James Clark gets warm reception at Currie Brothers’ new concert venue in Gravenhurst
GRAVENHURST – “Welcome to the Currie Brothers’ Fun House!”
James Clark captured the mood and music of Andrew and Robert Curries’ small concert hall in back of their popular main street music shop and antiques store perfectly Saturday night.
The Toronto singer and songwriter was at home in the three-ring circus that’s part Preservation Hall, Vinyl Café and Friendly Giant.
On a makeshift stage, with vintage drums (one circa War of 1812) and a dozen-and-half guitars strung up on a wall that’s wallpapered with sheet music, surrounded on one side with the intimidating face of the Godfather and on the other a pinball machine, Clark was clearly in his element, basking the cornucopia of all the collateral damage of an auction sale.
The leader of the James Clark Institute band (wink and a nod to the CAMH’s old Clarke Institute of Psychiatry) got the not-so-subtle humour surrounding him and his friend, Elisa Lower, as they played a 90-minute set competing with the hurly-burly of the old movie theatre.
The Curries’ new ‘home concert’ venue is as comfortable as your living room.
A place your cat “Sniffles” could curl up in.
There are four couches, a half dozen honkin’ big old arm chairs – “and a rocking chair for another one to curl up in.” All covered in comfy quilts as colourful as a rainbow.
The carnival-like atmosphere is chock-a-block full of classic old 78s, from the ’30s and ’40s and vinyl up to the ’90s (when they quit making good albums), left over from the popular front of house music store.
There’s souvenir programs, old cameras, collectibles, paintings to the ceiling, and a mint condition foosball table. Throw carpets are everywhere.
And it’s all for sale. Like just about everything in the cavernous room that was once the magic curtain behind the silver screen.
And it’s not that far removed today.
The Muskoka Theatre where movie musicals, the Great Oz and Stompin’ Tom Connors originally entertained – and in latter years jazz and tap classes could be heard – is now replaced by one only a handful of truly authentic musical emporiums in Ontario worth visiting outside Toronto; and the even some say across the country and beyond.
The Currie Brothers – with the help of the mom and dad Ted and Suzanne (deans of original Muskoka collectibles) run one of the finest businesses in Muskoka.
Their Muskoka Road businesses, which take up the entire building, are a “destination” for top Canadian musicians who have found them by word of mouth and stellar reputation, like Tom Wilson.
And their recording studio and music lesson classes (drums and guitar) are busy with CD launches, recitals and Muskoka jams.
“People come from all over Toronto and the GTA to visit us and see what we have,” says Andrew, who along with his brother are top sound technicians behind the Opera House, Barge and Peter’s Players, another club in town. And the Curries have staged and produced a number of musical benefits around Gravenhurst with fundraisers that bring together local musicians to give them training, experience and exposure.
They’re a credit to the local music scene, Muskoka and the Town of Gravenhurst.
A duo worth listening to.
Clark and Lower, who shared a love of Bob Dylan when they met, now share a stage.
Clark strummed I Want You, from Dylan 1966 album Blonde on Blonde, which originally “inspired me to play,” he told the small gathering of less than half a dozen who came out to hear the “honey sweet harmonies” of the acoustic duo on a frosty Saturday night at Currie’s Music and Collectibles.
He opened with Lake Monona, a respectful tribute he wrote for Otis Redding, the late soul artist who died in Wisconsin when his plane went down in the lake in early December 1967.
Clark’s band has been around since their first CD in 2004, Home is Where the Heart Attack Is, which set the tone for some of his later dark work, including his latest 7-inch independent vinyl recording in June. It features Company Hearse and I Don’t Leave the Radio On Anymore, the latter song about the death of his 17-year-old cat “Sniffles.” It was produced by Canadian start Moe Berg who also played on both tracks.
Monstrous, a piece Clark wrote for the indie movie Cherries and Clover was a last minute cut in the film. But it made it up off the cutting room floor to warm applause in the old movie theatre.
Last Summer (2003) and As I Recall were written a decade apart and the latter talks about him visiting his mom in hospital.
Family featured prominently in the repertoire of Clark, a busy performer who started out as a drummer (1998-2004) in the Toronto garage/surf band the Sintones, before starting The James Clark Institute. They play at the Linsmore Tavern Thursday night.
House for Sale is a haunting tale about divorce and growing up “… where there was never love in this house …” but it’s “… in a very pleasant neighbourhood….”
Lower, a York University jazz singing graduate “a long time ago,” sang a beautiful number about two lovers in Boots of Leather.
Clark, who once aspired to be a cartoonist and continues his love-hate affair with the art form, played another homage to Charles Schulz, of Peanuts, Charlie Brown and Snoopy fame.
The duo finished with another original, Monica and Her Harmonica, before selling and signing a couple of CDs and selling black t-shirt with his late cat’s paw print reverentially on it.
The Curries have a number of more shows coming up this winter and spring, most of them by donation.
But they’re thrilled to have just booked Toronto female folk/noir duo Scarlett Jane, Feb. 21, which could have a suggested tab.
Follow the Curries on Facebook and Twitter at Currie Music.
And check out James at The Clark Institute. His website is http://www.clarkinstitute.com
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