Bentroots at Relish is a mind-altering intoxication
People who read the mainstream music weeklies to get their insights into what’s hip on the TO live performance scene probably have no idea who or what the Bentroots swamp-Funk/Blues band is. But one of the reasons I keep slogging away at producing this journal, despite the constant threat of extinction from lack of income, is that doing so affords me the insight and opportunity to catch unknown groups in out-of-the-way places that you only find out about when you actually live the music life full-time.
This 5-piece, which would be right at home at a Louisiana bush party but could also grace a Grammy stage with aplomb, features a multiple award-winning keyboardist in Downchild Blues Band’s Michael Fonfara —but that’s only one highlight of what this high-torque outfit brings to the stage when they perform alternate Mondays at Relish on Danforth Ave. a block east of Woodbine.
Amazingly, there’s no cover for these 8-11 shows, in which a quintet of players with disparate roots in Blues, Pop-Rock and Country genres come together in a fusion that feels more like fission as they split the branch of genre specificity and release an explosion of gurgling, toe-tapping, gut rumbling funky takes on Blues and Rock classics along with a large dose of original material emanating from guitarist and lead singer Nicholas Balkou.
Fonfara teams up with accordionist Ed Roth, who will redefine your concept of the squeezebox as the evening progresses, to create embracing yet also edge-nudging accompaniment for Balkou, while the rhythm section —Robert Newman on funky thunder bass and invisible but indispensable Duncan McBain on the kit— helps the others by providing a trampoline for their sonic acrobatics that bends but never breaks.
While there’s no admission charge there is a tip jar which you should really help to fill up to give these guys the incentive to keep coming back to this most cozy neighbourhood tapas eatery at 2152 Danforth Ave., which just happens to have also morphed into one of the hippest live music rooms in TO —as anyone who’s performed there will attest.
You might also want to pick up one of the three albums they’ve recorded since forming in 2009 –the latest, Welcome to Club Bluenote, came out a year ago and was unveiled at a gala release at Mod Club featuring many outstanding name guest performers who also did cameos on the album. And you never know when one of them may drop by to sit in for a tune as well.
-Gary 17, www.torontomoon.ca
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Noon> Free lunchtime Jazz with tba @ The Rex, 194 Queen St. W., TO ~Jazz
5-8> Mike Daley Jazz Trio @ Gate 403, 403 Roncesvalles Ave., TO West ~Jazz
6> Golden Country Classics @ Cameron House (front), 408 Queen St. W., TO
*6-9> Calliope’s Nest open stage/jam for women @ Lola Pub, 40 Kensington Ave., TO
6:30> Peter Hill Quintet @ The Rex, 194 Queen St. W., TO ~Jazz
7-9> Danny Michel Band & guests @ Dakota Tavern, 249 Ossington Ave., TO West
7> Songwriters open stage with hosts Samantha Martin @ Bar Radio, 615 College St., TO
7> Hard Time Mondays with Rick & Gailie @ Black Horse Pub, 452 George St. N., Peterborough
*7:30> M Factor Mondays with host Elana Harte & features Darcy Feaver; Cheryl Beatty @ Old Nick, 123 Danforth Ave., TO East
7:30> Advocats Big Band @ Seven44, 744 Mount Pleasant Blvd., TO North ~R&B/Swing
*8-11> Bentroots feat. Michael Fonfara, Nick Balkou, Ed Roth & Robert Newman @ Relish, 2152 Danforth Ave., Toronto East ~Swampy Southern Blues-Rock
8> John K & The Outfit @ The Only Café, 972 Danforth Ave., TO East ~Rock
**8-1> open stage with host Montgomery Brown @ Free Times Café, 320 College St., TO
*8-11> open stage @ McGradie’s, 2167 Victoria Park Ave., Scarborough
8-12> BBQ & jam night with host Mimico Bill @ Moonshine Café, 137 Kerr St., Oakville; ($8.95 with BBQ dinner special starts at 6)
*8-12> open stage @ Simcoe Blues & Jazz, 926 Simcoe St. N., Oshawa
**9-1:30> jam with No Band Required @ Grossman’s, 379 Spadina Ave., TO
*9-1> Hamstrung Stringband @ The Local, 396 Roncesvalles Ave., TO West ~Bluegrass
*9-1> Jeff La Rochelle Quartet @ Gate 403, 403 Roncesvalles Ave., TO West ~Jazz
*9-1> eclectic open stage/jam @ The Painted Lady, 218 Ossington Ave., TO West
*9> open mic (2 songs; signup starts 8p.m.) @ Tranzac Lounge (Southern Cross), 292 Brunswick Ave., TO
*9-1> jam and final night of The Harp with Tom Barlow @ The Harp, 55 Lakeshore Rd. E., Port Credit
*9:30-2> Sebastian Agnello & friends @ Black Swan (ground floor), 154 Danforth Ave., TO East
9:30> Jazz Mechanics Big Band @ The Rex, 194 Queen St. W., TO ~Jazz
*10-2> jam with Kimberley Wetmore & Company feat. Dave Girdlestone of Soul Funkshun @ Roc’n Doc’s, 105 Lakeshore E., Port Credit
10> Jordan John @ The Orbit Room, 580 College St., TO ~R&B/Blues
10> Joe Nolan @ Cameron House (front), 408 Queen St. W., TO
10:30> tba @ The Hideout, 484 Queen St. W., TO ~indie Rock
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