Live Review: Busking For Change @ Much Music and Union Station

War Child Busking For Change Raine Maida September 22, 2010
By: Natasha Pavlovic
It was a perfect way to end the summer: a beautiful sunny day in the downtown core with over 50 musicians playing on street corners helping to raise money for a good cause. War Child put on its third annual music festival yesterday on International Peace Day in locations across Toronto in an effort to help children worldwide affected by war.

 
Something about these performances is just so raw and refreshing. Seeing bands play on the streets without the big sound systems, blinding lights and overbearing stages, makes you feel more connected with the musicians. It’s a real treat to be able to witness this type of art, especially when being done for a good cause. What better way to get people to feel connected and open hearted other than music?  Here is a glimpse at just some of the acts I got the privilege of seeing live in the streets of Toronto.
I arrive at Much for the lunch portion of the show, the sun is shining and the streets are rather empty. At first I think I am in the wrong location, until I notice Our Lady Peace frontman Raine Maida strumming his guitar in front of a War Child guitar case.  I can’t believe how close I am and quickly start snapping photos.
Brian Melo plays War Child 2010 A regular War Child activist, Maida encourages the crowd to make a donation to War Child while playing Our Lady Peace hits like “Clumsy,” “Innocent” and “All You Did was Save My Life.” There is something so soothing about hearing an acoustic guitar, I get tingles down my back and sway my body to the classic tunes. The crowd seems smaller than I expected for Maida, but maybe because it’s only 11:30 a.m. and he was scheduled to be on at 12 p.m. I continue to watch as the crowd gets bigger and a lot of media begin to show up.  Maida then plays one of his new songs, which I absolutely love, “Yellow Brick Road.”  Its soft, poetic lyrics make me feel happy.  By the end of his set, his empty guitar case is filled with lots of bills!
Maida then takes a break for media interviews while Canadian Idol singing sensation circa 2007 Brian Melo takes center sidewalk!
The young singer is accompanied by his musician friend, Andrew McTaggert.  Both are equipped with guitars and play a few of Melo’s hits like “Soundproof” as well as quite a few covers like Coldplay’s “In My Place.”  Melo’s soft voice draws a bigger crowd who start emptying their wallets and opening their hearts to the charity. Melo explains how all of us are able to change lives and change the world. 
Sass Jordan War Child 2010 After Melo’s set, Canadian songbird Sass Jordan and her guitarist step up to the mic. Her long bleach blonde hair blows in the wind as she places her setlist by her feet on the sidewalk. She opens with her song “High Road Easy,” her raspy pipes and scratchy sound has got the crowd’s full attention. She continues to belt out hits from her 2009 album, From Dusk Til Dawn, like “Awake” and “What I Need.” Her and her guitarist look like a couple of high school kids just kicking back and having some fun. Her youthful spirit and high energy is really amazing to see channel through her performance.
The last band I was able to catch at Much was The Reason , a group of five guys from Hamilton, Ontario.  Even though they have been around for a while now, I had never actually heard anything from them until yesterday.  I was pretty impressed with what I heard. Their rock n’ roll style had me captivated. They seem really down to earth, like the kind of guys you would want to go sing karaoke with at a local bar.
Hamilton Band The Reason Busking For ChangeThe band opened with their song “The Longest Highway Home,” which has just been released into a video.  They also sang another song from their latest album, Fools, called “I’ll Be Around.”  Just before I had to leave, they played the good old cover “Rollin” by Creedence
Clearwater. A perfect summertime tune!
After the lunch festival, there was a long break until about 4 p.m. where I was able to catch up with The Johnstones at Union Station.
I must say this band is something else. The band started a little bit late (in true rock star fashion) due to a quick street meat snack, but no one seemed to mind. As an intro to their performance, they played the opening tune for 20th Century Fox, which I thought was quite comical.
These young guys resemble that of a boy band, but their music is so wacky I can’t even describe it. It is one big party mix consisting of drums, guitars, horns, and a little bit of freestyle rap. I thoroughly enjoyed their performance as they belted out songs like “Gimmie Your Love,” “Down on Me” and “L.A.D.I.E.S.”  The majority of the crowd was comprised of young teenagers who knew all the words to their songs and even put in specific song requests. It was a fun performance to see. These guys have a great character and like to have fun with the audience.
Of all the acts I saw, I would say the Johnstones were the most aggressive when soliciting donations from the crowd, calling passerbyers “cheap” and blatantly yelling at the crowd to give them some money.  It worked though, as a lot the 9-5 commuters stopped to drop some change off in their buckets. Well done boys, well done!
The Johnstones Busking for Change 2010 And that, my friends, is just a fraction of all the talent that was floating around downtown yesterday. Unfortunately, I didn’t get a chance to see everything, but I was happy with what I saw.  I wish there were more festivals like this throughout the year.  Not only is it great exposure for Canadian musicians, but it gives something for us poor folk to look forward to. It really makes you think about how music is such a communal thing, and how it connects people. Music is powerful and I think War Child Canada is on the right track when it comes to making positive changes with these types of events. Kudos!
For more information on War Child and Busking For Change, check out www.warchild.ca .

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