On the same day Prince was found dead, on April 21, 2016, I experienced a personal loss. Experiencing two losses in one day was so painful I did not know how to sooth myself. I paced up and down, had no concentration, couldn't sleep, eat or remain focused on anything to distract myself from the feelings that come with loss.
For about two weeks I spent every spare minute, sometimes sitting for hours listening to Prince’s music and a few other artists and it was the only activity that eased my pain other than the distraction of going to work everyday. After listening to every available Prince video on You Tube repeatedly I decided to go in search of a Prince tribute somewhere. I flew to Montreal to visit friends, as the school semester ended and my vacation began. I must include this disclaimer from the start - I am not a music reviewer, I am simply relaying my personal musical experiences as I went on the quest for a Prince tribute.
The timing was perfect as I arrived on June 10 and headed over to Le Beury á Vinyle to watch a Prince tribute called "Purple Music and A Microphone." The event was organized by Scramble Lock who was a street dancer who began dancing and teaching to ward off bullies on the streets of Hamilton where he grew up. He has since gone on and taken on a style of dance "Locking" which he teaches to his students and performs at events and at street dances.
Scramble Lock organized an array of images screened on a wall of Prince. It was obvious how much work he put into this event with his attentive selection of unreleased songs, demos, live concerts recordings and B side records which are now referred to as bonus tracks. Scramble lock spoke between songs giving bits of information about each one. I realized I was in the presence of a Prince aficionado and company.
Besides paying tribute to Prince I wanted to dance as I thought it would help with my pain and be a lot of fun in the process. Watching the young people at the club I soon realized that they were professional dancers who fashioned their styles after Prince and knew every detail of Prince's dance moves.
There was no way I was going to dance at this event with the young professionals. I would have made a fool of myself flailing around, but I did stay for some time and enjoyed watching the tribute and the dancers. I eventually went home, put on my headphones and listened to more of Prince’s music and danced by myself.
I was in no hurry to return home as I had most of the summer off work until August when I needed to be back at school to prepare for the fall curriculum. I decided to stay awhile and go to the jazz festival where no doubt there would be lots of dance music and hopefully a tribute or two to Prince.
Before I continue I want to apologize for the annoying advertisements and quality of some of the videos which were not professionally recorded. As well, I did see many shows but am going to highlight my favourites which brought me a lot of comfort and joy.
I went to the opening night of the Montreal International Jazz Festival to watch Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Sharon is described as a female version of James Brown. The show was packed with approximately 100,000 people in attendance rocking away outdoors to Sharon Jones and the Dap King's blues, funk, soul with every dance move including the funky chicken. I danced to every song and went home feeling elated with a reprieve from the pain. You can see a sampling of Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings' music here.
By now I was hooked and decided to go back to the jazz festival on July 2 to see Popa Chubby otherwise known as Ted Horowitz. His music was a medley of funk, blues and rock. I had never heard of him before but he is a musician not to be missed with his exceptional guitar playing and hard blues tunes. This was another outdoor show with thousands of people dancing on the grass, the sidewalks in front of the stage and generally shaking the place up. I loved his show so much I watched the 9:00 concert and waited to see his second show at 11:00 pm all the while feeling lifted with an escape from and solution to my deep sense of loss and pain. You can find a sampling of Popa Chubby's music here with a rendition of "Hey Joe" which was superb.
On July 3 I went to the Malika Tirolien concert. Malika is originally from Guadeloupe but after attending Universitè de Montrèal to study music she decided to make Montreal her home, where she is very active in the local musical scene. Malika is the lead singer in the Cirque du Soleil's La Nuba. Once again there were thousands of people in the audience listening to her Afro-Caribbean jazz and funk with a groove that got everyone dancing. I especially loved her rendition of Prince's - How Come You Don't Call Me Anymore. Malika had a wonderful explanation for the loss of Prince as she explained how he is not gone, he has multiplied through musicians who modeled their music after him. A sampling of Malika Tirolien's music is here.
On July 4 I decided to treat myself to an indoor concert with Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue. I have seen Trombone Shorty in concert before and listened to plenty of his You Tube videos. He played at the Metropolis and is known as a musician, actor, producer and philanthropist who has The Trombone Shorty Foundation which donates musical instruments to schools across Louisiana. Trombone Shorty can play several instruments but is best known for his trombone and trumpet skills which began at the age of four. I was looking forward to this show and arrived early to ensure I had a stool to sit on.
The show met all my expectations as Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue played for almost two hours. I had to get up and dance but to my surprise there were a group seated beside me who were completely preoccupied with checking their Facebook accounts on their cell phones and were giving me the "what for" for dancing. Who goes to a Trombone Shorty concert to sit and read Facebook? Like it or not I danced for the duration to a spectacular show and did not allow anything to disturb my experience and ultimate journey to escape my grieving and pain. A sample of Trombone Shorty's music can be found here.
On July 5 I was back outdoors at an Andria Simone and Those Guys concert. with funkadelic blues and soul. Andria's influences by Janis Joplin, Tina Turner, Nina Simone, Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Amy Winehouse were more than apparent. This tiny woman who has the deepest voice I have ever heard. There was non stop dancing at this concert and I felt less confined than the day before with those Facebook nerds beside me. Everyone was moving and I was feeling just fine. I highly recommend a listen to Andria who's concerts at major live music venues in Toronto are always sold out. A sample of her music is here.
This was an exceptional evening of music as The Campbell Brothers played two shows after Andria Simone at 9:00 and 11:00 pm. where they performed their adaptation of John Coltrane's A Love Supreme for the 50th anniversary of this song and Sam Cooke's A Change Is Gonna Come The group consists of three brothers and one son, Chuck Campbell on pedal steel guitar, Phillip Campbell on electric guitar and bass, Carlton Campbell on drums and Darick Campbell on lap steel. The Campbell Brothers were by far the best group in my musical quest. They are high calibre professional musicians with their music rooted in gospel as they played many genres of music including funk, jazz, soul, blues, with their unique steel guitar driven sound referred to as Sacred Steel. It felt like a surreal experience as I was listening to the best of musicians perform two concerts, for free! You can hear a sample of their music here.
After these three amazing concerts I arrived home with sore feet from dancing, completely exhausted but feeling much better emotionally. I decided to rest up for a couple of days as I’d learned at last there was going to be a two hour tribute to Prince at the Metropolis on July 9. I arrived early, purple shirt and all, and sat at the same stool where I’d watched Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue a few days prior.
The Brooks and Friends, with guest Alan Prater, a Quebec group, played this jam packed venue with 2,300 people. They played all of Prince's major hits and I danced non stop for two hours along with everyone around me. It was wild, exciting and cathartic for me. I cannot be certain but I think Andria Simone was performing in this concert. Prince played at the Metropolis in June 2011 as he requested a small intimate venue where people could have lots of space to dance, so the choice of venue for this tribute was fitting. The audience screamed for an encore and The Brooks and Friends finished the concert with their rendition of Purple Rain. Unfortunately I found a video of The Brooks with Alan Prater to include here and I'm also including a video of Prince himself playing Purple Rain here.
Finally, after watching a Prince tribute where I could dance, sing and let loose, I came home feeling elated and lighthearted appreciating how I managed to join a room full of people as we worked through the pain and grief over the loss of Prince by dancing, which is just what Prince would want. This musical quest helped me in easing my personal loss and pain in the best way possible, in music.