The summer heat is finally soaking in and the annual Redpath Waterfront Festival, from June 20 to 22, is here to help celebrate the season. Among the many events is the EMERGE artists showcase, partnering with the Toronto Wine and Spirit Festival at Sugar Beach.
The showcase features a variety of young up-and-coming Toronto musicians. After last year’s fabulous urban folk theme, EMERGE will be kicking it up a notch in 2014 with a showcase featuring highly energetic and talented funk and soul bands, and singer-songwriters.
Headlining acts will include After Funk, Capitol Beats, The Soul Motivators, and Irene Torres and the Sugar Devils. A dozen more acts will be performing throughout the three-day festival.
Creative director Cindy Wilson describes EMERGE as a group that helps up-coming artists develop as musicians. This is achieved by pairing them with seasoned musicians and letting them rehearse their music with the goal of making them comfortable and prepared to perform in front of a live audience. Upon reaching this point, EMERGE helps expose the artists and assists them in booking gigs of their own.
“Every artist didn’t necessarily come through EMERGE, but because EMERGE is a collective we embrace [all musicians] and if we can find work for everybody, that’s what we try to do,” said Wilson who, along with fellow organizer Ron Allen, was nominated for Best Promoters at The Black Canadian Awards on June 7.
The creative director made it clear that they do not accept musicians whose music has been regularly played on the radio or if they are headlining any large venue or opening for an act.
“We look for artists that need the exposure and are kind of Toronto’s best kept secret,” she said.
Some of those artists can be seen at the upcoming Waterfront Festival which is, like EMERGE, grassroots-based and instead of having one big headliner as a draw, the budget is spread out to help showcase as many artists as possible. All of the performers are singer-songwriters due to the event being backed by the Society of Composers, Authors, and Music Publishers of Canada (SOCAN).
This year’s theme is Make it Funky.
“There’s a lot of young, up-and-coming funk bands in the city and I thought it was time that the masses were introduced to them,” said Wilson.
Thursday evening will close off with a showcase featuring seven talented singer-songwriters from 8:15 to 11 pm. This will include Jeff Eager whose music draws from the influence of Lenny Kravitz’s funk rock and the soul of Stevie Wonder. The following evening will end with The Capitol Beat, an eight-piece soul ensemble, who Wilson describes as a band she just had to approach after discovering them through her son and hearing their music.
The Capitol Beats’ self-titled debut EP, described by vocalist Liam McArdle, features classic soul with Africanized rhythms – and it can be heard on their website. McArdle’s pipes, and energetic and wild style of singing is, above all else, absolutely mind-blowing.
Their musicianship is played out even more when performing live, driven by a chemistry rooted in the view that they are not only musicians, but friends.
“We’ve been very fortunate to have a privileged chemistry throughout our time together,” said McArdle. “We’ve grown up together and understand each other’s vibes and needs and musical inner workings personally. We get on the same page and make this kind of music because it represents our collective friendship equally. It’s not one guy writing all the tunes and dictating orders to everyone else – it’s a sort of collective art project.”
Born and raised in Ottawa, each member had moved to Toronto around the same time provoking McArdle to form with his friends The Capitol Beat in October 2010. Each member comes from different musical backgrounds and bands throughout high school including heavy metal, ska, and hip-hop.
“We were all pretty versatile cats,” said McArdle.
The Capitol Beats is currently working on their first full-length album, which will be more “progressive neo soul with an indie and electronic influence.” They are targeting sometime next year as a release date. In the meantime, Capitol Beats will be performing some of this new music, along with tracks off their EP, at the Waterfront Festival.
Closing off the night on Saturday is nine-piece ensemble, The Soul Motivators, a relatively more well-known band and for good reason.
“Me and the original founding three members were in another band called The Ambassadors, but we didn’t think it was funky enough,” said guitarist Volitaire Ramos. “We’re all hardcore funk enthusiasts, so we struck out on our own and started a band that was grittier and more authentic sounding and went in a direction that was funkier.”
Listening to their music, that love for funk can definitely be heard; they are an ensemble that pretty much epitomizes what funk is all about, while putting their own spin on the genre.
Wilson describes The Soul Motivators as a band she had loved for a long time.
“They came on the scene kind of fast and furious,” the creative director said. “And then started to develop their own sound.”
When asked what people can expect from The Soul Motivators at the Waterfront Festival, Ramos simply said, “a nine-piece funk explosion.”
“We really pride ourselves in putting out serious energy at our live shows. We also love getting the energy back from our crowd. So we spend a lot of time working on our show, making sure our sections are super tight and we’re constantly thinking about how to make our shows electric and unforgettable.”
For a full schedule of the EMERGE showcase, along with more information about the festival visit towaterfrontfest.com/wine-and-spirit.