed to pack a lot in including playing original music with the Chilliwack Symphony Orchestra.

This afternoon, the audience was treated for a “two’fer Tuesday” deal, as the duo split their performance into two distinct sets, each with its own sound.  For the first half an hour the duo performed with drum and upright bass accompaniment.  The set of comprised a broad canvas of melodic numbers, with an obvious theme of young love, with the acoustic guitar providing soft Americana/country elements to the set, and nicely complementing their vocal harmonies.

For the second part of the show we were treated to a performance by the duo’s new project The Crescent Sky, where they were joined by Regan and Anna Luth. With the additional of two more voice, as well as percussion and a violin, this part of the set had a distinctly different feel. The fuller vocals, and additional strings produced and almost Celtic sound at times. For a new project the band gave an incredibly tight performance, and clearly enjoy working together.

If you want to find more about Portraits of Us, you can follow them at their website https://www.portraitsofusduo.com/ . For The Crescent Sky check out https://www.facebook.com/thecrescentsky/

For now, enjoy our images from today’s show:

Photos: Stewart Johnstone

adam robert thomas

CBC Outdoor Plaza – Vancouver

JUNO Nominated Adam Robert Thomas performed an hour of mostly instrumental jazz at the CBC Outdoor Plaza today. Thomas, who has been more widely known as a talented bassist today was taking on lead vocals and guitar, fronting what was a very talented group of musicians.

Music has always been a key part of Thomas’ life, from his early days listening to the likes of John Denver enthused him with a desire to perform. His continued dedication and awakened a natural that has seen him attend music school at the University of North Texas; play with many global and local greats, and in 2016 get a nomination for Vocal Jazz Album of the year for his work with Dan Brubeck.

March of 2018 saw him release his first full length, self-titled, album which you can find via his website https://adamrobertthomas.com/ or via your favourite streaming service. The album successfully debuted at #11 on the R&B charts in the US.

Photos: Stewart Johnstone

rumba calzada

CBC Outdoor Plaza – Vancouver

Juno nominees, and perennial Jazz Fest favourites Rumba Calzada got the crowds up and dancing with some hot latin beats at the CBC Outdoor plaza today. Check out our photos from the performance below:

Photos Stewart Johnstone

dawn pemberton

CBC Outdoor Plaza – Vancouver

Coming off the back of a successful appearance at last weekend’s Vancouver Folk Music Festival, Dawn Pemberton was in fine form at the CBC Plaza in Vancouver this lunchtime.  The vocal dynamo was keeping her musical strength up in the run up to performing at the Surrey Fusion Festival this coming Saturday evening.

Back by her equally talented band, Pemberton ran through a set which covered the gamut from jazz to gospel, with a whole bunch of funk and soul thrown in for fun.

After kicking things off with the sultry Deeper from her CD Say Somethin’, which really showcased her range, we were treated to a set that showcased covers from the likes of Curtis Mayfield, Chaka Khan and Stevie Wonder, along with many of Pemberton’s own compositions. Everything was performed flawlessly, and was a wonderful demonstration of why she is one of the most sought-after vocalists across western Canada.

Strange as it may seem, Pemberton did not always have confident in her abilities as a singer, and despite growing up in a musical family it wasn’t until high school that she realized that she just might have something special to share. Thankfully for us all she did, and she is more than willing to share her talents.  In addition to singing in her own right, she is also director of the Roots ‘n’ Wings Women’s choir, and contributes to high school choir programs across the lower mainland.

If you are in the mood for more of her soulful voice you can catch her at Guilt and Co tomorrow, the Fusion Festival on Sunday and the Vancity Roots and Culture experience on Sunday, before she heads out of town on a short tour with The Harpoonist and the Axe Murderer.

You can follow Dawn at http://dawnpemberton.ca/

Photos: Stewart Johnstone


jack garton and the deMon squadron


CBC Outdoor Plaza – Vancouver

Whilst General Jack Garton did not bring the full army of the Demon Squadron on his invasion of Vancouver today, he certainly did bring all the energy and excitement that comes with his unique type of military operation.

Renowned for his unconventional playing style, he can often be seen playing the accordion and the trumpet at the same time, Garton had the lunchtime crowd surrendering to his friendly fire in no time at all. (No more military references, I promise 😊).

Garton’s songs cover a broad spectrum, but most appear to draw from his own experiences, and are often viewed through the lens of his active sense of humour.  Before launching into the aptly titled “Sucks At Sports “, Garton reminisced about always on in right outfield in t-ball, somewhere where he would not have to touch the ball. The track was one of a number from Garton’s latest album Love You Over Time, which was released in June.

You can catch Jack Garton and the Demon Squadron later in the summer at the Bella Coola Music Festival, and the ArtsWells festival.

To keep up to date with his music and touring schedule check out https://jackgarton.com/

In the meantime, stand to attention, and eyes-right to our gallery of shots from today’s outing.

Photos: Stewart Johnstone