This weekend we are presented with an opportunity to go all in on local. On Sunday, March 5, at the
Biltmore, you can wade deep into the Black Grass, the name given to a particular type of folk music
that seems to favour this area; it's a greasy bluegrass type. It came to my attention via the
weekly open mic hosted by the late Glen Bensley several years ago.
On your way to the Biltmore Theatre show, if you approach from Simcoe St., on the northside in front of
Isabella’s Chocolate Café, you will see Bensley’s star on the Oshawa Walk of Fame (yes, we have
one!). On the opposite sidewalk you will see one for June Eikhard, who passed away February 19, 2023. June was one of Canada’s preeminent fiddlers, known as the First Lady of the Fiddle and Country Music.
June moved from the Maritimes to Oshawa with her husband Cecil, son Brent and daughter
Shirley, both musicians in their own right, and both also have passed on; Shirley covered Christine
McVie’s ‘Say You Love Me’ before McVie did, and wrote Bonnie Raitt’s big hit ‘Let’s Give Them
Something to Talk About’.
The Eikhard family certainly gave Oshawa something to talk about, loudly and proudly.
So many East Coasters came to Oshawa seeking work, bringing with them their musical heritage.
Kitchen parties gave rise to open mic, and Bensley’s was central in developing the next
generation of musicians at the turn of the millennium. Some of those he mentored continued hosting
the open mic after he passed away.
Singer/Songwriter Poor Pelly was one. Pelly will be performing Sunday as part of the Biltmore’s
Songwriters Showcase. Joining him will be other alumni of Bensley’s open mic and vital members of
this city’s blackgrass scene; Meleanie Hébert, G.T. Harris, and Doug Kennedy. It is all-ages, so bring
the kids and share with them four songwriters who, in so many ways, found their voice in this city.
Saturday March 4, at the Atria, another local act, Nerima, shares the stage with Willy Nilly, and Ryley
Patrick and the Roundabouts. Nerima are a fab new pop band bringing a range of diverse influences
to their music, including a punk rock DIY approach. In 2021 they were nominated for an Emerging
Artist award at the Oshawa Music Awards (OMAs). Willy Nilly is from Kingston, and had made a brief pop-up stop recently at Kops Records. To be fair to Willy Nilly, it was a tad last minute, but they handled it professionally, I always admire an artist who can pivot.
In 2020 Oshawa kat, Ryley Patrick, issued the album Kenopsia, which is kind of like a moon-aged
daydream in Berlin. He just put out an intriguing track, ‘Renetta Jones’; it has all kinds of post-punk
meets power-pop meets pop-punk, and I have it on repeat.
So there you go, a pretty great selection of original voices to choose from this weekend, and kudos to
the clubs for providing the opportunities.