Toronto Rocks for Frank Soda!
The fanz began arriving long before the doors opened, even though it was a chilly Toronto night. They came from everywhere; some from as far as Vancouver, to be part of what would become Rock Legend. The emcee was my homey, Dr. Mike Mandel, who I must say, did a great job keeping things moving and introing and extroing the performers. The eponymous band Scarpelli hit the stage running, at just after 7 PM, and proceeded to blow the doors off and rip the ceiling down in some first rate power rock, including Goddo standards and AC/DC's Highway to Hell. You really have to see father and son guitar wizards, Gino and Gene Scarpelli, to really appreciate their energy. The pair functioned as a precision unit; a relaxed Gino looking like a confident gunslinger with backup support fire provided by his very talented offspring. You must check out Scarpelli when they're in your area. I love these guys!
The Antlers with former Max Webster musicians, Mike Tilka and Terry Watkinson took to the stage; Watkinson having traveled from Winnipeg to play keyboards...and yes, they were amazing too. And so the evening continued, with a couple of hundred incredibly pumped and appreciative fanz of Canadian music at its very best. To immortalize the evening, a white Yamaha electric guitar was provided and all the musicians signed it, and so had Burton Cummings, April Wine's Myles Goodwin and Brian Greenway. Tickets sold for $10.00 each, and fanz gobbled them up to try to win a piece of Rock and Roll treasure - more about the guitar later...
The room was rockin' in overdrive, and so Coney Hatch threw gasoline on the fire. I bought their music on iTunes as soon as I got home. It went on and on and on, with some of the best players in the nation, gathered to help a dear friend offset his medical bills. I could wax on and on about the talent that gathered and played last night. Michael White, who sang Led Zeppelin like Robert Plant, Rockizoid and the Carl Dixon Band, to name just a few. The Carpet Frogs were one of my absolute favourites, who opened with Deep Purple's Hush, and then launched into an incredible rendering of Hey Jude; front-man and vocalist, Nick Sinopoli is an amazingly talented man, and the Frogs played their usual flawless set.
At 11 PM, Frank Soda walked out, which was amazing, since his surgery was only a few days back, and the audience rushed the stage. Too weak to play, he was clearly touched by the outpouring of affection and respect from so many people. He thanked everyone and then drew the winning ticket for the guitar, which was now covered with the signatures of Canada's Finest. It all went weird at that point, because somehow, Mike Mandel had the winning ticket and walked away with the Holy Grail Guitar. I know he's a mentalist, but can't for the life of me figure out how he did it, since he wasn't even onstage when Frank drew the winning number, and Mandel's friend, Kevin Pumphrey, was holding onto his ticket for him - "just in case it wins". Even weirder, Mandel had earlier commented from the stage "the only thing that will make this evening better is when I go home with that guitar!"
All in all, the best evening that any rock fan could ever want. Kudos to the Rock Pile for making it possible by providing a fantastic venue. Standing ovation to organizers Tessa Kimmel and Nick Sinopoli for working like lunatics to make it all happen. Many thanks to Coll Sound, and the fine musicians who unselfishly devoted their time and ability in support of a great friend.
And so, with apologies to Shakespeare, I must paraphrase Henry V:
In years to come when this night is spoken of, we shall say, I was there with Frank and Tilka and Gino and Tessa and Nick! And gentlemen in Toronto then asleep, shall reckon themselves accursed they were not there, and count their manhoods cheap when this night is mentioned!