August 2007

Rhonda Stakich / For Keepers Twirl Me CD release
August 8, 2007 Horseshoe Tavern Toronto
Twirl Me
by Andy Frank

“You know the old joke..”, smiles Rhonda Stakich, halfway through her “CD release of sorts” at the Horseshoe Tavern on a hot Wednesday night, “once a singer, always a waitress!” Leading us in laughter, we got treated again to one of the most disarmingly heart-warming smiles ever to grace a human face.

Rhonda then cast her eyes toward the makeshift merch table at the front of the hall on the opposite side of the Horseshoe’s redundant dance floor. A baker’s dozen of her new acoustic, solo CDs, Twirl Me, lay gently fanned out on the table like a magician’s hand of cards. The twirls that grace the cover of the modest package (a silver disc slipped naked into a thin sleeve) evokes associations with time machines — one can imagine Austin Powers and Dr. Evil jumping into it and being magically transported to another era of their choosing. Beside the Twirl Me CDs, was a smaller collection of an equally new EP featuring five of her songs performed with the trio that graced the stage on this night — Tim Shia (Worst Pop Band Ever) on drums, Gord Mowat on double bass. They go by the moniker For Keepers — for now. “If you buy Twirl Me, you get For Keepers for free!” The sales job is done; they return to the art of playing.

Rhonda Stakich

I paid the going rate of 10 bucks for the pair, stuck them in my shirt pocket, and leaned back in my wooden chair. This is so unfair, I thought, this music business is so brutally unfair. Rhonda Stakich has released two fully-produced and packaged CDs in the past, Mary Mary (2005) and There Were Years (2002) and has had some modest air play and critical acclaim. However, it’s ridiculously expensive and time consuming to produce these works, and well, there’s a living to be made, a life to be led. One well-known local roots musician told me it cost him $6,000 (CDs not included), two years and 2,000 listens before he felt he had a worthy record to peddle at his shows and from his website, and, he laughed, “I’m a frugal S.O.B.”. He figured he’ll sell 2,000 to 3,000 copies over the next two to three years at a net of $10.00 a piece, get some stolen, give many away. A waitress at a half-decent restaurant can — somewhat deservedly — net that kind of tax-free profit for schlepping lasagna over six months.

Meanwhile, the gift of Rhonda’s live folk/jazz music filled the hollow room. She is a student of her craft, and composes deliciously constructed folk songs on a delicate bed of jazz. Mercifully absent are the typical verse, verse, chorus, verse, chorus routines of your average pop song, replaced instead by layers of textured melodies that weave in and out, dance, twirl, and return, songs that challenge Rhonda’s velvet vocal chords and skilled guitar playing. The room filled, one by one, many coming to see the next rock band on the ‘Shoe’s typical multi-headed performance bill, but the reception to For Keepers was genuinely warm and enthusiastic. Music lovers know when someone exceptional stands before them, whether they subscribe to the genre on stage, or not.

“This is our last song, pretend it’s the encore ‘cause this is it”, said Rhonda, sincerely. Six minutes later, with the house music already being piped in, guitar unplugged, drum kit being disassembled, and with the next Horseshoe players chomping at their bits, Rhonda, Tim and Gord sheepishly acknowledged the enthusiastic wishes of the crowd, and played one more song. It was the rarest of treats, a genuine encore, and a well-deserved acknowledgement of a fabulous local talent. I looked again at the twirling cover of Rhonda’s CD before I left, and wished she could jump through a time machine, set for an era when we will have finally evolved well beyond American Idol, a quantum leap to a future that justly rewards and encourages artists of all kinds for the joy and value they provide to humanity.

Rhonda Stakich is at www.rhondastakich.com or www.myspace.com/rhondastakich
We welcome your comments and feedback
Andy Frank
• • • • • •
The Live Music Report
• •
Andy Frank is the host and senior producer of Take 5 on CIUT 89.5 FM

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