Indie Week 2010 Thursday night review – Valentine Black, Hotcha! and Crooked Valentine

October 17, 2010
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Our pick of the of Thursday night action at Indie Week 2010 in Toronto Canada

The Gig: Indie Week 2010
Where: Free Times Cafe and El Mocambo, Toronto, Canada
When: 14 October 2010
In one word: Unusual

It’s Night 2 of Indie Week, and after the opening night party I’m ready for a showcase that’s earplugs optional. So decide to head down to the Free Times Cafe, a venue which promises to have some acoustic music in its lineup.

Many of the venues are holding competitions in a battle of the bands style, the winners of which will appear at different venues across the city. I’ve arrived and missed most of the competition- but lucky for me, it seems that some acts are playing after the competition is over. The room is only at half capacity when I arrive in time to see Ireland’s Valentine Black and his boys, and they’re not even sure if the judges are still listening when they take the stage.

Valentine Black’s band consists of Valentine on acoustic guitar, there’s a friend on a second acoustic backing him up, a bass guitar, and one friend has been designated to the tambourine and egg shaker. It’s not an act I would describe as possessing virtuosity, but although Valentine’s songs of love and dissidence may be simple- they’re passionate. There’s a very honest quality about his playing that makes you want to listen to what he has say. Some of his songs were a bit of a miss for me, like “More Than New York” where his girlfriend tells him that she loves New York more than him. Other songs, like “The State We’re In” (it’s a mess), about Valentine’s home country Ireland I enjoyed more. For the band’s last song of the night, they were able to achieve a real crowd-pleaser that had the whole crowd singing and clapping along to a murder ballad called “In The Dead Of The Night”.

After Valentine left the stage, the judges announced the winner of the evening’s performance to be a performer from Sudbury called Faye Blais. The night was finishing up for the evening, and event organizers were encouraging festival goers to head to one of the venues with an extended liquor license to finish the evening. Bar patrons were trickling out out the already half empty room.

But there was one set left before the night was over- and it was an act with a bit of a strange appearance for two Torontonians. Playing songs off their disk Dust Bowl Roots: Songs For The New Depression were husband and wife duo Hotcha! Beverly Kreller and Howard Druckman, dressed in a black peasant dress and coveralls respectively. In their musical arsenal they had an accordian, mouth harp, acoustic guitar with some mean country licks, kazoo, a bodhran drum, and some pretty powerful vocal harmonies which they used to create a muscial experience that sounded part “O Brother Where Art Thou” and part “The Triplets Of Belleville”.

The duo borrowed a lot from material that even predated them. Their show was a nice mix of standards such as “Blue Moon Of Kentucky”, “Catfish John”, and Louis Armstrong’s “Old Man Mose”- as well as original music written by the duo.  The peformance was both raw and very entertaining, and it didn’t take long before some of those people who had trickled out of the room drifted back in- attracted by the noise of the hoedown. Soon Hotcha! had a room of 20 somethings singing and even clucking along with them. I guess it shouldn’t come as a complete surprise that Hotcha! were such an easy sell. CBC radio has done great things for the hipness of folk music in the past few years.

© Natascha Malta, Music Vice

Pictures of Crooked Valentine at El Mocambo:

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