By Stevie Connor
Photography by Anne Connor
The ' Perfect Storm ' Of A Gig
Have you ever been to a gig where the venue, ambience, weather, atmosphere, and live performance combine to make ' The Perfect Storm ' turning it into one of the most memorable you have witnessed ?
I am going to tell you about my evening last night in downtown Toronto, and in so doing will explain why the whole event inspired me to carry on doing what I do, and should give inspiration and hope to any aspiring singer / songwriter out there with big dreams.... they can come true with a lot of hard work !
The Location and Venue
A short GO Train ride from where I live takes you to Union station in the heart of Toronto.
it is a beautiful afternoon when we leave for the gig, I don't often get the chance to visit the city, but when I do it becomes a magical experience for me, I love looking up at the tall buildings, watching people hurry through the streets, or just sit back on a busy patio taking in this incredible multi cultural city, there is a cool breeze coming off lake Ontario, it's 3pm and Roy Thomson Hall is a short ten minute walk from the train station.
As we walk up Bay Street and turn onto King Street West it's not obvious that just a few steps away and down below street level to our left is one of the most gorgeous music venues anywhere in the world. I affectionately call it ' The Sunken Garden ' because it's like a little oasis in the very busy streets with their skyscrapers towering towards the blue sky above ....
Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto, Live On The Patio Music Series
We had arrived early because having attended performances here before by international touring artists like Shakura S'Aida, Breabach and others we knew the patio would fill up quickly, this series has a brilliant reputation of bringing top class acts to the ears of Torontonians, many of whom the audience will never have heard of.
One other advantage of arriving early is that while patiently waiting in the queue before the doors open at 5pm there is the chance to hear snippets of what's to come. Pedestrians take time to look and find out where the music is coming from, tourists and city workers mingle, sit on the benches and seats located in the square or along the pavement and as the street cars ring their bells listeners soak in the tantalizing sounds billowing from below, and boy, the sounds of Delta Sugar were not just billowing, they were smouldering, this is a band that is not just smokin' .... they are on fire !
I will get to the performance in just a minute, but I wanted to say a little about Samantha Martin and Delta Sugar and why I have so much respect for this little fire cracker of a performer and the incredible ten piece band she tours with.
About seven years ago I walked in to the Cameron House in Toronto, it's a venue that has a fabulous reputation of performances by amazing independent artists, I had heard of, but never seen Samantha play Live before that day.
The line up was Mikey McCallum on guitar, co vocalists were Sherie Marshall and Stacy Tabb, Dani Nash was on drums, Samantha guitar and vocals. When they struck up for the first few bars the hairs on the back of my neck stood up, I was an instant fan and have been ever since, the delivery, harmonies, music and songwriting were incredible.
Over the course of the last few years I have been very lucky to have become friends with Sam and members of her band, I have interviewed and featured her on my radio show, I have been fortunate to hear some of the personal stories behind the songs, and have witnessed the incredible drive she has for success and the long road she has been on.
I am truly in awe that the vision she had for her sound all those years ago came home in a big way last night at Roy Thomson Hall.
Samantha has two superb album releases with Delta Sugar, ' Send The Nightingale ' and her latest ' Run To Me ' ( Gypsy Soul Records ) which have honed the bluesy, americana sound she had, throwing in a huge amount of gospel and soul, melded it all with an amazing array of talented musicians which includes two guitarists, a horn section, keyboards, co-vocals of the beautiful souls that are Mwansa Mwansa and Sherie Marshall and it's all tied down with the rock solid beats of the wonderful Dani Nash ( drums ).
The band took to the stage at 6pm, there was a buzz in the air, it was standing room only ... and boom ! ... we were off on that magical carpet ride of a performance that the audience had been eagerly anticipating.
To set up a ten piece band is no easy task, what an amazing job the sound crew made of this event, the vocals were crystal clear, the instruments were spot on, well balanced and blended wonderfully to create a wall of sound that at times took my breath away. I have never heard the band sound so good, they absolutely nailed it to the walls of the buildings surrounding the Roy Thomson Hall.
Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar, Roy Thomson Hall, Toronto
Co Vocalists, the very talented Mwansa Mwansa and Sherie Marshall
The horn section add a fabulous flavour to the mix
The crowd lapped up the incredible preformance
Renan Yildizdogan from Samantha's label, Gypsy Soul Records, was there catching some great footage
Last nights performance stunned me, I realized what Samantha had been striving for all those years ago, even although I had heard the full band at many gigs. To have had that vision and determination to succeed with it is a truly inspirational thing to me.
There are many fabulous songwriters and performers out there, I don't need to tell you that, we all see the photographs of our favourites on stage giving it their all, for the one's I know who are deep into their craft, that's what it's all about, seeing people enjoy their music and being able to perform it live.
There are however great moments of contemplation and self doubt, wondering whether the journey is all worth it. It sure would be easier making ends meet in a 9 to 5 job with a pension and medical coverage. Many have been at the crossroads and decided to call it quits.
Whether you are a musician or not, and you have a dream to do something you enjoy, look no further than Sam Martin and her performance at Roy Thomson Hall on the evening of August 23rd 2018 for the shot in the arm you need to carry on travelling the path, she proves that with the correct tools of a bagful of talent and songs, the vision to pull together her dream team of musicians, the will to employ the necessary hard work and time required to make it all happen, that should dispel the doubt.
Thank you Roy Thonson Hall and The Toronto Blues Society for a fantastic venue and sound, thank you to Samantha Martin & Delta Sugar for making this one of the most memorable gigs I have had the pleasure of attending.
The band should be well and truly proud of that performance, that was ' The Perfect Storm ' of a gig !
Samantha Martin and Guitarist / Co Writer Curtis Chaffey
Samantha plays Roy Thompson Hall again for the Toronto Blues Society ' Women's Blues Revue ' on November 16th and they are gearing up for an extensive tour of Europe in early 2019, catch them if you can.
To top the night off we spent the rest of the evening in the company of good friends Richard Flohil and Kayt Lucas, what a night indeed !
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Have a great week ahead
Photographs by Anne Connor