Live Show: 8/6/98


Toronto, ON

The Details

(This review found at:

1997 Playlists of the Great North Wind

Guests: Moxy Fruvous

Moxy Fruvous don't play around here much anymore. Nowadays we have them hopping around the United States a lot, making lots of fans and selling a lot of albums. But this weekend they were making up for the neglect of their hometown fans with 2 Toronto gigs plus headlining the 1st Annual Heritage River Music Festival in Burk's Falls.

The four members of Moxy, Murray, Jian, Mike and Dave, met at their High School in Richmond Hill, Thornlea Collegiate (which I also briefly attended an aeon ago). They were all very talented but together the collective energy took them a lot farther than the sum of their individual potentials. Shortly after forming the band they found themselves the young darlings of the CBC who even paid them to write and perform topical songs about current events. This pressure to produce for a national audience on a regular basis obviously helped shape the band. They were witty, unpredictable and loved to do things off the cuff. Anything goes!

With the release of their first album in 1992, the band could have easily been branded for life as 'One of those' kind of bands. It featured songs like King of Spain and My Baby Loves a Bunch of Authors. Their second album was much more introverted, folkier and darker, a marketing department's nightmare. Their third album utilized their growing musical accomplishments, featuring multitudes of sounds and a lot of Middle Eastern melodies while still maintaining the fun, the satire, and the deadly serious whacks at the sickening establishment. With the release of their latest CD, Live Noise, Moxy Fruvous went out to capture us all and take us to several of their concerts, complete with the between song banter that has made them a crowd favourite. It succeeds where a lot of live albums do not: it entertains you.

Moxy Fruvous are serious about what they do, about the messages they send and about the things that are important to them. They are very political at times, do a good share of benefit concerts supporting good causes and have always partaken in community events in the neighbourhoods where they live. Good citizens, friendly folk and excellent performers. They have become quite good musicians, wonderful singers and top notch songwriters. I would say that they are now at the height of their career and from what I've seen and heard, aren't about to slip into any caverns very soon.

GRAHAM TOWNSEND: Back Up And Push (Trad)

[One of Graham's best albums, just live before a very appreciative audience, the best way to hear him play]

MOXY FRUVOUS: King of Spain (Fruvous Publishing)

[We started out with this obvious piece of early Fruvous from their new, Live Noise CD, which is like a sponge: it just sucks you into moxydom. There seems to be quite a scene building up, following Moxy Fruvous around, something to do with Fruvous Miles for those who attend their gigs. Apparently 2 different "Fruvous" license plates from different States were spotted at their Burk's Falls gig last weekend. Fans drove up from the US only to find that they were 40% wealthier!]

LORD BUCKLEY: The H Bomb (Lord Buckley)

[I am intrigued by the use of humour as a tool, which it has been used throughout history in various forms. Sometimes satire, other times tounge in cheek, or outright jovial and witty, or maybe even subversive and cynical. But the form of humour that I like most is when it opens up the human spirit so that one is willing to partake in strange feasts. Lord Buckley expounds the importance of humour in numerous works, as he does in this one about the most serious, dangerous thing we've ever created. He claims that the only way we can be defeated is through our own fear. Why, if we just laugh at those who threaten us, it fucks them up completely, they don't know what to do about it and their threat just falls apart.

Moxy Fruvous, although to be fair, they do have their serious side which isn't necessarily funny, do use humour to cloak their attacks against ugliness. They mentioned, as a good example, their ode to Rush Limbaugh. They found that by celebrating him as the most wonderful man in America, people would get the message loud and clear, with a few chuckles at their victem's espense. It's better than ramming one's view on an unsuspecting listener who will forever fear you]

MOXY FRUVOUS: My Baby Loves A Bunch Of Authors (Fruvous Publishing)

["We're Moxy Fruvous from Toronto." And they sing about going on street cars and about Pierre Berton and Margaret Atwood and Robinson Davies' beard. And nobody takes offence!]

MOXY FRUVOUS: The Gulf War Song (Fruvous Publishing)

[I requested that they do this song. I heard them sing it at Massay Hall at last year's Folk Alliance extravaganza and it was one of the highlights of the evening. Suffering the effects of terrible sound, the Moxy boys stepped out in front of the stage monitors, sans microphones, and just sang this lovely song out into the acoustic atmosphere of a hall built for real sound. It was very impressive. They claimed that they did this once before in Massay Hall (built around 1897) while opening up for Bob Dylan]

MOXY FRUVOUS: Horseshoes (Fruvous Publishing)

[To show us another side of them, they performed this song from their second album. They are currently figuring out what new material to incorportate into their repertoire in preparation for their next album which they'll begin recording shortly. It isn't easy for them to have four songwriters eager and anxious to bring their stuff into the band. In fact, sometimes it's a lesson in humility to have song rejected for this or that reason. But they act as a committee of four and consensus is required before anything gets the Moxy Fruvous stamp of approval]

MOXY FRUVOUS: Johnny Saucep'n (Fruvous Publishing)

[I don't know  what got into them, but they just started talking about food and this happened. All about food then, so were they hungry or something?]

MOXY FRUVOUS: The Drinking Song (Fruvous Publishing / Ledbetter & Lomax)

[Apparently, this is the grand finale song, which also ends this portion of the program as well as their album. It's a song you all heard before, even if just for the very first time. It's an anti-drinking drinking song that includes a snippet of Good Night Irene which inspired Glen Reid to end the Heritage River Music Festival with that song. Moxy are great crowd pleasers who have no difficulty in getting an audience to sing along, participate and engage in live performance]

Hour 2: Set One

This set features some of the acts who were scheduled to perform at this weekend's Roots Rave Festival at Harbourfront Centre.

THE PAPERBOYS: Swallow's Tail Jig (Trad)/ Cabin Fever Ceilidh (S Le Mattée) / Swallow's Tail Reel (Trad)

[I saw the Paperboys at a local pub here in Toronto about 5 years ago, just before the release of their first album. They have certainly matured as a band, having lost none of their energy though, and I find that this, their second album, features a better selection of stronger material than their first]

FLOOK!: Branohm / Trip To Herve's

[Derek Andrews lent me his only CD of Flook, who are new to the recording world as a band, who are from Ireland, and who are flippin' people out everywhere. The recorded cuts on this demo CD are either excerpts from radio broadcasts and a concert tour from 1997. As well, there are a few cuts from their live performance at Sidmouth Festival, which the selection played tonight comes from. Check out their web page for further info]

THREE SHEETS TO THE WIND: Female Rambling Sailor (Trad)

[Of the three members of this trio, it is Rebecca Campbell, of Ottawa, who is scheduled to perform at the Harbourfront gig. I don't think that she's released a solo CD yet, but look forward to the day in which I can get ahold of one. Her voice is just right for the material she chooses to sing, emotive and powerful, playful and easy to listen to]

DAN BERN: Tiger Woods (D Bern)

[So what do I choose off this CD: The Canadian content I guess: Tiger Woods. Well, the song has more to do with male genitals than anything golf like, balls as big as grapefruits, Golden Arches, the Golden Gate Bridge or even Mars. Interesting: I've always contended that most men's balls are where they do most of their thinking, pondering like poi dogs, and going forth into the world, balls first. I believe that this song speaks the same language. Produced by Ani Defranco]

HEARTBREAK HILL: Weary, Weary Lonesome Blues (A & R Delmore)

[Local bluegrass outfit with a touch of Maddox Brothers and Rose meets Delmore Brothers in Toronto, furthering the Whiteley clan with a jugheaded banjo player - how's that? They're still rather new but getting a lot of good exposure around here which will only enhance their sense of purpose in future. This is what is so great about the booking policy of Harbourfront Centre, and it's chief bottle washer Derek Andrews in particular. They'll book new acts to accompany the better known acts without fear]

Set Two: Salute to Shelburne, home of the Canadian Open Fiddle Contest.

This Saturday, August 8, The 49th annual Canadian Open Fiddle Contest takes place at Shelburne, ON, which changes its name to Fiddleville for the weekend. The event was not the first of its kind in Canada, but soon after it began in 1951, Shelburne rose to prominence on the North American fiddle scene as competators from across the nation and even some from the USA would toss in their hats and compete at this prestiegeous event. Tonight we salute some of the past winners of the Contest. Naturally, we opened up the program with the top gun himself, Graham Townsend, who went undefeated each of the five times he entered the contest.

In the 1950s, such names as Ward Allen and Ned Landry dominated the Open; in the 60s it was Johnny Mooring's turn; the seventies were Graham's and Ed Gyurki's; The eighties saw the likes of Calvin Vollrath and the Schryer Triplets (into the 90s); lately it's been Scott Woods, Robbie Dagenais.

The contest has not been without its controversies; women continue to score second best, continually, mostly due to the fact that most of the judges tend to be men. In fact, to date only one woman has won the contest outright: Eleanor Townsend. However, talented female fiddlers continue to disturb the male fiddle psyche: Patti Kusturok, April Verch, Cindy Thompson, Jayacinthe Trudeau and Christal Plohman are doing their best to change things in this bastion of conservative values.

MEL LEVIGNE: Great Eastern Fiddle (M Levigne)

[Mel was the first winner of the contest in 1951. He went on to perform regularly on Doc Cruickshank's CKNX Saturday Night Barndance but never stopped to record an album until it was almost too late. He did produce a cassette several years ago, well past his prime, and died about a year ago at his home in Honey Harbour where he operated a bar. This piece was recorded, probably as a 78, in the early 1950s]

WARD ALLEN: Iroquois Gathering (W Allen) 

[There was Don Messer, Winston Fitzgerald, Jean Carignan, Ned Landry and Ward Allen. Allen was a compulsive fiddler, composer and performer who was loved throughout the fiddle world, and his musical compositions still thrill enthusiasts of this fine art form. Well known for having composed Maple Sugar, Allen went on to win the 1952-53 contests. Like Mel Levigne, he also joined the cast of the CKNX Barndance, eventually moving to Ottawa where he joined singer Bob King in the Happy Wanderers. He died around 1965, the victem of his friendship with the bottle. His body of recorded works are no longer available]

NED LANDRY: Patronella (Trad)

[One could write a whole book about Ned. But without going into his story too much (read his liner notes), he was Canada's first real fiddle star, outshining the likes of Don Messer, who was better known for his radio show and x-Canada tours. Landry was young and handsome, had a flair for showmanship and could fiddle like the dickens. He wrote some great pieces which have become staples in many a fiddlers' repertoire. He recorded extensively for RCA Victor in the 1950s and is still around, playing music in his native Saint John, NB]

KING GANAM: Golden Eagle Hornpipe

[I don't know when or if Ganam actually won the contest, but I'll bet that he probably did. I'm now waiting for someone to say that he didn't! Regardless, King Ganam was also a major fiddle star. He was the prime-fiddler on CBC TV's Country Hoedown in the 1950s. He'd wink at the ladies like the Clark Gable figure in black cowboy duds, with that Lebanese smile that would melt the ladies into their seats. His style was incredibly smooth, both on stage and musically. He died in California about 2 years ago]


[Close - she came mighty close. In the old days, women competed in seperate catagories from men, like in golf or tennis. But June Eikhard went head to head with the men and most likely would have won the title had she not been female, back in 1959. From Sackville, NB, she was vibrant, liberal minded, and brought in numbers that would shake the scene. Like Teenage Calypso and Canadian Cha-Cha. But it was her Sputnik Breakdown that really made her famous. Of course, she married her bass player (what do you call a bass player without a girlfriend? Homeless!) and produced a musical genious in their daughter, Shirley. June still performs around Oshawa, ON]

JOHNNY MOORING: Clayton Poirier Reel (J Mooring)

(Originally released on North American Fiddle Champion, mid 1960s, Rodeo Records RBS-1276)

[Mooring was everybody's favourite, from the Maritimes, where he was from, through the Ottawa Valley, which he adopted, and especially out west where he toured. Many a time a guest performer on the Don Messer show, he could fiddle and step dance with the best of them. He dominated the Canadian Open in the 1960s, probably because he was so good at playing waltzes, the hardest, most demanding and technically difficult part of the contest (you must play a waltz, jig and reel in under 4 minutes). His ability to bow a waltz was unparalleled. He died in the early 1980s]


[Victor's Ukranian background and western upbringing converged to create a great Canadian fiddler. He eventually made his way into the fiddle circuit, playing true Canadiana, but would always throw in a mazurka from time to time just to let everybody know how good he could play. Waltzes were his forte as well; he had great control over his bow. After a series of physical setbacks with his health he retired from the world of competative fiddling and now just likes to teach, play on recording sessions and is regarded as one of the living legends of Canadian Old Time Fiddling]

RUDY MEEKS: Shelburne Reel (K Ganam)

[From Orillia, Ontario, Rudy was never very far from the world of Fiddleville. He won the contests 3 times in the 1970s and became a teacher to many younger performers, like Michelle Lubenicki. Some of his original compositions are quirky and fun to learn, so many take the time to do so. Here he plays one of King Ganam's compositions saluting the town of Shelburne. Rudy still lives in Orillia, first home of the Mariposa Folk Festival in 1961, home of Stephen Leacock, and thus Mariposa Records]

SCOTT WOODS: Lassie's Jig (S Woods)

[While I brought CDs by numerous other artists, I just couldn't fit them onto the program. Artists like Pierre Schryer and his brothers Louis and Dan; Calvin Vollrath and Ed Gyurki. But last year's champion (2nd time winner) Scott Woods was my choice to end the probram off. There has been criticism levelled at the contest that too many of the judges are classically trained and go for the young, classically trained violinist turned fiddler. Older folk claim that some of these highly technical young hot-shot fiddlers couldn't keep a party dancing till dawn. But Scott Woods is certainly a deserving winner, up against stiff competition in a quickly changing world]

Misc. Info

Some other tidbits from the performance include:

Back to the tour dates 1998 page