Somewhere There Creative Music Festival: Main

The Polka Dogs
   Colin Couch (tuba) Tiina Kiik (accordion) John Millard (banjo) Ambrose Pottie (drums) Tom Walsh (trombone)

Saturday 27 February, 10pm: free show in the southern cross lounge

Polka Dogs (phptp by Ed Hanley)

look + listen:

Will You Wander

Thirty Reasons

The Polka Dogs were conceived as a pit band for an outdoor spectacle which animated the history of Toronto's Kensington Market. After a short run at The Cameron Public House as The Polka Dots, the personnel shifted and the band reformed as The Polka Dogs with Tiina Kiik on accordion, Colin Couch on tuba, Ambrose Pottie on drums, Tom Walsh on trombone and composer John Millard on banjo and vocals. The group assembled in the fall of 1989 for a remount of the Kensington show and went on to cut it's teeth at local bars, mostly Clinton's and the Cameron. A demo recorded at the Music Gallery gained attention and airplay for the group and in the summer of 1990 after an engagement in the agriculture pavilion at the CNE (wedged between a 30 foot tall salmonella bacteria and a 2 story apple with wiggling worm illustrating the benefits of pesticides) the band was recorded in concert at Earl Bales Park with a CBC music series called "The Entertainers". This recording was mixed by Bill Stunt and John Millard at CBC in Montreal and released on Aural Tradition Records by Gary Cristall.

The group went on to tour Canada and Europe. In 1991 and 1992, the Polka Dogs were embedded in a dance piece by Susan McKenzie called Sleeping Dogs Lie. Using Polka Dogs music, a narrative dance piece was constructed about the mores of social dancing. This project was produced in Toronto at the Great Hall, Ottawa in the National Gallery, Peterborough and Vancouver at the Cultch.

Polka Dog songwriter and front man John Millard pulled the band back into a theatre for a collaboration with Martha Ross. The musical Ratbag was produced by Theatre Columbus and Canadian Stage Company in April 1993.

After a successful run at the Bluma Appel Theatre, the group re-formed under different personnel and toured Ontario one last time before ceasing operations. In 2009 the group reunited for a highly successful 20th anniversary concert at Soulpepper Theatre under the banner of the Global Cabaret Festival. In 2014 the group reformed and started building new repertoire. After playing Toronto nightclubs and various events and locations for 12 months, they have recorded a 4 song ep to be released in early 2016.


Carpenter by day, father and husband by night, tuba-player at other times (what do you do?), Colin Couch has worked with Kevin Breit, Randall Coryell, Cowboy Junkies, Bruce McCullough, Bob Snider, NOJO, Allison Cameron, Polka Dogs, Kyp Harness, Guh, and many others.

Tiina Kiik is an accordionist and teacher residing in Toronto. She is equally at home in classical, folk and improvised music. She has worked with the Soulpepper Theatre, Audiopollination, Tapestry New Opera, Arcana Ensemble, Hemispheres, and Dusk Dances, and has toured both Canada and internationally with the Polka Dogs and the Double Wind Cello Trio. Since 1995, she has taught accordion, piano, chamber music, and preschool music at the University Settlement Music and Arts School. Kiik is currently co-creating a piece with choreographer/dancer Julia Aplin for solo dancer and accordion. She is also a regular contributor of CD reviews to WholeNote Magazine.

Mostly self-taught, John Millard has been active in the Canadian music and theatre scenes for the last twenty years. Early private studies with Fred Stone and Richard Pochinko have led to a lifetime in theatre and music. He has toured Canada and Europe with his bands The Polka Dogs and John Millard & Happy Day. He has released five cd's. Recent theatre for Soulpepper the Barber of Seville and at Summerworks 2013, The Ballad of Weedy Peetstraw.

Ambrose Pottie is currently one of the curators of the Toronto Improvisor's Orchestra and was a founding member of Toronto pop group Crash Vegas, recording three albums and touring Canada And U.S. extensively. He also has recorded and/or performed with Fred Frith, Andrew Cyrille, Eugene Chadbourne, Chris Brown, The Polka Dogs, Bill Grove, Flaming Dono Drum and Dance Ensemble, Pete Dako, Mary Margaret O'Hara, Plasterscene Replicas, Eric Schenkman, Sleepers, and poet Bill Bissett. Ambrose is also a phonographer and electroacoustic performer/composer with recordings featured on Quiet, Webbed Hand Records, and as part of 60X60 with the Canadian Electoacoustic Community at Concordia University.

Lauded as one of Canada's most creative musicians, Tom Walsh's music blends memorable melody with fearless experimentation. As a trombonist has worked with such popular acts as the Barenaked Ladies, Cowboy Junkies, MC Solaar, Bran Van 3000, and even Zappa's Don Preston as well as improvising with Jean Derome, René Lussier, D.D. Jackson, Fred Frith, and Evan Lurie. On record, Walsh is featured on more than 50 national or international releases. Since 2002, he's been nominated three times as "Trombonist of the Year" for Canada's National Jazz Award. As composer, Tom's work includes the voices of Mary Margaret O'Hara, Kimberly Barber or David Cronenberg; poetry of Michael Ondaatje, Adeena Karasick or Todd Swift; dance of José Navas, Andrew Harwood or Estelle Clareton; theatre of Daniel MacIvor or Don McKellar; and new media of Don Ritter (Digital Interactive) and Marcelle Hudon (Performance Art/Marionette).

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