Having enjoyed catching up with The Once during their Friday evening performance at the Sound Of Music Festival, Team GDW took delight in seeing plenty of artists over the course of the weekend.  What we found particularly impressive about the format of this festival was the diversity of musical styles on offer, split across four stages, and grouped together by similar genres.  Whether opting to plant yourself at one stage, or sample several, there was no shortage of great music available for music fans of all ages and tastes.  Opting to avoid the crowds around the main TD stage, we found plenty of great choices around the smaller stages to satisfy our musical cravings over this weekend.

After bidding farewell to The Once backstage on Friday evening, we made our way to the Cogeco stage, lured in part by the amazing brand of blues music being performed by Jack de Keyzer and his band.  Following the release of his brand new “Checkmate” album, Jack and his five-piece band were already in full swing upon our arrival, with a decent sized crowd dancing away to this infectious music around the stage.  Staying true to the blues-rock genre, Jack de Keyzer not only possesses some great vocal work, but handles his lead guitar duties with relative ease.  Add in the tremendous skills of his bandmates, and suddenly tracks such as “Voodoo Boogie” prove to be simply explosive in the live environment.  With a remote connection to his guitar, Jack would even head down from the stage and into the crowd during a lengthy solo, performing amongst the dancers and not missing a beat, before retracing his steps and returning to his microphone in time for his final verse.  Adding in a couple of popular cover versions kept the crowd actively engaged, dancing away to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” mid-set, and closing the show with the Rolling Stones hit “Miss You.”

Returning to the Cogeco stage on Saturday, there were plenty of artists scheduled to perform across the day to keep us firmly rooted in this part of Burlington.  Opening the festivities on this morning, Toronto singer-songwriter Lydia Persaud would grace the stage and share her brand of soul, jazz and R&B.  Team GDW had the pleasure of chatting with Lydia upon the release of her current EP, “Low Light,” making this opportunity to finally see her perform live an essential part of our weekend.  Joined on stage by a full band, including guitarist Dean Drouillard, Lydia would not only share tunes from the EP, but road-test some new material (“No Answer”) for a forthcoming release.  Mixing up old and new, Lydia would add “More Of Me,” “Would You Believe” and the EP title track, “Low Light.”  We appreciated the opportunity to chat with Lydia after her set, and look forward to seeing her once again at the Sawdust City Music Festival later this summer.

Remaining at the Cogeco stage, we were eager to catch some music from the next artist, Dennis Ellsworth.  Team GDW recently chatted with Dennis about his latest “Things Change” album, and had circled his name as an artist we absolutely had to see live when looking at the festival lineup.  Accompanied by the band Royal North (an occasional collaboration between both artists performing under the moniker The Pangs), Dennis was armed with plenty of new material to share on this sunny afternoon.   Opening with “I Need A Vacation,” Dennis would add “She’s Never Wrong,” “Couldn’t Care Less” and the title track, “Things Change” into his set.  Stepping away momentarily from the new album material, performances of “So Many Ways” (The Pangs) and an unreleased track, “First To Cry” were shared too.  Boasting a total of fourteen songs, Dennis Ellsworth would close his set with “Stoned,” stating that he had written this track with hopes that it could become the new Canadian national anthem.

With one more artist set to perform on the Cogeco stage before a lengthy intermission, we were more than comfortable sticking around to experience our first taste of music from Winnipeg artist Joey Landreth.  Best known as a member of the alternative country/folk group, The Bros. Landreth, we had no familiarity with Joey’s music, but had seen much social media chatter amongst some of our music friends lately, which only piqued our curiosity. With a generous sixteen track set list, Joey would share both solo tracks from his 2017 “Whiskey” EP (“Gone Girl” and “Whiskey”) and hits from The Bros. Landreth. (“Made Up Mind,” “Firecracker” and “Let It Lie”).  Serving up his distinct vocal sound and blues guitar (with some impressive slide action), Joey would debut an upcoming release titled “Forgiveness;” which hopefully hints of much more music very soon.  With tales of life on the road and of catching up with good friends, he would invite Lydia Persaud back to the stage for a pair of duets, notably “Time Served” and “I Want To Make It With You.”  He would also pay homage to American blues legend Johnny Guitar Watson, with a cover version of Watson’s “Lovin’ You,” before ultimately closing his set with a return to his EP and performance of the track “Better Together.”

Taking time to walk around Burlington and enjoy dinner at a local establishment, Team GDW returned to the Cogeco stage wanting to catch some music from teen sensation Avery Raquel.  With three albums already under her belt, it is hard to believe that Avery is still a high school student; albeit one with an incredibly bright musical future ahead of her.  Demonstrating a strong passion for jazz at such a young age, her most recent “My Heart Away” album sees Avery retaining those jazz roots whilst adding some sweet soul music to her repertoire.  Taking to the stage with a full band, including jazz pianist extraordinaire Adrean Farrugia, Avery would satisfy fans of both genres with a sixteen track set-list spanning her entire musical catalog. Taking time to promote her new album, eight of the nine tracks from “My Heart Away” were performed, opening with “What You Are To Me,” and adding “I Think I’m Falling,” “Who I Am,” (CBC song of the week) and “Beauty In Goodbyes.”  Paying tribute to some of her musical influences and idols, Avery offered up some wonderful covers of the Randy Newman hit “You’ve Got A Friend In Me,” and the Amy Winehouse track “Valerie,” before ultimately returning to the new album and closing with “Pieces.”

Headlining the Cogeco stage on this Saturday night would be none other than Canadian jazz legend, Molly Johnson.  This Juno award winner and Officer of the Order of Canada would grace the stage with an elite troupe of modern-day jazz stalwarts: Justin Abedin (guitar), Mike Downes (bass), Robi Botos (keyboards) and Davide DiRenzo (percussion).  Fusing their signature jazz sound with some soul and funk grooves, this show proved to be much more than your standard jazz fare.  Promoting her brand new “Meaning To Tell Ya” album, Molly and her band naturally shared several new tracks.  From “L.O.V.E.” and “Better Than This,” to “I’ve Been Meaning To Tell You” and “Lady Day And John Coltrane,” every new song was performed flawlessly and entertained the hundreds of fans that had flocked to this stage  for the opportunity to see one of Canada’s finest in person.  Of course, Molly is a gifted orator too, conversing with the crowd throughout the night and offering tales of her past, her music, and the inspirations behind the new tunes.  With a couple of great Billie Holiday covers added for good measure (“Lady Sings The Blues” and “Don’t Explain”), two more new tunes were added; the politically savvy “Protest Song,” and to ultimately close the show, “Together.”  Following a well-deserved standing ovation, all five musicians would return for a final encore presentation, offering an amazing rendition of the George Gershwin classic, “Summertime.”  What a climatic finish to our first Sound of Music Festival, and what an introduction to this Canadian icon’s music.  Team GDW very much look forward to returning to Burlington for the 40th anniversary of this event next summer.

Martin Noakes

The British guy that crossed the ocean and crash landed in central Pennsylvania (to quote Greg Keelor, “And I wonder what am I doing here?”). As the youngest of four siblings, exposure to music from a very early age nurtured my passion and appreciation for many musical genres. Continuing to discover some amazingly diverse and talented musicians based in Canada, I gravitate to live music experiences and remain devoted to spreading the word about such a vibrant music scene.