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FestiBlues “Fun” Raiser

By Sean Willoughby
Photos by Phil Brisse
 
Saturday November 24th was the Festiblues 'Bluesons Sans La Pluie' fundraiser to help offset a $60,000 shortfall caused by poor attendance at the 15th annual summer concert that was hampered by 4 days of rain.
The evening started off in the lobby of the Maison de la Culture Ahuntsic-Cartierville with refreshments and finger foods. The evening was made possible through donations from local businesses and by volunteers: from the greeters at the door to the stage hands and the musicians themselves.

JD Slim

Umbrellas littered the corridor to the theatre as well as on stage to reinforce the reason why this fundraiser was necessary. The show commenced with JD Bélanger (a.k.a. JD Slim), who is a native Ahuntsic boy, and his band including Breen Leboeuf on bass. They were the 'house band' for the evening and JD kicked the night off in fine fashion with a song called “Montreal Blues”. For the second song, JD introduced Guy Bélanger, sporting a tool belt loaded with harmonicas. Guy proceeded to dedicate the evening to the memory of the late Jean-Pierre Aubert. Aubert, the president of Bros Productions, died suddenly earlier in the week. Bros Productions manages, books, and records some of the top blues talent in Canada. A moving tribute of “For You” was performed for Guy's first song. We also had the chance to hear Guy sing when he did his version of “Before You Accuse Me”. By his own admission, Guy rarely sings but he did a great job and, of course, an incredible harmonica solo. Next on the list was a chance to hear Breen Leboeuf cantillate an old Offenbach tune “Mes Blues Passe Pu Dans Porte”.
 
Guy Bélanger
 
The stage was cleared at this point for rising young composer/vocalist/guitarist Melissa Bel accompanied by Mike Todd on electric guitar. Melissa started off with a beautiful solo vocal which is the beginning of the song Distance off her most recent EP of the same name. The next song “Ocean” (not a Zep reference) was well done with some nice subtle guitar from Mike. Kudos goes to the Ontario native Melissa, who won over the audience, not only with her music but for making the effort to speak French
to the audience.
 
Melissa Bel Festiblues
 
Following Melissa was blues veteran and birthday boy Bob Walsh. Bob, like the fans, didn't get enough of Melissa and Mike so he brought them back on stage and played “Ain't No Sunshine”. Bob and Melissa's combined vocals gave you that feeling of sitting on the front porch of an old run down house in Mississippi watching the sun set. The crowd started grooving when JD Slim and the band joined Walsh on stage and performed a couple of boogie blues numbers including “If You Want To Love Me” off of Walsh's 2002 album “Blues”. We could have listened to Walsh all night but alas, it was the intermission and time to refuel with some refreshments.
 
Bob Walsh
 
Kicking off the second half of the evening was the huge operatic voice belonging to Martin Deschamps. Deschamps also played some slide guitar which really gave a great accent to the overall vibe of the tunes. Deschamps has great character and had the crowd laughing between every song. Guy Bélanger joined Deschamps to do George Thorogood,s “Bad to the Bone” which, dare I say, sounded better than the original. A killer mouth harp solo provided by Bélanger in that one as well. With Deschamps and Leboeuf together on stage you knew it was only a matter of time before another Offenbach song was offered. They did not disappoint with “Caline de Blues”.
 
Martin Deschamps
 
Martin Deschamps Festiblues
 
Nanette Workman Nanette Workman
 
The volume picked up a notch when the next performer hit the scene. Dressed in a black suit, white blouse, and a loose black tie, Nanette Workman wasted no time owning the stage. As with Bob Walsh, Workman recognized good young talent and brought Melissa Bel back on the floor to cover the Rolling Stones hit “Wild Horses”. An excellent vocal duo provided by the two ladies. The pace mellowed down a bit when Workman took over the piano and had Guy Bélanger play harmonica on “When Love Leaves the Room” from her most recent album “Just Getting Started” (which features collaborations with Steve Hill and Frank Marino amongst others).
 
Nanette Workmand and Melissa Bel
 
Melissa Bel and Bob Walsh
   
To wind the proceedings down but at the same time get the energy level back up Workman had all the evenings performers back on stage to perform a version of “People Get Ready” which had the whole house singing and dancing.
 
Festiblues Bluesons sans la pluie
 

If that was not enough, mouth harp extraordinaire Jim Zeller was the next performer to tackle the stage for the encores, announcing that “The next two songs are drinking tunes”. Zeller has great stage presence and is super intense, running up the stairs into the crowd, and bouncing stage left to stage right in a heartbeat. He performed “Dirty Blues” and to conclude a grand night of music, a version of Offenbach's “Deux Autres Bières”.

 
Jim Zeller Jim Zeller
 

Musically this fund raiser was definitely a 'fun' raiser with everyone going home with smiles and some unforgettable memories.

Cheers!

Sean Willoughby

 

 

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