Dan Hopkins and Dan Beardsley, creators of the Brew Bus Lounge and this year’s aVibe Music and Arts Festival, put on the first of their Brew Bus Lounge Sessions this past Saturday. A scaled down version of their festival, which incorporated a variety of artisans and healthier-choice food concessions, these sessions focus on live music in a more intimate setting, and a chance to sample some of our local, craft brews. I was eager to check it out.
I arrived at the scene of a quaint home, with a path that led directly to an enticing, curtained off entrance into the backyard area. The Brew Bus Lounge – created with two discarded, vintage VW vans, with front ends converted into very artistically designed bar facades – was set up with one van offering a delicious choice of Broadhead on tap, and the other adorned with BBL and band swag and CDs available for purchase.
At the opposite end of the ample sized yard was a covered wooden stage, complete with a full, very impressive sounding PA, and decorated with an artistic display of lights. Already, this was a treat to the eyes. Around the perimeter was a smattering of Adirondack and deck chairs, glow-in-the-dark, colour-changing bits of furniture, and a lovely covered seated area which was equipped with a propane-fuelled firepit. In the middle of it all was a beautiful, majestic Maple tree, embellished with a gorgeous display of lit birdhouses. Everyone felt immediately welcomed in such a warm comforting setting.
Beardsley’s years of music festival touring as an artisan, led to a wealth of connections in the industry, with particular focus on bands that displayed a common reggae-infused, upbeat, and positively charged vibe. For this inaugural session, Beardsley had invited two Canadian bands, one from the east, and the other from the west.
The first band to take the stage was Tasman Jude, made up of 4 musicians hailing from Grand Prairie, Alberta. They are currently on a massive Canadian tour, already having travelled over 5000 km, with more to go before this leg of their journey ends and a new one begins in Australia and then the Caribbean.
Tasman Jude has just released their second, full length CD, Green, which features 9 full-sounding, uplifting, solid reggae tunes, with any one of these tracks oozing hit potential. The songs are filled with messages of hope, freedom, equality, unity, and love. They opened with a wonderfully organic display of various man-made bird calls and sounds of nature before diving into their first song, “Green (Zion)”, which I took an immediate liking to and brought on an early start to the dancing that ensued. I especially loved their fast-paced, “Tasman Jude”, which soared with energy, and completely showcased the amazing and versatile vocals of Caleb “Bravehart” Hart. He is a natural-born performer who also enjoyed leading the audience many times to lending their voices in a variety of chants and call-and-answer banter.
I also loved the wonderful rhythm and tones of Al Peterson’s guitar, and his use of various effects that added a cool uniqueness. Excellent rhythm skills by Adam Paananen on the Djembe drums, combined with those of Derek Wilder who held down the bass, provided the powerful pulse of this band. All displayed a passionate enthusiasm in their music, which sent out a dynamic vibe. By the end of the set, Tasman Jude revived my love of reggae music, which I realized had been absent from my life far too long.
Next up, was St. John, New Brunswick’s, Earthbound Trio, currently travelling throughout Ontario on their Such Nice Boys October 2014 Tour. Formed in 2010, members Dwayne Doucette (guitar/harmonica/lead vocals), Bob Fitzgerald (upright bass), and Mike Humble (drums/percussion) offered up genre-hopping, intensely rhythmic servings that encompassed flavours of reggae, folk, funk, and rock. They played material from their debut 6-track EP, entitled, Lettuce Turnip The Beet (2013).
A few songs stood out for me including, “Mother”, which had a gently rocking and infectious reggae groove, interjected with some flowing twists and turns that left me unable to stand still. I also enjoyed the heavier blues/rock tone of “Georgia Watson”, also off their current EP. Throughout their set, I detected the use of some cool effect loops and pedal work which added a unique flavour to their music. This was especially highlighted in an impressive instrumental piece they played called “Earth Stomp“, which was a relentless, train-chugging, latin rock driven number that gained momentum into a powerful crescendo…a common denominator their songs seemed to have. Earthbound Trio certainly gave me more than I expected from an acoustic 3-piece. They had an amazing well-rounded, diverse sound, mixed with meaningful, well-crafted lyrics and melodies.
Over the course of the two sets the modest gathering had blossomed into a tribe of vibrant, happy people, rosy-cheeked from the crispness of a clear October night, but warmed by the music, the fire, and the dancing. Everything tied into creating the kind of vibe and ambience the two Dans originally set out to establish, and they’ve done so quite successfully. I look forward to the next BBL Sessions, which I’m told will be held indoors before the end of the year. I commend them on their creativity, great business sense, and injecting a welcome and inviting bit of good vibration on our city.