The 15th annual “Strangers In The Night Gourmet Gala” took place on Saturday August 24th and it was quite spectacular. This well organized and fun-filled event has raised over 6 million dollars for some very special causes.
The Simple Plan Foundation, Lymphoma Canada, and Friends for Mental Health are three non-profit organizations dedicated to helping sick children and families in crisis.
Upon arriving, I was overwhelmed by all the sights and sounds and smells. From the 60’s retro band The Hi-Fins cranking out oldies favourites (The Kinks, The Stones etc.), to the endless rows of tables with an impressive assortment of food.
There were burgers, tacos, pasta, smoked meat, stir fry and so much more. I was offered a raspberry lemonade vodka concoction courtesy of Jack Astor’s and made my rounds.
I was pleasantly surprised to see Montreal’s The Box open the show at 7:00 pm. Apparently Kiefer Sutherland’s band couldn’t make it, so they stepped up at the last minute. With little rehearsal and new musicians on board, The Box performed seamlessly, warming up the crowd with their classic hits. (“Must I Always Remember”, “Closer Together”, “My Dreams of You” etc.) The charming Jean-Marc transported us back to the 80’s and had us all singing along to songs that we thought we had forgotten. They ended their set with “Safety Dance”, leaving us wanting more.
It was time to get down to business. In less than 30 minutes, they managed to raise almost 30 thousand dollars auctioning off two pairs of Business Class airline tickets, courtesy of Air Canada. The crowd bid on some artwork, raffle tickets were drawn and awards were given to the dedicated volunteers. A wonderful tribute was given to the late Teresa Dellar, the founder of the West Island Palliative Care Residence, who sadly passed away on August 19th.
Around 8:30 as the sun went down, more people approached the stage and I felt the energy shift. Some musicians came out and then like magic, the incomparable Sheila E appeared. Taking center stage place behind her signature timbales, she lifted her stick and began to hit it. I was close enough to see that her white and silver drums were customized with delicate butterflies and Prince’s iconic love symbol.
Fusing Jazz, funk and Latin rhythms, Sheila did not hold anything back and beat those drums like they owed her money. As her two gorgeous backup singers chanted “leader of the band”, she reconfirmed two things; why Prince had chosen her to be his drummer and that she was destined to be a solo artist.
I was looking forward to hearing her two big hits “A Love Bizarre” and “The Glamorous Life”, what I didn’t expect was a James Brown medley with some serious dance moves that had the whole party grooving. She switched up the lyrics to “Papa Don’t Take No Mess”, with mama and added some strong words about equality for women. When The Queen of Percussion orders you to get down, you get down.
She continued to surprise us, grabbing a guitar and making her way into the crowd for a slow number. And just when I thought I couldn’t love her anymore, Miss Sheila began to preach. While her band played “Purple Rain”, she informed us that she was here to “plant the seed of love”. And that she did.
Now if I was in the band performing next, I would have packed my gear and gone home but Simple Plan came to play. They knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to come on after Sheila E, so they started in third gear. Bouncing onto the stage around 1030, they opened their set with “Jet Lag.”
Speaking in both English and French, lead singer and guitarist Pierre Bouvier boldly stated, “we’re here to party!” He got the crowd going as he began to jump across the stage and the party continued till midnight.
The members of Simple Plan grew up in the West Island and created the Simple Plan Foundation In 2005. So far they have raised over 2.5 million for sick children, teen problems ranging from suicide to poverty, drug addiction and more. For more information or to make donations check out their website.
Reviewer – Annette Aghazarian
Photographer – Eric Brisson