Live Music in James Bay
By Don Watmough
Hidden away on Simcoe Street at the Cup of Joe Cafe are the bluesy sounds of Dave Harris and Friends. On Friday evenings from 5 pm to 7 pm, the licensed cafe is transformed into a musical enclave here within James Bay Village where you can tap your fingers and toes to some great blues. It’s a good way to kick off the weekend.
This is no rag-tag band, but rather a collection of gifted musicians who live in or around James Bay. The core of the band consists of three of the top west-coast blues artists. The iconic Dave Harris plays guitar, harp (harmonica), and fiddle to accompany his raspy vocals. Dave is the well-known one-man-band busker of the Inner Harbour and downtown Victoria (41 years and counting) and has made a career as a musician, has written the definitive book on one-man bands, and plays an array of instruments and styles. Jack Lavin (bass, guitar, harp, and vocals) has recently moved to Victoria after a successful music career in Vancouver where he founded the Powder Blues Band and backed such blues luminaries as Otis Rush, Mike Bloomfield, James Cotton and John Lee Hooker. Sharon Wadsworth (washboard extraordinaire, bass, and vocals) is truly the “First Lady of Victoria Blues” having co-led the traditional blues band Elmore’s Bar & Grill since the seventies with her late husband John Fisher.
These gifted musicians play with a passion and soul rarely seen around the city and are finally getting some well deserved acclaim. They are joined by musical guests – Ian Bennetts (conga, vocals), Dave Gray (drums, vocals), Neil O Neil (tenor sax, vocals), Brad Fisher (alto sax, vocals) and Peter Janz (harmony vocals). According to Dave, “the group has come together organically and there is real chemistry in the union.” It shows. The music is upbeat and there is a house party atmosphere in the place.
There are musical ‘theme’ nights for both food and music, such as Chicago blues, west-coast blues and great music from New Orleans and even Texas. The band members are familiar with and respect the origins of the tunes they play, and really put a lot of energy into the essence of the music. The ambiance is casual, and the audience is an eclectic group of neighbours of all ages and backgrounds who enjoy great music and have become regulars at the venue for the Friday evening event.
If you’re just getting home from work, about to head for an evening downtown, or just want to hear good music in the neighbourhood, drop by Cup of Joe Cafe on Friday nights. Let’s fill up the place! There is no cover charge, (the band collects donations that allow them to continue bringing the good music into James Bay). See you there!