When given the opportunity for a long weekend (the latter half of the US Independence Day holiday), Team GDW jumped into the car and ventured north across the Peace Bridge and into southern Ontario. Armed with the knowledge that three of our favorite artists would be performing in downtown Toronto on Friday night, we ventured along the QEW and Gardiner Expressway into The Big Smoke, eager to enjoy some wonderful music on a perfect summer evening.
We travelled to Toronto this same weekend last year (for the Canada 150 celebration) and happened to catch a matinee show from The East Pointers at Nathan Phillips Square. And whether planned or not, our travels to Yonge-Dundas Square on this Friday evening would once again provide us the opportunity to experience this talented trio again. As an added bonus, both Megan Bonnell and The Young Novelists were scheduled to perform too, so once we found a spot up front by the stage, we were ready and raring to hear some music.
The Young Novelists would kick off the evening, and this highly energetic husband and wife duo of Graydon James and Laura Spink never disappoint. With their recently released (and excellent) “In City & Country” album, the duo took the opportunity to share some of their brand new compositions; notably “Two Of A Kind,” “Don’t Wait,“ and “Back To The Hard Times” (featuring lead vocals from Laura). And with so many great choices available from their 2015 “Made Us Strangers” album, the duo would not only open the show with “Singer Songwriter,” but also incorporated both “Brothers In The Garage” and “Hear Your Voice” into their set. With their short 35 minute slot coming to an end, The Young Novelists would return to the new album to perform the up-tempo “Come Round Again.” With some perfectly timed audience participation moments during this number, Laura and Graydon closed their opening duties with a monumental bang.
Following a very brief intermission (props to the stage crew for their well coordinated efficiencies), singer-songwriter Megan Bonnell was introduced to the stage for the 45 minute mid-card duties. We first encountered Megan back in late 2016 during a Great Lake Swimmers show, and quickly sought out her brand new (at the time) “Magnolia” album. Fast forward to earlier this year, and Megan released her third full length album “Separate Rooms,” and as expected, made this the focus for the majority of her stage time. Megan would commence with the first four tracks from this album, opening with “Breakdown,” and followed with the title track, which she co-wrote with Donovan Woods. Seating herself at her keyboard, she would continue with both “What’s Good For You” and “Your Voice” (to which she encouraged the audience to moon-dance). Pausing temporarily from “Separate Rooms,” Megan would demonstrate her up-tempo vocal range with “Golden Boy” (from “Magnolia”), before returning to the new material and flaunting her edgier side with “Someday I’m Gonna Kill You” and “California.” Performing nine tracks in total, Megan and her band (including Chris Stringer on lead guitar) delighted the growing crowd at Yonge-Dundas Square, and while I remained diligent for the full 45 minutes, not once did I encounter any trace of the “Crushing Dystopian Sadness” that Megan promised during our conversation about the new album J.
Another rapid turnaround by the stage crew, and before we knew it, The East Pointers were introduced and were raring to play. Having very recently welcomed this trio of Tim Chaisson, Koady Chaisson and Jake Charron to our part of Central PA during their mini-US tour, we were excited to sample their modern interpretation of traditional PEI music once again (back in Toronto, exactly one year from the first time we saw them play). With their even mix of instrumental and vocal pieces, The East Pointers would draw upon material from both their recent “What We Leave Behind” and debut “Secret Victory” albums. Electrifying with those signature fiddle and banjo instrumental tracks such as “Party Wave,” “Places You’ll Go” and “Tanglewood,” the trio would also demonstrate their fantastic three part harmonies with vocal favorites such as “Two Weeks,” “Miner’s Dream” and their popular cover of the David Bowie classic, “Heroes.” Performing to a lively and engaged crowd, The East Pointers kept the party going in fine fashion, surprising all by introducing guest vocalist Liz Stringer to join them for her additional harmonies on “82 Fires.” With a 12 track set list, the trio would ultimately close both the show and the evening with an extended (audience participation) rendition of “John Wallace;” a live track that always serves them well and leaves you yearning for much more from these gentlemen. And with an announcement that they will be back in Toronto later this year, for many, that opportunity is not too far away.
Spending time with these three artists on a glorious summer’s evening made for a perfect Friday night in downtown Toronto. We continue to enjoy the musical endeavors of all three of these artists, and wish to thank The East Pointers, Megan Bonnell, Chris Stringer, Suzie Ungerleider, and Laura Spink for spending some time with us at Yonge-Dundas Square. It may be too early to know who will be in downtown Toronto next year, but we are looking forward to another great weekend of live music to wrap up the Canada Day celebrations next summer.