Photo courtesy: Felicia McIntosh
***The following is a personal essay from Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son rhythm guitarist Jon Alba***
It's funny how much can be accomplished in such a short period of time.
When we began our trip up to Canada, the second in 2014, Bobby looked at me and asked if I ever thought we'd be on a festival bill in Canada four years ago. The reality? Absolutely not.
As many are aware, the band started as a part-time thing. It was meant for one gig, maybe a couple. To think we'd be able to take it any measure beyond that is odd to think about. But to do two mini-Ontario tours in one year? No way.
We were very fortunate to be part of what is a very special annual event for the first time as a unit. For those unaware, Light of Day Canada generates funds through a series of concerts featuring some of the best live acts in the business, with the money going towards Parkinson's Disease research. It's a win-win for all involved, whether on the stage, in front of it or in organization. When we got the call to come open up the shows, it was a no-brainer.
Rather than give a typical show-by-show report, I figured it may be interesting to go through each show from our personal perspective and detail just how special this past weekend was. There wasn't a night I got to sleep before 4 a.m., but every single bit of it was worth it. And here's why.
After a multi-day drive, we reached Niagara Falls only to hitch a bus to Toronto for the first set of shows, originally slated to be the last show at the legendary El Mocambo. The bus ride featured all of those involved in the shows, including John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, Joe Grushecky and the Houserockers, Joe D'Urso & Stone Caravan, among many others. Rather than close our eyes for the ride, we wanted to know the stories of these entities, how they got where they were. I'm the oldest member in the band at the slender age of 21, there was plenty to learn.
As a journalist-in-training (that's my real job, at least), I found their stories to be incredibly captivating. While Bobby hears a lot of them from time to time, it was my personal first glimpse at where these great acts came from, both personally and professionally. D'Urso spent time in my shoes working towards a career in television. Jeffrey "Joffo" Simmons of the Houserockers grew up alongside Willie Stargell's children amidst the run of the "We Are Family" Pittsburgh Pirates of 1979.
Of course, the musical advice was thrown in and appreciated significantly, but for me, it's those stories that are just as interesting.
The last time the band was in Toronto, turnout was a bit lower than expected. But this time, in what was intended to be the venue's final show, that would be far from the case. Hundreds (well over the capacity of the club) packed the floor to witness the sendoff for a venue that had hosted acts like the Rolling Stones, Stevie Ray Vaughn and others - but tonight, the Seventh Son would be the one etching its name into the walls.
We played that show like our life depended on it. Twenty-five consecutive minutes of heart-racing, sweat-inducing rock n' roll (I use those adjectives because that's sure as hell what it felt like on the stage). The crowd at the Elmo was perhaps the best of the three shows, and fed us back the energy we needed to get things kicked off right. Danny Gochnour of the Houserockers and Eddie Manion of E Street Band fame joined us for our final tune, and as a music fan and enthusiast, time seemed to stop for me. It was a moment on stage I'll never forget, and I, alongside the rest of the band, cannot thank them enough for making something special happen.
Photo courtesy: Jeff Ross
Thankfully, the club was saved at the 11th hour, by Canadian billionaire Michael Wekerle. We were thrilled to see Wekerle enjoy our set, and even posed for a couple pictures with him afterwards (alongside throwing him a copy of Friends in Low Places, of course).
1. Teenagers Too
2. Hit The Town
3. Danger Dan
5. Another Deadbeat Summer
As we returned to Niagara close to 5 a.m., we then awoke for lunch with the whole gang. It was during this lunch I was able to grasp a real appreciation for one person in particular.
Joining LOD Canada this year was Pat Travers, a musical journeyman who has worked with some of the biggest names in the industry throughout his career. Travers, like myself, is a hard rock enthusiast, and the framework of his playing indicates pure brilliance through power chords and note intricacy. During lunch, we struck up conversation with him, as he would go into stories about AC/DC (one of the primary influences of Bobby's and mine), super-producer Mutt Lange among other topics. The experiences were great to hear about, but the next day, Travers would treat us to an intimate conversation about the inner-workings of the guitar, and how he goes about tackling it every time he picks it up.
Bobby, the band and myself in particular cannot be more lucky to have gotten a chance to just absorb that information and knowledge. Simply incredible. And he kicked ass as well on stage.
Nonetheless, Friday brought the Niagara show to the Greg Frewin Theatre. I was fortunate enough to be joined by my old podcasting buddy Tanner Kish, who was able to catch the band for the first time.
This show was about as special of a Bobby Mahoney and the Seventh Son show you'll ever see. The theater, intimate in its own fashion, set the scene for the first ever (and long-rehearsed) full band performance of "Guilden Street." The song was done in honor of LOD Niagara figureheard David Rotella, who has been (alongside his son Evan) an incredible supportor of the band.
Photo courtesy: Felicia McIntosh
I cannot accurately describe the feeling starting the show off with that C-chord in a silent theater. I rarely get nervous before a show, but I had butterflies. But I'm thrilled with how the song received new life, as the band showed up to bring it.
"Scoundrels" followed suit, and in what may have been the best performance the song has ever had, brought a sort of electricity to the room. I'm not sure I've ever had so much fun on one song in any show I've been a part of with this band as that one. The band was locked-in. Even though it was a shorter set, Niagara brought one of the most intense stage experiences we have had to date.
1. Guilden Street
4. Another Deadbeat Summer
Photo courtesy: Felicia McIntosh
After another late night, we woke up to head laterally across Ontario towards Kingston, an acoustic set with Bobby and myself. Bobby and I are the lone remaining members of the original Seventh Son lineup, it all goes back to the two of us.
It's for that reason I find it hard, no matter what my own personal schedule be, to pass up doing a duet performance.
The BluMartini played perfect host to the short set we pumped out, which, in a fitting manner, began with "Worrisome Child." It's a song we can play in our sleep, but there's almost a primal feeling still every single time when we get to the solo, one Bobby rips to shreds with his distortion. In that moment, we play back to what we are at our root: The lead and the rhythm.
Kingston was receptive to the rest of the set, and we stuck around to show our fellow musicians the respect we have for them and thanking them for embracing our presence on the leg.
1. Worrisome Child
3. Another Deadbeat Summer
The reality is, I'm not entirely sure how much time I have left in this band with the real world quickly approaching me. But I wanted to take the time to write this to show my sheer gratification I have for all of those who have given us an opportunity to, even if for just a weekend, pretend to actually be rock stars. We as a band, and as people, embraced every minute of it.
And then there was the time Vinny "Big Pussy" Pastore made me look up his movies upon his request.
I speak on behalf of the band when I say a major special thanks to Gord and Ginette, without whom the shows would not have run. Gord is an incredible music mind who I never get tired of hearing stories from, and Ginette is one of the sweetest people you'll ever run into. Another thanks as well again to David Rotella for genuinely getting behind everything we do. A shoutout also goes to the rest of the LOD Canada crew, including Tony Serra and Sam Grasso, for making all of this happen.
And of course, all the best to the man behind it all, Mr. Bob Benjamin.
As far as the musicians and people, there is no one better. Whether it's Danny and his Bobby Mahoney-hating/loving significant other Jamie, Joe D'Urso, "Mr. Lou" DeMartino, our superfans who made the trips just to see us, or anyone else, we cannot thank you enough for letting us be a part of something this special. We were humbled to be around musicians and individuals with as much passion as you guys.
I am not sure if I will ever get to be a part of something this special ever again. But all I can say is, I sure hope it's just around the corner...
Photo courtesy: Joey Cartwright
Friends in Low Places