Brian Farrell

Monday, June 25, 2012


Sunday, June 24, 2012: FOREVER ENGLAND

Revv52 will be performing British pop next season - and I'll in London in a week to research the British music scene. 

A second wave of the British Invasion has hit the charts with the music of Adele, Joss Stone, Leona Lewis, Duffy, Lily Allen, Jessie J, Florence and the Machine, Amy Winehouse.

The music on the British charts over the years has rooted for the underdog.  In an article titled "Forever England" author Bob Stanley muses on the musical character of British music.  Stanley writes, "We are always apologetic, and have an appetite for both discipline and anarchy.  We're as changeable as the weather, which we love to go on about.  It rains and we're melancholy.  Or we moan.  Losers are venerated: we root for the underdog.  Pretty much, the English define passive-aggressive."

Stanley refers to the 1890's and British Music Hall.  "It's saucy and improper but never overtly sexual: such is the English way.  At its best, music hall brought out everything that the Victorians loved to sweep under the carpet....  The English have traditionally deflated pompous tyrants by laughing at them."  We see evidence of this in British punk and rock n' roll.

The music of Queen, the Hollies, the Stones, the Kinks, David Bowie, The Who, The Moody Blues, Steve Harley and Cockney Rebel, Cold Play, U2, Herman Hermits, Robert Plant, Robbie Williams, Led Zeplin, the Animals, Donovan, Dave Clark 5, the Troggs ... and the Beatles - brilliant music!

I'm excited to get started on the research - I'll be sure to "keep calm and carry on".

Sunday, June 17, 2012



Among the audience that filled the venue, there were professional singers, music producers, managers, a record executive, a videographer, a vocal coach ... all to check out the act on a Father's Day Sunday night.

At the door, I spoke with an audience member who mentioned that Calgary should see more crowds like this at music events and performances.  "Where are Calgarians at many of the live music venues in our city?" he asked. 

In cities like New York, it is a way of life to attend performances regularly - live theatre, live music at clubs, opera, outdoor music events, coffee house performances, open mics, Broadway and Off-Broadway shows, visiting artists at large venues, dance, fine art galleries, film ....  In fact, people in centres like New York are attending live events 2-3 times a week. 

Well ... here in Calgary, Sled Island opens next week.  Sled Island features music, comedy, film, visual art and special events packed into a four day extravaganza from June 20 - 23, 2012.  Come out and enjoy the arts at 42 Calgary venues - 65 genres of music - headliner Feist hits the Olympic Plaza on Friday June 22.  See the Sled Island website for details!

Sunday, June 10, 2012



The venue has the vibe of a New York club.  The audience is close to the stage, the performers connect to the audience, the sound is balanced, blended and you can hear every nuance of phrase.  Audience members come out to listen to music at this lounge - they don't talk during the performance.  The food is exceptional and you can enjoy a beverage as the performance happens.
It was an exciting night last Wednesday at Lolita's Lounge in Inglewood (Calgary) as singer Peter Skagen kicked it up with the music of Tom Jones, Elvis and Engelbert.  Back up singers Kyla Smyth, Kathleen Pierson and Valerie Gerbrandt warmed the house with their rich harmonies, drummer Ruben Bocaranda and bassist Hank Insell played brilliantly as the rhythm section.  It was a privilege to play keyboard alongside this talented group.  Pete sang, "She's A Lady", "Don't Be Cruel", "Delilah", "Please Release Me" "I Who Have Nothing", "Love Me Tonight" and so many more great uptempo tunes and soulful ballades.  The audience loved the show.

This Wednesday, June 13 @ 8 pm Kathleen Pierson performs the music of Blossom Dearie, Regina Spektor and Joni Mitchell at Lolita's.  John Grey on upright bass and I'll play keys.  Great songs and Kathleen delivers!

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


Tuesday, May 29th, 2012: PRE-SHOW

The large slab risers and portable stage is delivered and set in place, the set designer anchors the large set piece backdrop of Beale Street, the large Memphis road sign is erected in the balcony stage left, the radio station graphics and "ON AIR" sign is perched on the stage right balcony.  A long "Red Hot Ramble" banner is hung across stage right.  Light columns are placed, racks of sound speakers are erected on both sides of the stage. 

Sound check happens in the afternoon for the six piece band, and 52 vocal ensemble.  A pre-concert meal is prepped for the cast of singers.  Ushers and ticket takers arrive.  And then the audience begins arriving 90 minutes before show time.

That was pre-show routine for last week's Revv52 "Walkin' in Memphis" concerts. 

And like every show, audiences have a huge impact on the overall presentation.  Audiences during the week are eager to get out and break the regular work routine - really receptive.  Audiences on Friday night are big in number and take awhile to settle into a show - but when they do - they are a blast to perform for.  Saturday matinees are usually a mixed audience of young and old - are relaxed and ready to kick it up.  Saturday night audiences are on top of it right from the opening song!

And that's what makes live performance so inspiring for artists - the prep, the whirlwind of pre-show activity and the incredible energy of a live audience!

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Sunday, May 20th, 2012: "M'AM I AM TONIGHT!"

She said, "Are you a Christian child?" 

I said, "M'am I am tonight ... and I was walkin' in Memphis."

Real words from a sweet lady who played at the the Hollywood Cafe on the outskirts of Memphis, Tennessee.  Real words from a man who visited the Hollywood Cafe and sat at the edge of the stage as this middle aged lady sang and played piano that night.

The man, Marc Cohn attended the Hollywood back in the mid eighties and listened to the sweet lady known as Muriel to the locals.  Muriel was a devoted Christian faithed woman who regularly played at the Hollywood Cafe in Memphis and Cohn, at the time, was a singer/songwriter who struggled with the rut of writer's block. 

Muriel invited Marc to share his music that night at the Hollywood.  Marc stepped up.  Meeting Muriel that night at the Hollywood proved to be an inspiration for Marc Cohn.

He wrote the song, "Walking in Memphis" based on his time in Memphis.  The song infuses references to WC Handy, Elvis on Union Avenue, the gates of Graceland, the Jungle room, Beale Street, catfish on the table, Gospel in the air, the Reverend Al Green and of course ... Muriel at the Hollywood.

It all comes to life again for me as Revv52 presents the music of Memphis in a special three night show in Calgary.  (May 24, 25, 26 at the Grace - see  We call the show, "Walkin' in Memphis" and we feature this song as a centerpiece.  

Music is most powerful when it exudes real life - everyone connects to its honesty.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Sunday, May 13th, 2012: BORN OUT OF TIME but IN TIME

There is this excellent British barber in St. Catharines, Ontario where I used to get my haircut - now since I've moved to Calgary,  I try to stop in when I'm in town - even to say hello.  We always talk about music.  One of his clients was the quiet and reserved musician, Ron Sexsmith.  Ron grew up in St. Catharines - his parents still live there.

The barber,  John Barry, is easy to talk with - he knows music.  Ron Sexsmith would have an easy time conversing with John.

And that's how I initially met Ron Sexsmith backstage in Calgary a few years back.  I went to the stage door at the end of the performance and said to his manager, "Tell Ron - a guy who gets his haircut in St. Catharines from John Barry would like to say hello."  A few years back in Banff, I asked Ron if he would talk with a group of singer/songwriters about songwriting and he said, "Well I guess - but why would they be interested?"

Last night, in Bragg Creek, Alberta, I caught Ron Sexsmith in concert, asked him to sign his new vinyl "Long Player, Late Bloomer" and we chatted briefly.  Unassuming, humble, somewhat shy - yet wonderfully humorous and witty, Ron is one of the great songwriters on the planet.  Many musicians respect his work and his gift as a singer/songwriter.

"I think Ron is slightly cursed with being born out of time.  The quality and nuance of his songs would have been greatly appreciated and is greatly appreciated by people like myself who grew up with Tim Hardin and  Paul McCartney."
Elvis Costello

"That's what Ron does when he's against a wall and he feels no help at all.  He turns it into these beautiful little phrases and he breaks your heart with his reality.  And he does it with a song."
Leslie Feist

But I'm a late bloomer
I'm a slow learner
And I've turned the record over
I'm a long player
My song is my saviour
I've got to raise it up
As far as my spirit can reach.

"Late Bloomer" by Ron Sexsmith

Sunday, May 6, 2012


Sunday, May 6, 2012: ONE WITH EVERYTHING

Sometimes you hear a speech that just rivets you - the words get to the heart of what it's really all about.

Michael "Flea" Balzary, bassist for the Red Hot Chilli Peppers spoke at the 27th Annual Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Ceremonies in Cleveland on April 14, 2012.  The Chilli Peppers started up in 1983 and have sold over 65 million albums and taken home 7 Grammys.  They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame at the April ceremony. 

His emotional acceptance was testimony how great artists work:

"I love music so much and all the great rockers who have come before us.  It means everything in the world to me to honor that tradition.
Every single day, every night before we go onstage, I get on my knees and I pray to God.  And I pray to uplift the people who have come to see us play and to love them and to give us the best that I have to them.  That's my life's mission.

But mostly, more that anything, the burning intense desire that is inside of me to play music has not diminished in the slightest.   That has only deepened as time has gone on.   When we're hitting it, when we're really inside the groove, when we're on, I'm lost, man. 

And in that moment, I'm truly free of everything, I'm truly one with everything."