Archive for March, 2012

March 27, 2012

The Manvils will rock — and entertain — you

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Mike Manville's infectious songs for The Manvils match his fun personality. (Julia Pelish/Vacay.ca)

Diners at Mildred’s Temple Kitchen in Liberty Village may not realize the likeable guy who greets them is also one heck of a rock ’n roll front man. No exaggeration. Mikey Manville is 6-feet-2 of combustible energy and charm. Playing Saturday night at a secret show for Canadian Music Fest, Manville bounded and danced and charged into the crowd, wailing his guitar, and then rushed back to the microphone in a frenetic display of showmanship that you’d expect to see on stage at the El Mocambo and not the basement of a duplex in the Queen West neighbourhood.

Manville relocated from Vancouver about six months ago and when he’s not working as a host at one of Toronto’s best restaurants, he’s building an impressive catalogue of alternative rock tunes, some of which he and his band, The Manvils, showcased at that impromptu after party celebrating the 30th anniversary of Canada’s largest music festival.

In a room that proved it can hold as many as 50 people (uncomfortably — “Uh, where’s the fire exit?”), Manville jammed with drummer Jay Koenderman, who made the move with him from out west, and new bassist Jason Skiendziel, who learned the band’s catalogue in a matter of a few hours in the days before Saturday’s 30-minute performance. Songs “Turpentine” and “Hot Volcano Like” have great rock hooks while the newly written “Heart of the Hide,” about the theft of Manville’s baseball glove in Vancouver, shows his diverse songwriting abilities.

“Mike’s a great front man,” Koenderman says. “He really gets the crowd going. It’s fun to watch from back there while I’m drumming.”

A few years ago, The Manvils were one of Vancouver’s hottest new bands, with a song featured on a beer commercial that aired during the Beijing Olympics and a breakthrough album on the Sandbag Records label. The move east to Canada’s biggest city gets them in front of larger audiences with more influential industry types.

It also gives Manville more opportunities to explore his songwriting.

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March 19, 2012

Jonathan Gushue stays local with Langdon Hall

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Jonathan Gushue's efforts to keep Langdon Hall's menu have also put a spotlight on the quality of ingredients in southern Ontario. (Julia Pelish photo)

[This article was previously published in Kalev.com and AOL/Huffington Post.]

CAMBRIDGE, ONTARIO — In a lot of ways, sustainability starts with the food we eat. The more we can consume foods that are in our own backyards, the less food needs to be shipped in from disparate parts of the world.

At Langdon Hall, a Relais & Chateaux country manor close to Toronto, executive chef Jonathan Gushue has succeeded in turning the property on which he cooks into the source for a large percentage of his ingredients. Gushue is one of North America’s finest chefs, having attained 5-Diamond Award status from CAA/AAA judges for six straight years at Langdon Hall as well as a World’s Top 100 Restaurants ranking and acclaim throughout Canada.

“People talk about a 100-mile menu. This is a quarter-mile menu here,” says Gushue, who was the chef at the Four Seasons in Toronto before coming aboard at Langdon Hall in 2005. “It really took us about four years, the time to understand our harvesting. We’ve learned to use wild herbs, what our gardeners had been ripping up as weeds. These are the things that are indigenous to the area, what people were eating 100 years ago.”

INSPIRATION AND HISTORY

Gushue says the soil at Langdon Hall is exceptional for growing beets, so those root vegetables are almost always on the menu. Although he will fly in products from elsewhere in Canada, including snow crab from the east coast, Gushue sticks to sourcing his meat and fish close to home. The fish & chips served in Langdon Hall’s comfortable bar are made with pickerel — and they’re as tasty as any you’ll find with cod or halibut.

“We use everything here for our inspiration. Don’t expect the typical lobster, steak, salmon dishes,” he says of his menu.

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March 13, 2012

2012 Canadian Music Week Preview: Who to see in Toronto

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Blackie and The Rodeo Kings play Massey Hall during Canadian Music Week in Toronto. (Julia Pelish photo)

TORONTO — Canadian Music Week keeps reaching higher and for its 30th year it will ascend as high as it can get. The kick-off celebration to Canada’s largest music event will take place at the CN Tower — 1,815 feet up.

East coast rockers the Joel Plaskett Emergency are the headliner for the March 21 opening show, which will jump start a five-day celebration of music, art, film and, for the first time, comedy.

“Music promoters seem to be promoting comedy more and more. A goal of the festival is that we always want to stay current and we wanted to add Canada’s premier comedy festival to our list,” festival coordinator Zach Gordensky told me.

The event features industry seminars, a digital workshop, the Indie music awards, and musicians from 40 countries. Although there are usually some big names, including Slash this year, the festival isn’t known for attracting major acts. It’s a showcase of new music and that’s one of the reasons why it doesn’t get nearly as much media attention as it deserves. I’ve been attending the festival for the past three years, since returning to Toronto, and it’s one of the most underrated big events in the country. With a $75 wristband, you can get into see dozens of fantastic performances from emerging artists throughout the week. You’ll also get to experience some of Toronto’s best and most intimate music venues, including the Dakota Tavern and the Piston.

With close to 1,000 bands, 800 media members, 500 industry attendees, and between 125,000 and 150,000 fans, Canadian Music Week and its festival lineup have an immense economic impact on Toronto each year.

“There’s been a lot of hard work and people dedicated to building this thing up. It’s pretty impressive for me to work with something with such a long legacy,” says Gordensky, who’s been aboard for a couple of years.

He says he’s excited to see Bear Hands, a Brooklyn band, and Etobicoke’s Cold Specks (aka Al Spx), who was recently on Jools Holland’s show in the UK.

As for the show at the CN Tower, Gordensky says the plans fell into place easily. “The CN Tower is excited to be on board, we’re excited to be doing it,” he says. “It’s the first time we’re putting bands up there. It’s the highest point in Toronto, the highest point in Canada, so we expect it’ll be a really great show.”

In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Canadian Music Week, here’s the list of Vacay.ca’s Top 30 Must-See CMW Performances, broken down between Canadian and International acts. For a full schedule, visit the festival’s website.

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