By Keith Sharp
Cornwall Ontario may not be the centre of Canada’s music universe but a dedicated group of local entrepreneurs have spent the past two years cultivating a small festival which brings name rock bands to this picturesque community on the banks of the St Lawrence River.
Although it’s a project in progress, Alkaline Entertainment’s Jeff Brunet and Jason Mitchell and David Bedard (Limelight Music Entertainment) were able to attract three established Canadian rock acts; Michel Pagliaro, The Box and The Darby Mills Project (formerly of the Headpins) plus local favs, The Barstool Prophets onto the front lawn of the Nav Centre to entertain a crowd that peaked at around 1,000 locals by the time the Prophets and Pagliaro hit the stage.
Now setting out to establish a solo identity, Mills and band mates; guitarist Randy Gabrel, bassist Ricky Renauf, keyboardist Doug Rassmussen and drummer Ed Cliffe have spend the past couple of weeks introducing themselves to a new audience in Eastern Canada. For those who remember The Headpins, Mills showed she still has those fiery vocal chops on key tracks like “Don’t It Make You Feel Like Dancin”, “Feel My Body”, “Just One More Time” and “Turn It Loud”. Yet it’s the tracks from her solo album `Flying Solo’ which bring her set to life. Her new single “Monkey”, “Bad Bad Boy, “Want It” and her regular set closer “Don’t Stop Keep On” are all solid rock numbers.
Her cover of Kiki Dee’s “I’ve Got the Music In Me” got the crowd on their feet, Mills continued to exhibit her vocal chops on Janis Joplin’s “Piece Of My Heart”, Ian Lloyd’s “Brother Louie” and Carole King’s “Natural Woman” before encoring a with a rousing version of Nazareth’s Hair Of The Dog”. And to summarize the message Mills delivered to her audience, she may have been THE vocalist for the Headpins for some 30 years but this is a brand new project.”
By this point in their summer schedule, Montreal’s The Box are operating like a well-oiled machine. Key dates at the Timmins’ Stars and Thunder and Kitchener Blues Festival have honed their set to a fine edge and lead vocalist Jean-Marc Pisapia and his cohorts know exactly what works for them. Classic tracks like “Must I Always Remember”, “Carry On”, “Temptation”, and “Crying Out Loud for Love” mesh with more progressive arrangements like “So Beautiful” and “Hell On Earth” to set up a big finale which includes “Ordinary People”, their big hit “Closer Together” and an irresistible cover of Men Without Hats’ “Safety Dance”. The Box is a band set to regain their rightful position as a bon a fide concert act.
Cornwall’s The Barstool Prophets” once had a cup of tea as a recording act for the U.S Mercury label
recording`Crank’ in 1995 and their follow up `Last of The Big Game Hunters’ in 1997 and although that move didn’t pan out and the band folded in 1999, they have reformed several times and recently staged a sold out performance at Ottawa’s Barrymore’s venue. Judging by the level of enthusiasm exhibited by the Cornwall faithful, Messer’s Glen Forrester (bass), Graham Greer (vocals/guitar), Al Morier (guitar) and Bobby Tamas (drums) still have the chops and songs like “Paranoia”, “Time Flies”, “Friend of Mine” and “Last of The Big Game Hunters” still resonate today as well as they did in the mid-nineties.
And finally, it was left for Michel Pagliario and his quartet of musicians to close the festival and their combination of English hits and key French tracks went down well with fans of both cultures. The word to describe Pagliaro’s set is intense! Like their Montreal brethren, The Box, Pagliaro has been a popular addition to this year’s festival circuit and joined The Box as co-headliners at this year’s Toronto CNE Bandshell on Monday after also appearing at Timmins’ Stars and Thunder and Kitchener Blues Festival.
Mixing English hits like “Some Sing Some Dance”, “Rainshowers” “Lovin You Ain’t Easy” and his encore closer “What The Hell I Got” with Francophone tracks like “Les Bombes”, “Dangereux” “Ti-Bidon” and “Fou De Toi”, Pagliaro also pays homage to Chuck Berry with a rousing cover of “Louise”. Just a great set by a seasoned professional.