Local Journalism Initiative Reporter
Gary Farmer and the Troublemakers will make their way through Ontario this July as part of All Star Tour 2023.
The Troublemakers currently include Derek Miller, Brock Stonefish and Howe Gelb, and while the make-up of the group has changed from time to time, Gary Farmer has always fronted the band, collaborating with the Troublemakers to produce six albums over 20 years and soon to release their seventh—Lucky 7—just before the All Star Tour commences.
The group was the recipient of the Best Americana Album Award at the 36th Annual New Mexico Music Awards for Fool for Love, their sixth album, released in 2022.
It picked up two additional nominations for Best Blues and Best Rock. The album also climbed the charts to number five on the Indigenous Music Countdown in Canada.
“The mixture of all of our stuff… it’s a great marriage of players coming together for the tour,” said Farmer, 69, adding he is looking forward to spending time with the band.
“That’s where you really get to play, is when you tour. You’re playing every night and you work on new music and you find new songs on the road. It’s really a creative period for musicians to come together.”
A member of Six Nations of the Grand River in Ohsweken, Ont., Farmer is not only an accomplished musician but an actor as well.
He has starred in numerous movies, including Powwow Highway, Dead Man and Moonshine Highway.
Currently he plays the role of Uncle Brownie in the hit series Reservation Dogs filmed in Oklahoma. The show features all Indigenous writers, directors and almost an entire Indigenous cast.
He is also the founding director of the Aboriginal Voices Radio Network, which was established in 1988, but went off air in 2016. During the same time period, Farmer was editor of Aboriginal Voices magazine.
Farmer said he always had a passion for the arts, even as a young man. He attended Syracuse University and Ryerson Polytechnic University where he studied film and photography, but music was something that kept him grounded.
“I took a harmonica with me, and it was always a friend,” Farmer said about his days as a post-secondary student. “I’ve been playing harmonica for 50-plus years. It’s a self-taught instrument.”
Throughout the years as his career as an actor evolved, he said there were times he needed to make money and so he would head out on tour with his band.
“As a performer I had to always be multi-tasking to sustain my performance career… It’s been an aspect of my life that people don’t often know about. I used music as a means of survival,” he said.
Though he started off playing bluegrass, his musical style has progressed through many genres, including jazz, rock and the blues.
Audiences can expect to hear a mix of rock and blues sprinkled with a touch of alternative during the upcoming tour, he explained.
The band’s eclectic sound comes from the unique mix of talented members performing, Farmer said.
Derek Miller is a two-time JUNO award-winning singer, songwriter and guitarist and is also from Six Nations. His style can be categorized as rock with a mix of blues.
Brock Stonefish, from the Delaware Nation, is also a singer, songwriter and guitarist, whose music has reached number five on the Sirius XM top 40 Indigenous Music Countdown.
Howe Gelb has been brought on as a keyboardist, but Farmer said he is a multi-instrumentalist and songwriter. Gelb’s music has hints of rock, country, blues, garage, jazz and gospel.
“Howe plays pretty alternative music with a very unique sound,” said Farmer.
Gelb has played in multiple bands for the past several decades and has often found himself as the front man of the band.
He said he is looking forward to taking a step back from that position during this tour with the Troublemakers and just focus on making music.
“The thing I love more than anything is to have someone else be the front man and then I just get to make music with the band,” Gelb said. “The tour normally is a small lifespan in itself. It’s a collective that is out on the road together and out on adventures together. It’s always a time of learning from each other. That moment when you are on stage and playing together, you kind of are going searching together and you have each others backs.”
The band is scheduled to play multiple stages in Ontario from July 13 to July 29, including locations in Toronto, Deseronto, Tamworth and Little Current. Follow the band on Instagram at Gary Farmer & the Troublemakers Band Official (@garyfarmertroublemakersband) | Instagram and watch for information for dates and locations and ticket information.
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Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.