What began as a sleepy Saturday afternoon at the Hard Rock Café soon turned into an eclectic party atmosphere as nine bands each performed half hour showcases throughout the afternoon. Strictly Mundial was hosted by muscians from The Jensen Music International Management Group. About 200 "baby-boomers packed into The Hard Rock Café.
Montreal's own singer / songwriter / guitarist and Juno award winner, Ray Bonneville, accompanied by Geoff Arsenault on percussion, hit the stage with his crisp electric blues and soulful harmonica playing. The live music got the crowd to switch their coffees into Molsons. After a 30 minute set, Laurentian natives, Kate and Anna McGarrigle, along with Kate's daughter, Lily, took the stage and alternated between guitar, banjo, piano, fiddle and accordion to perform a most harmonious set of French and English folk tunes. Following the McGarrigles, came toe-tapping bluesman, Guy Davis on acoustic guitar and Ken Whitely on mandolin to pick up the pace a bit. A native of New York, Davis' southern-style blues evokes both images of hardship and happiness from deep down South. The next three acts prepped the crowd for St. Patrick's Day. Starting off was Téada, from Ireland, Teada was recently voted best new artist at BBC's Folk Music Awards. The traditional Irish music of this young quartet made for a highly spirited and intense set with fiddler, Oisin MacDiarmada, and flautist, John Blake, being backed with the expertise of banjo player, Sean McElwain and Tristan Rosenstock on bodhrah. Cape Breton's young quartet, The Cotter family siblings hit the stage next. Finally, our own Quebecois band, Rosheen, founded by Lynn Vallières, rounded out the set with reels, jigs, ballads and authentic Irish music. These versatile musicians included Michel Hénault (guitar), Grégoire Painchaud (keyboard, piano, violin, and mandolin), Kattialine Painchaud (violin and harp), François Matte (wooden flute, tin whistle), François Guilbault (double bass and bass) and Christian Paré (percussion and drums).
Finally, the last showcase of the day was probably what most people were waiting for. The Strawbs included originator Dave Cousins ( banjo, guitar and vocals), Chas Cronk (acoustic bass guitar, vocals) and Dave Lambert (acoustic lead guitar vocals). These three lads from England performed each of their songs with a significant amounrt of passion, as if they were still in their hey-day. These British rock and roll Hall of Famers banged out over an hours worth of wonderful music. The crowd was more than pleased when the band came back for an encore, singing their hit, "Oh, How She Changed," which was originally released in 1968.
If you dropped by The Hard Rock Café this past weekend, you surely weren't dissapointed; The Hard Rock's acoustics were exceptional and the positive energy of the fans was riveting. The artists came from all around the world to present a diverse pallette of sounds that entertained everyone in attendance. I hope The Hard Rock will put together more musical gems such as this one in the near future.