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Two Reunions Start Bluesfest 2016

Tuomi-Header(WINDSOR, ON) – In what could be seen as a rather unusual move, this year’s LiUNA Bluesfest Windsor, now running at Windsor’s Riverfront Festival Plaza until Sunday, started with rock and roll. It was also the first time two famed Canadian bands, Tea Party and I Mother Earth (IME), shared the same stage locally in quite some time.

The organizers had promoted the reunion of I Mother Earth featuring original singer Edwin, but Tea Party’s reuniting was somewhat completely different despite its former front man Jeff Martin offering clues.

Jeff Martin performed a stripped down acoustic act before launching into an impromptu Tea Party reunion with bassist Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows.Photo by Ian Shalapata.
Jeff Martin performed a stripped down acoustic act before launching into an impromptu Tea Party reunion with bassist Stuart Chatwood and drummer Jeff Burrows.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Martin started playing a solo gig in front of an idle drum kit and an equally idle towering Canadian Traynor bass guitar amplifier. He subtly asked the audience if they had, “… heard the story about the drummer and the bass player.” He offered no other direction.

His set did much to expose Tea Party’s Indian and Mid-East influences. This was particularly made prominent with his continuing rotation through a number of six and 12 string acoustic guitars, each with hidden electronic pickups.

Bluesfest organizer Jeff Burrows joined Tea Party band members Jeff Martin and Stuart Chatwood on stage reuniting the Tea Party for the lucky fans in attendance.Photo by Ian Shalapata.
Bluesfest organizer Jeff Burrows joined Tea Party band members Jeff Martin and Stuart Chatwood on stage reuniting the Tea Party for the lucky fans in attendance.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Close to the end, he casually mentioned his two best friends were Stuart Chatwood and Jeff Burrows, the other Tea Party founders. Although the band has been spotted together this year, in a split second Burrows manned the waiting drums while Chatwood plugged his Fender into the Traynor.

Tea Party was back with a vengeance and proved to have lost no energy from years of being apart. And, if Martin keeps his word, he and the boys will return for next year’s Bluesfest.

Stuart Chatwood joined Tea Party band mates Jeff Martin and Jeff Burrows on the Bluesfest Windsor stage to kick off the four day festival.Photo by Ian Shalapata.
Stuart Chatwood joined Tea Party band mates Jeff Martin and Jeff Burrows on the Bluesfest Windsor stage to kick off the four day festival.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

As to a celebrated alternative rock band, following an equally famous 90s rock and roll giant at a festival of the blues, original I Mother Earth guitarist Jagori Tanna, in an exclusive back stage interview with The Square, found nothing out of place.

It turns out the blues are part of IME’s DNA and, when the band first started in Hamilton, it basically jammed the blues. It is, Tanna explained, a rite of passage for most musicians in Canada even though no Canadian has lived Mississippi’s Delta Blues lifestyle; the aching existence which produced so many popular early blues artists.

For him, the blues style, “… is something that sticks with you. It is always there and it is up to you to grab it.”

I Mother Earth guitarist Jagori Tanna spoke to Robert Toumi at Bluesfest 2016 in Windsor before hitting the stage at Festival Plaza.Photo by Ian Shalapata.
I Mother Earth guitarist Jagori Tanna spoke to Robert Tuomi at Bluesfest 2016 in Windsor before hitting the stage at Festival Plaza.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

There are, he contends, innumerable similarities between the two styles of music with early rock and roll somewhat of a blues’ derivative. Even though Canadians, on the whole, are much more “fortunate” than the original blues musicians, he can still “feel it,” as he travels around the nation.

In his travels he is seeing the blues gain in popularity. The boundaries once defining a band are now being breached to the point where, “… everyone is playing the blues.”

IME is a good example of this no-holds-barred approach. Its version of Santana’s Evil Ways won instant audience approval, with almost every single body in front of the stage moving to the strict interpretation IME gave the fabled tune.

Christian Tanna lays down the beat for I Mother Earth at Bluesfest Windsor 2016.Photo by Ian Shalapata.
Christian Tanna lays down the beat for I Mother Earth at Bluesfest Windsor 2016.
Photo by Ian Shalapata.

Although he admits the blues as Canadians play it is a lot different than that of those living the blues in the American South, it is still blues. Being able to continue playing it, and all the other genres that IME is known for, causes him to, “… smile every day when he wakes up.”

The band’s music did nothing but generate a sea of smiles on Bluesfest’s opening night.

Today, the festival will turn a corner and concentrate on the more traditional with featured performers including American blues harmonica player Sugar Blue, Hogtown All Stars, staffed with former Downchild and Fathead musicians, along with Windsor’s Soulminors, and others.

A unique format for the Plaza ensures the music never stops. Between the highlight acts on the main stage, a second stage comes alive while technicians prepare for the next set. And, starting today, there will be a notable change at the big stage. Seats are expected.

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