Tag

rock n roll

Browsing

Woman of the Week: Caitlin Dacey

Caitlin Dacey is not only a kick-ass musician, she also helps young girls in Toronto pursue their own dreams of being rock n’ roll queens. Chatting with the quasi punk and rock n’ roll singer/ musician, it becomes clear that she is a relaxed, extremely intelligent, and professional young woman who is a role model younger women in the world of music.  “It is weird looking at other bands where women aren’t very active. That is why Girl’s Rock Camp is so important to me. It is hard that there is such a disparity in the numbers of women in bands.”

In her 20’s, Dacey began her first band, Bella Clava, with her bandmate Steve. She wished she had started earlier, but chalks it up to societal stereotypes that influences young women to not get involved in rock n roll. “I got into music from listening to it and enjoying it. I never saw myself in a band. As a woman I didn’t know that was possible,” Dacey says.

Despite Dacey’s later start as a musician, she became the lead singer and guitarist with Bella Clava and toured the country. She later joined punk band Public Animal, playing keyboards and vocals with the local punk icon, Ian Burton. She also plays in an all-girls band called Overnight. Dacey is a natural singer with a smoky powerful voice and the sassy demeanour of a rock n’ roll queen, yet carries herself well with an honest and humble disposition.

Caitlin Dacey. Photo by Nic Pouliot.
Caitlin Dacey. Photo by Nic Pouliot.

Dacey is a high school teacher by day. She teaches biology, French, and most recently, audio production. Playing in three bands and teaching full-time, Dacey is definitely busy, but finds she needs both the kids and music to lead a happy life. “I did take a year off of teaching, but I was doing music full-time. I missed teaching and my students,” Dacey says. “It is how I need to live. I need to have different things on the go. The more active I am, the more productive I am.”

Dacey combines her passion of teaching and music by volunteering at Girl’s Rock camp Toronto, a non-profit organization that runs camps, workshops, and an after-school rock party. The initiative is run by female musicians who teach young girls how to make a band, choose a name and logo, and learn the musical instruments. The teachers help the girls to problem solve and work together and then there is a performance at the end of the camp.

Dacey says she is band camp coach and also helps with guitar. She teaches a group of five or six girls and helps them make a band. “There is a lot of emphasis on conflict resolution and how to navigate differences in opinion. It is teaching me lots of tools to apply in my own band,” Dacey says. “The kids teach you how to be positive. It re-inspires me to play music.” The fact that there are initiatives that exist such as Girl’s Rock Camp reflects that there is increasingly more support for girls who want to be musicians.”

Dacey points out that women are often placed in competition with each other, and it is initiatives like Girls Rock Camp that help to remove these barriers. “I absolutely want to be supportive. Not every interaction with other women is going to be positive. You want especially people who are trying things for the first time to have that positive experience. You want them to see other women as a network and allies. Unfortunately we are taught that we are in competition with one another and that there is only space for one woman,” Dacey says. “Working with my students and rock camp and my own interests, and trying to live my life where I’m in control of what I’m doing makes me feel like I’m doing my part in a small way.”

Dacey is also an avid reader and is working her way through the complex and fascinating, Elegance of a Hedgehog by Muriel Barbery. She also likes to go rollerblading while on tour so that she can actually see the towns and cities that her bands visit with a limited time scope. If you get a chance to see Dacey perform or have a daughter who has dreams of being a musician, Dacey is a true music inspiration with the classic grace of a true rock n’ roller.

Want to know more about our featured Women of the Week? Sign up for our weekly e-newsletter below:

My life through the words of The Tragically Hip

Over the years, I’ve often looked at a mountain view in Alberta or a downtown Toronto landscape, and at each of those moments, I think of one of the many of  Tragically Hip songs that really encapsulates how it feels to be there.

The iconic rock band The Tragically Hip defines the Canadian sound. It is as if Gord Downie and his bandmates took rocks from the mountains, soil from the prairies, and water from the Great Lakes to create a melodic elixir of Canadian essence and feed it to our starved northern souls. Canada was lost before this band existed, and boy, do they ever bring us home.

Along with 125,000 Canadians that watched the live streaming of CBC’s final Tragically Hip show on August 23, I cried, laughed, remembered, and mourned. It truly is the end of an era. Gord Downie’s tragic diagnosis of Glioblastoma, a rare form of brain cancer, has rocked Canadians to their core. The show was rumoured to be their final performance, and the band will be duly missed for their years of dedication to the local music community.

You could say I was born listening to The Tragically Hip. As the millennial daughter of two parents who were in their twenties in the 1980’s, “The Hip”, as they are commonly referred to, were all the rage. The band began their journey in 1984 and produced 14 albums during the course of their thirty-year career.  I am proud to say I have been listening to them my entire life.

My first memory of The Hip is when I was about six years old at our family cottage in Ontario. I have a fond memory of walking out to the campfire hearing “100th Meridian” blasting from the speakers and my dad and uncle rocking out in their blue jeans and mullet-styled hockey do’s. Later on, I would realize how much this song defined my own life. “At the hundredth meridian, where the Great Plains begin” is about the journey from east to west and the division between the two parts of our country. Spending my summers in Ontario with my dad and living the rest of the year in Alberta made me realize the contrast and tension between the two regions, and The Tragically Hip helped me identify with those differences.

I considered one particular Hip song the soundtrack to my life; “Wheat Kings”. This song is for the people in “the Paris of the Prairies” and reflects how it feels to cruise across the yellow sea to my home in the foothills of Alberta. I can recall listening to this song with my cousin and best friend, who was also forced to watch our dads rock out together to The Hip. Needless to say, she is as die-hard as I am when it comes to our love of the music. If I close my eyes while listening to “Wheat Kings”, beginning guitar riff and Downie’s haunting voice floating across the speakers, I’m transported home to a creaky prairie heritage home watching the mountains through the window with the curtain blowing in the wind.

My dream to see the Tragically Hip finally came true when I moved to Toronto and saw them play at a free concert in Dundas Square two years ago. I had just moved to Canada’s largest city, and what better way to celebrate than watching The Hip. When “Bobcaygeon” came on and Downie howled “that night in Toronto, with its checkerboard floors”, 10,000 people were singing along with him — I was one of them. Interestingly, the checkerboard floors are in reference to the Horseshoe Tavern on Queen St., a favourite bar of mine as well. This iconic tune has continued to be loved, now reminding me of what it is like to fall in love in Toronto. “I left your house this morning ‘bout a quarter after nine, it was in Bobcaygeon, I saw the constellations reveal themselves one star at a time” is a lyric I often sing to my partner. It reminds me of the first time he told me he loved under the stars at his cottage on Georgian Bay (cheesy, I know).

Not all of my memories associated with Tragically Hip are happy and sweet. The band had a way of pulling at your heart strings in tough times as well. When a close friend died, I played “Fiddler’s Green” and at that moment, I think only Downie’s voice could soothe me. Later on, I found out the song was written in memory of his nephew that passed away. Downie refused to play it for 15 years, only to sing it at a show in Calgary much later.

In The Tragically Hip’s final show, “Grace, Too” was one of the final songs that caused an uproar of emotion to flood the Rogers K-Rock Centre in Kingston. Downie was visibly upset, and almost every person I know who loved this band cried along with him at that moment.  Belting out the lyrics one last time, I felt the unfairness of it all. How is an amazing musician cherished by his country condemned to get sick and die of terminal illness? I could talk about his legacy as others have done in their courageous soliloquies to Gord Downie, but honestly I am angry. Cancer seems to claim us all.

I will say though: one comfort that The Hip fans can have is the absolute immortality of the band’s music. The Tragically Hip will live on as I raise my child in Canada. It is my turn to wear acid wash blue jeans and rock out to the “Hip” at a campfire while my daughter dances too. [It is her turn to listen to “Boots and Hearts” and learn to line dance. It is my daughter’s destiny to close her eyes and think of our home in the prairies when she hears “Wheat Kings”.

“Does your mother tell you things? Long, long when I’m gone?”

I hope Downie can take comfort in his legacy — he surely has given the world something that will never be forgotten.

Women musicians lift the bar at CMW

Plato once said, “Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” I spent last week listening to several women-led bands that played Canadian Music Week (CMW) in Toronto, and I can say with certainty that Plato knew what he was talking about. Here are a few of the acts I saw at the festival — and the bands you should start to listen to asap!

The first band was playing at the Garrison on Dundas St. West. No Sinner, from Vancouver, filled the venue with deep growling rock n’ roll with singer, Colleen Rennison roaring into the mic. No Sinner was one of my favourites at Canadian Music Week because they brought a refreshing and classic sound amidst the keyboard loving shoegaze that has overtaken popular music. Instead, No Sinner brought bluesy rock to Toronto, showing that western Canadian bands can compete with the overwhelming presence of Toronto bands at CMW.

Rennison is a force to be reckoned with on and off the stage and doesn’t think that gender should be a factor within the music industry. “You just have to rise to the occasion regardless of what’s between your legs,” said Rennsion. “The other day, I arrived at the venue before the band and I was trying to get some information from the promotor and he assumed I was someone’s girlfriend in the band. After they saw sound-check, they change their tune.”

No Sinner is due to release their upcoming album, “Old Habits Die Hard” on May 20 and they played their new song, “Hollow” at the CMW show. It is a passionate track about heartbreak and you can really feel Rennison’s pain in her thriving vocals. “So much of what the album is about is the human condition, being an enemy to yourself and the consequences of that,” said Rennison. The whole show had a very visceral feel to it, as if you could experience her pain in yourself. No Sinner is well worth seeing live.

From the Garrison, I jetted to the Mod Club on College St. to see The Wet Secrets perform their set for a packed audience. The band, hailing from Edmonton, is an alt-rock band that uses horns, percussion, coordinated dance moves, and marching band uniforms. The act features two women members, Emma Frazier on the trombone, and Kim Rackel on the trumpet. The band won the Peak Performance Project Award in 2014 where they were given a $100,000 award.

I caught up with Frazier at CMW after their show at the Mod Club. “The show was great. It was an amazing crowd and good energy.” She also explained that in addition to being in a band together, Rackel and Frazier also perform in a burlesque troupe in Edmonton. The two musicians use a set of coordinated dance moves in their marching band outfits and the performance often has sexual undertones. “Getting on stage is fucking rad. I don’t think it should really be a problem. If I’m sexualized, that’s their problem and not mine. I just like performing,” said Frazier.

Other women-led bands that performed CMW included Nao, from the U.K, who performed at the Mod Club as well. Nao is an electronic D.J who has developed a large following because of her well-developed snyth-pop sound. The show was packed and Nao delivered. Adee from Sweden also played at the Nightowl, which was a smaller venue. She brought an R&B sound mixed with hip hop riffs and got an audience member to join her on stage to sing. She was lively and positive about the small crowd attending her gig.

CMW was a wild ride and watching several female bands perform was enlightening. There are so many talented women performers out there and seeing the variety of styles in their music had my body grooving. Take a listen to these ladies and remember, support women in music! I will definitely be attending CMW next year to see the next wave of women to light up the stage in Toronto.

Rock lives: Female rocker, Urvah Khan and class-act, Old James

Rock n’ roll is not dead, at least not according to lead singer of a scrap metal rock n’ roll band, Urvah Khan. Women’s Post caught up with the female rocker and namesake of the band after her show at Lee’s Palace. Khan was sporting a blonde Mohawk and a traditional Pakistani bindi and jewelry.

“Rock n’ roll is the sound of an oppressed nation. It is a liberation front for people who don’t have freedom. I found my freedom through rock n roll,” she said. “I want to spend the rest of my life creating a sound called scrap rock. We build our music from the scraps of what is left behind, and mix it with Indian and south Asian sounds.”

Photo provided Urvah Khan
Photo provided Urvah Khan

Khan hails from Pakistan and grew up in Dubai. She was 12 when her family moved to Canada. She is a self-proclaimed feminist who firmly believes rock n’ roll can help to spread the message of gender equality. She also passionately loves her chosen style of music and believes that you have to truly love rock n’roll in order to make a killer rock song.

Khan got into rock in her early 20’s after performing a song with the band The Central Nervous System. She was a rapper prior to this performance, but after listening to N.I.B by Black Sabbath, she fell in love with the music. She also sees rock n’ roll as a source of liberation for women in the East.

“I want to make rock music for Muslim girls where I came from. I’m making music for brown women who need to realize freedom is not a choice, it is a right,” said Khan. “Why do we have to walk with hijabs for a man to feel good? Why can’t we just do it because we want to or we don’t want to. As a woman in the West, I can do anything I want. Let’s take rock to the East.”

The headliner band at Lee’s Palace, Old James, believes the message in the music is the key to a great rock song as well.

“Music with a message is what stands out. The difference between our band and every other band is that we have guys that aren’t cool. We aren’t cool. We are happy being in our band, pissing in bottles, and touring the world. It is about the music.”

Old James and Urvah Khan both stole the audience at Lee’s Palace, bringing heavy rock melodies to a venue often filled with popular hipster indie bands. Khan is a fascinating artist to watch live and an avid advocate of on-stage energy, even pulling a fan on-stage to “scrap” with her.

“Sometimes when I’m performing, I run out of breath and my notes aren’t perfect. My rap isn’t perfect but I believe that if my energy is perfect, I can afford to compromise myself,” said Khan.

Lead singer of Old James, Brian Stephenson, is an unstoppable force of nature on stage, bouncing from end to end while hitting every note seamlessly. As a fan that has seen Old James perform previously, each show is different and equally interesting to attend, making them unforgettable to watch on-stage. The band also surprised fans by performing new songs from their upcoming album, due to be released later this year. They performed “Speak Volumes”, their title track, as well as “Lovefire”.

Old James often performs with women and Stephenson was excited that Urvah Khan was on the bill.

“We love her message. She has taken several pieces of different genres and created her own music,” said Stephenson. “With women playing and sharing the stage, there is a massive amount of respect. They are sticking their necks out because they have to put up with a lot of crap still. A lot of the attitudes towards women in music are unfair. It doesn’t matter what gender or colour you are.”

Both Old James and Urvah Khan believe in the power of music with a message. Though their focuses differ, attending a gig where the music is deeply meaningful is inspirational and has the ability to change the world. As it turns out, rock is definitely not dead.

Photo provided by Urvah Khan
Photo provided by Urvah Khan

“Rock n roll came from the blues and came out of an oppressed generation of people. Once I found that out, my band and I decided to create the next wave of rock n roll,” said Khan. “People say that cannot be because the pioneers of rock n roll are done but I don’t agree. Let’s take rock to India, Pakistan and to places where women don’t know what freedom means.”