ArtWalk has become THE EVENT of the year in the downtown Sarnia. Before it officially begins, you can feel the excitement in the air. Along with the stores bringing some of their wares outside and all the booths filled with colurful, unique crafts and arts, there are delectable smells all around. Add to that the music and you have one heck of a wonderful festival.
At Cheeky Monkey, outside we had our annual sidewalk sale of used CD’s & DVD’s in addition to our ‘craftier side’ showing with bowls we make from too scratched to sell vinyl records and hand knitted baby blankets by Roland’s Mom Angela. All these items are available year round - but having them outside during ArtWalk attracts a whole new audience.
Music, either recorded or live is an important element to Cheeky Monkey - for obvious reasons. Without much time to plan, we were thrown the opportunity to have live music outside under our windows. This year on Saturday we hosted ‘LifeSigns Lite’ consisting of Wes Beveridge & John Foster, followed by Mike Blackmore accompanied on sax by Chris Molyneaux and finishing the day were Erika & Sara & The Guys with Chris joining in for fun. Sunday, Wes returned to play solo followed by Erika & Sara & The Guys once again. Sunday, both groups took unexpected breaks when a parade of stilt walkers came by. ” How do they stay up on those things?”, was the big question one of our helpers (10 year old grandson Owen) asked over and over.
Want to say a HUGE THANK YOU to all the musicians and both our grandsons that were here to help out. All of you contributed to another successful ArtWalk weekend at Cheeky Monkey.
Below is a more detailed report on some of the musicians as viewed by Brian Hay.
For more photos (taken mostly by Owen) CLICK HERE
Music at Artwalk and Dockside: Mike Blackmore, Chris Molyneaux, along with Erika and Sara and the Guys - by Brian Hay
Published Tuesday June 9, 2022
Chilling Under the Tent with Erika and Sara (Or Welcome to Music in The Riverside Wind Tunnel)
The first set featuring Erika and Sara with their full band lineup was a hot one in a cold place. Erika Sit is starting to blow microphones away. Doug Stewart hears her sing a variety of things regularly and states she’s at the point where she’s able to sing anything, including metal, if she chooses. That definitely suggests possibilities. She’s still a bit shy on stage but has come a long way from the days where she pulled inward by way of body language.
The rest of the band was on fire even though Gerry and Scott felt like popsicles. Sara claimed she was okay but she’d worn a light jacket. It was cool enough to begin with but once a tunnel effect wind came through the musicians had no hope of being remotely comfortable. It caused other problems as well. Tent flaps blew wildly and actually looked as if they might need securing. A chart almost blew away and the stand it was on went right over. With a calm day having been forecast and their volume reasonably soft the sudden gusts made hearing what they were doing impossible for the band members. It wasn’t reflected in their set though, which shows how good they’ve become.
Drummer Gerry Hawley used brushes to keep his volume down. His awareness of that and the steps he takes to manage it are as impressive as his formidable skills. Bass player Scott Vegh adds harmonic ornamentation to his rhythm parts tastefully while leaving room for Sara Campbell to place her work inside them. She plays beat notes emphatically but with the restraint needed to work inside a band rather than over them. Despite the issues, Sound Man Ron Behro achieved pristine clarity for the group. The instruments were separated beautifully and Erika’s voice soared with crystalline transparency. Highlights included their covers of Johnny Cash’s songs, especially ‘Ring of Fire’, and their take on the Eagles’ classic, ‘Hotel California’. Scott Vegh delivered marvellous acoustic guitar work despite the discomfort caused by the temperature.
The girls have been outstanding for some time now and they’re improving in quantum leaps. Erika steps forward more and the singer she’s becoming is one that’s worth waiting for. It’s also made easy by the fact that she’s a good, and very distinctive, one now. Sara could add more harmony vocal since she does it very well but it’s part of their growth and something to step into gradually.
What they are now is lovely. What’s coming could be fabulous.
… Or, it seemed that way. Chris was in more places this weekend than the guy who chased down the Golden Fleece. It was a good thing though. It’s not often a chance to see how far an exceptional musician can stretch their skills and what came out was amazing to see. More on that in a bit …
It’s hard to say exactly where their musical weekend began. Chris was scheduled to begin at Maran’s but a photo shows Mike joined him there. The first place I watched them was in front of the Cheeky Monkey and they were great. The connection these two have is one that’s become a wonderfully intuitive partnership. The open-ended bluesy jazz/reggae improvisational take Mike brings to originals and covers keeps them as fresh as the day they were written. The percussive force in his playing is countered nicely with lead ornamentation and works in perfect balance with what Chris brings to the floor. They read each other’s signals reflexively and spur of the moment changes only serve to spice things up.
Their sound was fully realized under the tent with Ron Behro again achieving the pristine balance he’d given to Erika and Sara. Standards like Mike’s originals, ‘More and More’ and ‘Hard Time’ flowered beautifully. Covers of ‘Everybody Loves Somebody’, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ and ‘Summertime’ came alive. Chris especially, seemed like a kid who’d been turned loose in a candy store and guaranteed not to have a sugar overdose. His solos were, as usual, imaginative, focused directly on the source material, and restrained enough to keep his rapport with Mike balanced. He plainly enjoyed every moment, especially the ones where he and Mike directed their work toward the youngsters who awaited “Jaden the Jester”. The one sad part is their set was cut short under circumstances that shouldn’t be allowed to happen.
They were even better at Dockside the next day. Mike’s jokes were the usual array of groaners he makes fun of himself. Watchers were treated to visions of his swelled head being rolled around for walks along with a few other … odd … visions and Chris got into the act by warning an audience member that the quip he’d made was destined to become part of the routine “forever!”. The crowd they had was lacking but they had fun playing and did it beautifully.
One number that got a ravishing treatment was an original Mike claims he’s unsure of how to finish. If push comes to shove, hopefully, he’ll take a piece from Schubert (‘The “Unfinished” Symphony’) and let it blossom as it is. ‘People Get Ready’, ‘Bird On Wire’, and ‘Mr. Bojangles’ were given standout performances. The tone colouring they work with by blending their sounds is becoming a larger part of their sets and it’s gorgeous. The most impressive thing however was seeing them three times inside of twenty-four hours and feeling like each occasion was a new experience. Part of it’s musicianship — both of them, and Chris especially, get stronger with heavy workloads — but a huge amount of it stems from the drive Mike has to keep the music vital. He deserves far more recognition for that than he gets.
With the number of events over the weekend several musicians had the chance to make their stars to shine brightly and they ran with it. According to Kerry Belliveau, Scott Manery and the Barnburners, played each of the three days. By Sunday, Scott barely had a voice left, but he still rose to the occasion like a man reaching the top of Mount Everest. Erika and Sara’s band played three sets on Saturday, including one where they froze, and two more the following day. Mike Blackmore played three on Saturday (that I know of) and another on Sunday. If one is to be picked above the rest however, it’s Chris Molyneaux.
He played the four sets over two days with Mike, one with Erika and Sara’s band each day and one alongside CDDC (Doug Stewart) on Sunday. Each employed different styles and were played with only the breaks needed for bands to set up. He slid into all of them without missing a step. His ability to(literally) pounce was particularly noticeable alongside Mike and in the rapport he found with Erika and Sara’s drummer, Gerry Hawley.
We have great players around here and they’re as dedicated as they are solid.
These events took place in and around Sarnia’s Artwalk on June 6th and 7th. The article was written to convey impressions of what it was like to be there and to pay tribute to the hard work of the musicians who played.