Toronto Blues Society | » July 2020 – Loose Blues News

July 2020 – Loose Blues News

Published July 6, 2020 in Loose Blues News, News

“Almost Live” Blues: A solid offering of live Blues in Covid came from the stage at Donnelly’s Pub in the city of Thorold, a long-time hub for the genre in the Niagara Region. Most are familiar with Thorold (which banks on the Welland Canal) as home of The Canal Bank Shuffle, a 3-day festival in October featuring Blues performances big and small, with Donnelly’s stage being a festival staple. A solid stop on the Ontario blues map. 

The “Almost Live” series had a live-to-tape weekly performance at Donnelly’s uploaded consistently from March to June throughout Covid, a noteworthy collection of musical offerings made while others were just cautiously crawling out of isolation. There’s a comforting sense of normalcy in watching the chemistry of fine performers interacting musically on a real stage.  

Uploading their first videos at the end of March, it’s from the get-go that Donnelly’s tries a hand at keeping musicians together and working. Each Monday, taped in the closed venue, guest performers were backed by the Brant Parker Band (in most sessions Sean O’Grady, Brad Krauss and Al Duffy of the Jack de Keyzer Band) with virtual tips shared among artists and videographers. 

Viewers were steered to donate via the Canal Bank Shuffle Facebook page, which is where the videos can still be viewed, as well as on the Canal Bank’s YouTube channel. Catch performances by Spencer MacKenzie, Virgil Scott, Jake Chisolm, Chris Ayries, Josh Miller, and more.

Listening to the musicians banter in the early footage suggests the taped shows were originally intended to tide over the Donnelly’s audience missing their weekly blues fix of Wednesday night open mic or the Saturday Afternoon Blues Series. The project was indeed initiated before anyone realised how deeply Covid would impact the industry and musicians’ livelihoods. The series continued to grow as the prognosis for live shows worsened, and this gives the series a feel of trailblazing as musicians continued to perform and share a stage together through the pandemic (with appropriate restrictions in place), a great testament to Canal Bank Shuffle’s enthusiasm…trekking along in the worst of times.

Drive-In Blues Concert July 31 in Thorndale: As announced on the Cruise In Concerts Facebook page, live music is back! The Purple Hill Country Hall will be hosting an outdoor drive-in blues show taking place on July 31 in Thorndale, just east of London. Cruise In Concerts lists the show beginning at 7pm with tickets starting at $99 per carload, purchased through the TicketWindow site complete with a ‘seating’ plan of parking spots to choose from. Legendary bluesman Bill Durst will be headlining, with additional performances by Tim Woodcock and Cheryl Lescom, and special guests The Chris Trowell Band. 

According to The London Free Press, a regional Health Unit inspector has reviewed the Cruise In Concerts setup and things are looking good. Though promoters do not need to seek permission for events, nor does Public Health or the Ministry issue approvals for shows, they still can serve in assisting organisers with health related regulation, be it advising on washroom upkeep or distancing implementation. 

Cars will be distanced 2 m. apart, without room for outdoor sitting, due to Covid-19 regulations still in place (the ticket site states that audience members must stay within their vehicles for the performances, unless using washroom facilities). Also, Covid-19 prevents the locale from providing concession stand service at this time and the public is urged to bring their own snacks and refreshments. To purchase tickets, see site.

Ottawa Blues Drive-In shows in Gatineau: The latest announcement from Ottawa Blues: “The National Arts Centre and RBC Bluesfest are coming together to present #CanadaPerforms at the RBC Bluesfest Drive-In, a summer weekend series of live concerts presented at Place des Festivals – Zibi (Gatineau, QC). Drive in, park and watch the live concert from the comfort of your vehicle by the Kitchissippi River. Tune your radio to our dedicated station for a next-level sound experience! All City and Provincial guidelines will be followed to ensure this event meets or exceeds all recommended standards. Simultaneous broadcast via Facebook Live will also be available.”

Should you get a chance to travel to the Ottawa region, the multi day performances are packed with a wide variety of talent, including the following blues-leaning performers: Crystal Shawanda, Terra Lightfoot, Julian Taylor, KellyLee Evans, Lyle Odjick. 

The Ottawa festival still retains its Blues moniker though it’s known to draw massive crowds by booking big-ticket Rock, Indie and Pop bands (previous years saw performances by Foo Fighters, Shawn Mendes, Pink and Red Hot Chilli Peppers to name a few). Most of this year’s larger-scale acts have been postponed til 2021.

Mulligan’s Pub: Mulligan’s Pub in Mississauga kept live music buoyant and alive in Covid with an incredibly successful Stay At Home Concert Series, streaming bands from the Pub’s own stage. It caught on in popularity with viewers and attracted some media attention with the Toronto Sun reporting an engaged viewership of up in the 8,000+ range for some streams.

Equally important as keeping musicians working and earning was their ability to plan a sustainable series through sponsorship, and with a great dose of humour too: at every performance a cardboard cutout audience wearing Carlsberg Beer swag attentively looked on.

Being sponsored by the Carlsberg Group allowed the establishment to keep hiring their most popular acts through Covid (which included bluesmen Fraser/Daley and The Dave Murphy Band), to keep them gigging in the initial “stay at home” phase of pandemic, up to phase two’s reopening of their patio. Due to the extremely unfortunate ban on live music on patios, the majority of guests outdoors were reportedly enjoyed the show on their devices, save for a lucky few tables peering in with decent sight lines of the actual performers streaming from indoors.

Pre Covid, these bands would be playing to a packed house at Mulligan’s, and that was nicely reflected in their high streaming numbers. However, the fantastic opportunity that comes with sponsorship allowed them to secure artist fees and in addition fundraise for Boots On The Ground, a charity providing anonymous and compassionate Peer Support to Ontario’s First Responders. The Pub’s shows are uploaded on their social media.

Submit for Blues Music Awards 2021:

The Blues Foundation opens their competition for the prestigious Blues Awards on July 1. You may formally submit your album or minimum 6-song EP for consideration via their online service once the submission process open. All album and EP submissions are allowed a free “Song of the Year” submission with their entry. “This year, you have added the opportunity to submit a single for “Song of the Year” consideration even if you do not have a full album or EP released. To be eligible for submission, your single must be professionally released to the public between November 1, 2019 – October 31, 2020 and may not be part of a larger EP or full album release. To submit a single for “Song of the Year,” you must contact Joe Whitmer at directly.   

 Submission fees and deadlines are $135 per album or EP submission / $35 per song submission until July 31, $155 per album or EP submission / $55 per song submission until August 31, $180 per album or EP submission / $80 per song submission until September 30 and $225 per album or EP submission submission / $125 per song submission until October 15. The submission process officially closes on October 15, 2020. You must upload your music and artwork and complete payment for your submission transaction no later than that date to be considered for a Blues Music Award nomination.

 All music must be uploaded as a WAV file with album artwork uploaded as a JPEG or PDF file. If you need assistance with uploading your music, album artwork, and/or liner notes, please contact Joe Whitmer at More info at

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The Toronto Blues Society acknowledges the annual support of the Ontario Arts Council, the City of Toronto through the Toronto Arts Council and the Department of Canadian Heritage, and project support from FACTOR< and the Government of Canada through the Department of Canadian Heritage (Canada Music Fund) and of Canada’s Private Broadcasters, The Canada Council for the Arts, the SOCAN Foundation, SOCAN, the Ontario Media Development Corporation, and the Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport.