Get Ready! Upcoming Highlights on the Music Scene

Written by Gerry Blackwell

Get ready. Summer festival season is almost upon us.

The Trackside Music Festival kicks it off Canada Day weekend, June 30 and July 1, a country jamboree at Western Fair. Sunfest revs up Victoria Park, July 5 to 8 ( Then Rock The Park lands in Harris Park, July 11 to 14.

Further out on the horizon: Home County, July 20 to 22, and London Bluesfest, August 23 to 26. More about that next issue.

In the meantime, we’ve got lots of great live music to keep us going until Canada Day. May in particular is strong.

Sloan is in at London Music Hall on Wednesday, May 16 (7 pm). The Toronto-based pop-rockers have been at it a quarter century now, and still going strong. Their latest album, 12, landed in April. (Preview here:

Bluesman Steve Strongman comes to London Music Club May 17 (7:30/8:30 pm), along with harmonica virtuoso Carlos del Junco. Multi-Juno and Maple Blues winner Strongman needs no introduction. If you don’t know del Junco, have a little listen:

Rosie & the Riveters

You gotta love the name — Rosie & the Riveters. And their slyly feminist message. They’re on the Grand Theatre’s McManus Stage, Friday, May 18 (7:30 pm). Dolled up like the Andrews Sisters, they deliver similarly sweet harmonies, but with a contemporary edge in the lyrics.

Cecilia String Quartet

If you’re a classical fan, there’s the last of the season’s Jeffery Concerts, “Souvenir de Florence,” also May 18, at Wolf Performance Hall (8 pm). It features the Cecilia String Quartet and local stars Sharon Wei and Thomas Wiebe. The Calgary Herald raved about the Cecilias: “… the quartet soared and thrilled …” The program features quartets by Haydn and Mendelssohn, and a Tchaikovsky sextet.

More classical? Members of London Symphonia, including stars Christine Newland on cello and concertmaster Joseph Lanza, appear in “Beethoven and Bliss,” a program of chamber music by Ludwig Van and 20th century English composer Arthur Bliss. Two nights, two venues. Bayfield Town Hall, Thursday, May 18 (7:30 pm), and the Atrium at Talbot Street Church, Tuesday, May 29 (6:30 pm).

Diana Panton

Sweet-voiced Canadian jazz star Diana Panton lands at Wolf Performance Hall, Friday, May 25 (7 pm). Panton took a Juno last year, and her last two albums were among “best of year” selections in Downbeat magazine in the U.S. She also has a new album, solstice/equinox. Preview it here:

Broadway in London has a brand-new touring production of The Sound of Music at Budweiser Gardens. Two performances on Saturday, May 26 (1:30 and 7:30 pm). It’s directed by Tony winner Jack O’Brien, but that’s all we know at this point. Except we’re pretty sure the hills will be alive with — well, you know.

Cassie & Maggie MacDonald

Jazz, rock, blues, classical, Broadway. Missing anything? Oh, yes, folk. How about a fiddling and stepping sister duo from Nova Scotia, Cassie & Maggie MacDonald. They’re at Chaucer’s, Sunday, May 27 (7:30 pm.) They garner rave reviews wherever they go in the Gaelic world. Don’t know them? Check ‘em out here:

May goes out like a lion with the Paul Deslauriers Band, Thursday, May 31 at London Music Club (7:30/8:30 pm). They’ve taken Entertainer of the Year honours two years running at the Maple Blues Awards. Deslauriers’ guitar has been described as “fiery,” the band’s latest album as “a thick, juicy blues stew.” Sound good? Yes.

Wow, and that was just May.

The Purple Hill Opry (near Thorndale) kicks off June with country legend Carroll Baker on Sunday, June 3 (2 pm). Canada’s First Lady of Country Music, still belting them out after 40 years, promises to sing all her hits, along with well-loved gospel tunes. Well, it is Sunday.

Aeolian Hall has singer-songwriter Marc Jordan on Friday, June 8 (7/8 pm). Jordan, a long-time pen for hire, has written for and with marquee names such as Diana Ross, Chicago, Kenny Loggins, and Bette Midler. He’s currently collaborating on Rod Stewart’s new album. And yet, he still finds time to tour.

London Jazz Society presents Chris Murhpy & Mardi Gras Mambo on Sunday, June 10 at the Shrine Centre Hall. Sax man Murphy is known as one of the busiest musicians in town. The new band serves up “a gumbo of funky jazz and blues.” Tireless troubadour Garnet Rogers, he of the velvet voice and warm stage presence, lights up Bayfield Town Hall on Friday, June 15 (7/7:30 pm). Never a bad bet.

Tim McGraw & Faith Hill

Then it’s time to board the train to country town. Budweiser Gardens has two huge concerts book-ending the Trackside Music Festival.

On Tuesday, June 19, Tim McGraw & Faith Hill roll into town with Soul2Soul: The World Tour 2018. It’s been selling out and drawing rave notices across North America — for production values, the number of big hits and “the palpable chemistry” between the stars.

Trackside, Canada Day weekend, features a long list of Canadian and international country stars, including Dierks Bentley, Dustin Lynch, Dean Brody and London’s own Julia Haggarty. For the complete lineup:

Shania Twain

Then, while you’re still recovering from the weekend, Shania Twain’s “Shania Now” tour hits the Bud for two nights, Tuesday, July 3 and Wednesday, July 4 (7:30 pm). She’s promoting her new album of the same name, released in September. “Life’s About To Get Good” is the big single. We thought it already was for Shania.

And the festivals keep coming. TD Sunfest ’18 — “Canada’s Premier Celebration of World Cultures” — runs July 5–8 in London’s Victoria Park. Thanks to the popularity of Lazo (aka Mr. Sunfest), the warm sounds the Caribbean have always had a special home at TD Sunfest. This summer, festival organizers are taking the steel pulse even higher with the theme “Roots, Riddims & Reggae,” saluting not only reggae and its offshoots, but also other diverse music of the Caribbean. Headliners include 2018

Toronto band Kobo Town plays a mix of old-school calypso, ska and West Indian styles.

Juno winners Exco Levi (representing Jamaica) and Kobo Town (representing Trinidad). While the music lineup is funkier than ever, the festival also continues to be a foodie’s and craft lover’s delight, with new beer sponsors (Anderson Craft Ales & London Brewing Co-op) and over 225 exhibitors from across Canada bringing unique offerings to Victoria Park. • @canadasunfest

Rock The Park (July 11–14) head­liners include Cyndi Lauper, Platinum Blonde, Men Without Hats, and Coolio. For a complete list: Home County Music & Art Festival (July 20–22) acts include The Jim Cuddy Band, Harrow Fair and Broomsticks & Hammers.

C’mon, everyone. Let’s get festive.

About the author

Gerry Blackwell

Gerry Blackwell is a London-based freelance writer.