Canadian rock icon Kim Mitchell kicks off Ribfest

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Unlike some of the musical acts who play London, Kim Mitchell can locate the Forest City on a map.

Heck, he doesn’t even need maps.

That’s because, while growing up in Sarnia, he spent many a weekend in downtown London soaking up the music scene.

“London was the place I would go see bands,” Mitchell, 65, said from his home in Etobicoke. “We’d hop into a car and go to London and hang out.”

It was here his burgeoning love for local groups such as Thundermug and Motherlode flowered and where he caught such Toronto musicians as Grant Smith and the Power for the first time.

“That shaped me,” Mitchell said, along with the laid back Motown tunes he was hearing at home. “I grew up in a household in Sarnia and Detroit radio was on. I got exposed to that right away.”

So, perhaps it’s only fitting the veteran rocker will return to his old stomping grounds Thursday.

Sharing the stage with Kardinal Offishall and the Tea Party, Mitchell will play hits such as Patio Lanterns, Go For Soda and Rock ’n’ Roll Duty, bringing his brand of no-nonsense rock from the 1980s to London Ribfest.

From Thursday to Monday, Ribfest patrons will be able to enjoy not just ribs, but also all manner of tasty treats — from meatless vegan hamburgers to fattoush (Lebanese bread salad) to kababs to pulled pork.

So, what keeps Mitchell going at this point in his career?

“The love of the guitar,” the rocker said. “It’s not the money. I don’t have Bryan Adams’ bank account, but I have Kim Mitchell’s bank account.”

That, plus the transfer of energy that takes place between performer and audience when he connects with the ones who have come to see him. Among them are teens who weren’t even alive when Mitchell last charted.

“What I love about young people today is they’re open,” he said, noting he has fans who are also Justin Bieber fans. “They just seem to be open. There’s good music in every genre.”

He chooses not to be crusty or gripe about kids who get their downloads for free. “The wonderful thing is, you’re online, you’re worldwide,” he said about modern music-sharing technology.

He’s happy to play old hits, even his Max Webster material. “I will go anywhere (in my catalogue),” he said proudly.

Mitchell is philosophical about his career as a rock DJ, on terrestrial radio in Toronto from 2004 to 2015. He says his radio days affected him most as a person.

Wearing headphones in the studio, Mitchell got a chance to really listen to the songs that inspired him.

“Radio really helped me . . . get inside the music,” he said.

He also finds, when he’s out in public, if he sees a couple having lunch and the conversation is one-sided, it sets off alarm bells.

“Dude, ask her a . . . question,” he finds himself thinking.

“Since I was a DJ, I talk less. I edit myself,” he explained.

In addition to his time on the radio, the CanCon rock god also hosted Guitar Picks, a cable series that was another way for him to express his love for his favourite instrument.

“I have stuff booked for next year already,” he said of his future as a performer.

And he’s not afraid to point out that might be a bit optimistic on his part. It was in January of last year he underwent emergency surgery following a heart attack.

“You never really know. You have doctors who say everything should be fine, but you never really know,” he said.

He talks about being taken to a Toronto hospital following his heart attack in the middle of the night in a snowstorm.

He asked the ambulance attendant beside the stretcher how much time it would take to reach the emergency department, then got a vague answer back.

“I need a better answer than that,” Mitchell said, sensing the end was near. The attendant told him things weren’t looking good.

“The body all of a sudden went into this peaceful place,” Mitchell said.

And what was his near-final thought?

“I rocked out, I had some friends, I had a couple kids.”

In other words, as a Canadian icon, he had done his duty.

— — —


What: London Ribfest

Where: Victoria Park

When: Thursday to Sunday, 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Monday, 11 a.m. to 9 p.m.

How much: All music is free; see prices for ribs (and other offerings) posted at each ribber


— — —



Kardinal Offishall, 7:15 p.m.

Kim Mitchell, 8:15 p.m.

The Tea Party, 9:45 p.m.


Smokin’ Dave, 3:30 p.m.

Rumblebees, 5:30 p.m.

Butch Haller, 7:30 p.m.

Shelly Rastin, 9:30 p.m.


Loveless, 2 p.m.

Paul Langile, 5:30 p.m.

Black Belt Jones, 7:30 p.m.

Zed, 9:30 p.m.


My Ragged Company, noon

Whistler Creek, 12:37 p.m.

Triple B, 1:14 p.m.

Combination, 2 1:51 p.m.

Christopher Trowell Band, 2:28 p.m.

Full Throttle, 3:05 p.m.

10 Heads on Ten, 3:42 p.m.

Bath Salts, 4:20 p.m.

Mercer & Knowles, 7:30 p.m.

Full Petty Fever, 9:30 p.m.


Program is more free-form, for example acoustic acts between rib judging, according to Ribfest organizer Doug Hillier.

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