Stream Team: Reviews Week of June 11
Minanzi Mbira Band
Performing their first online show—from White River, Mpumalanga, South Africa—the Minanzi Mbira Band delivered a high-spirited selection of African-inspired music, featuring performances from The Sweet Dreamers Marimba Band, a group of talented young female musicians. With a focus on education and musical development, The Sweet Dreamers Marimba Band was created to give students the opportunity to train and perform with a professional marimba band. With Dan Kusaya on vocals, the group played a lively fusion of Shona music from Zimbabwe with South African dance beats. Personal highlight: An encore that included each band member coming to the camera to introduce themselves and to send a message of togetherness. —Julie Wilson
The Minanzi Mbira Band has booked a second show with Side Door for June 25! Get your tickets here.
Taggart and Torrens
The affable Jeremy Taggart and Jonathan Torrens beamed in from Ontario and Nova Scotia, respectively, to celebrate their debut album Bahds, released the same day. The pair eschewed the classic album release party strategy of offering any music, instead playing games like Higher or Lower?—a Price is Right-style spin through the Canadian Tire flyer—and Lyric or Lie? with fans. Due to tech difficulties off the top they extended the show to two hours, which allowed their all-male slate of guests—Ed Robertson of Barenaked Ladies, Dan O’Toole of TSN, Halifax rock singer Adam Baldwin, and Mark Forward from Letterkenny—to have ample time to answer Torrens’ career and quarantine questions. A chill, ambling evening, as you’d expect. —Tara Thorne
After witnessing a string of online shows featuring elaborate set-ups, it was refreshing to watch Sparta’s Jim Ward perform. Armed with a guitar, and sitting in a simply decorated room, Ward’s chill vibe and the lack of distractions—audience videos were disabled—ensured the focus remained on the music. The one-hour set spanned Sparta’s entire discography, with highlights including “Without A Sound,” “Breaking The Broken,” and “Air”. Bonus points for sending the show as a free download to audience members. Memorable performances such as this deserve to live in posterity. —Chuck Teed
Songwriters Circle with Terra Spencer, Norma MacDonald, and Kristen Martell
Leif Helmer of Petite Riviere Vineyards in the LaHave River Valley on the south shore of Nova Scotia hosted the evening’s Songwriters Circle, featuring acoustic performances and stories from Terra Spencer, Norma MacDonald, and Kristen Martell. Martell performed songs from her debut album, Coming Home, outside in Mahone Bay, NS, against a backdrop of lilacs. MacDonald played songs, including from her latest album Old Future, from her home in Halifax. Spencer performed her set from her home in Windsor, NS. The event was the first in a new concert series hosted by the winery, an evening of songs inspired by a desire for connection and a coming home to self-excavations of internal landscapes and the allure of wide-open wanders along dirt roads and the oceanside to reacquaint with our hearts’ beats. Highlight: A generous Q&A to discuss musical influences, songwriting styles, and how to become a “collector of words.” Random fun fact: This reviewer has now covered two events featuring funeral directors: Spencer and Hollowsage. —JW
Catch Kristen Martell in another Songwriters’ Circle on June 25th. Get your tickets here.