A 10-inch fish netted a Bradford man a hefty jackpot on Friday afternoon, after he landed a tagged fish worth $2,500 during the Orillia Perch Festival. The Casino Rama-sponsored fish was plucked from the waters of Lake Simcoe near the Narrows by Steve Clark, recently laid off from his job at an auto parts manufacturer. “The money will come in very handy, that’s for sure,” the exuberant 49 year old said. Clark was fishing with his friend Dave Norgrove when he felt a tug at his line and reeled in the fish with its bright yellow tag. “I flung it in the boat like any little perch,” he recalled. “I might have used a net if I had known it was worth $2,500.” Clark said he planned to take his wife to dinner. “We might go to the casino for a little while, but they’re not getting all (of the winnings) back,” he added jokingly.
Nate Mills had his tongue planted firmly in cheek when he penned the now infamous “Orillia Song,” a backhanded homage to his quirky hometown. The tune would serve as the soundtrack to an accompanying film-short produced in collaboration with childhood friend Tyler Grace. Set to rollicking country music, the song highlights a variety of local landmarks, among them the Stephen Leacock Museum, the Champlain Monument and the Atherley Arms – all of it seen through the eyes of two visiting hillbillies. Over the past two years, the piece garnered 135,000 hits on the video-sharing site YouTube. “People are self deprecating,” Mills, 27, said of the local response. “People like to be made fun of, to an extent, and laugh at themselves. No one had really done anything about Orillia, aside from Stephen Leacock a long time ago.” No surprise, then, that when Mills hits the opera house stage on the Friday of this weekend’s comedy festival with his Toronto-based band Run With the Kittens, the satirical song will be on the set list. “I’ll have to,” says Mills, the group’s vocalist and songwriter. For the past five years the band has enjoyed a regular Tuesday evening gig at Toronto’s Cameron House, a corner bar brimming with character. And characters. It was there that Mills and company honed their chops before small but discerning audiences with a thirst for fresh material and new approaches. “There is no greater way to tighten a band,” he says. “Every process, it speeds it up tenfold.” Their music ranges from folk and funk to hard-driving punk and even strays into the oh-so-soothing sounds of “lounge.” “It’s all over the place,” he adds. Mills inevitably injected his well-known wit into much of the writing, further broadening the band’s appeal. “I enjoy comedy, and have a sense of humour about things, so that spilled into the band,” he adds. You don’t want to get written off as a novelty band or a joke, but at the same time, that is the spot where I am most comfortable.” In 2007, the energetic foursome produced two records under the guidance of Blue Rodeo and Rush producer Terry Brown, and a year later released Cad Gold Jr. The band has toured Canada twice in an old school bus, and last November brought its wide-ranging repertoire to Holland. “It was fantastic,” Mills says. “We went for 10 days and we played every other night. European audiences are a lot more enthusiastic and open minded, from my short time there.” Other venues included biker festivals and a stint at the Huronia Regional Centre. “My uncle was in charge of entertainment,” he recalls. “He said (the residents) were really into Ghostbusters, so if you could learn the Ghostbusters song they would love it.” The band did just that. “Everyone went crazy,” he adds. “It was really well received.” In between gigs and recording, Mills supplements his income writing jingles for television commercials. “The majority of the stuff is background for a Swiss Chalet commercial or something when the food is being shown,” he says. He looks forward to his band’s first appearance at the local opera house with more than a touch of awe. “I remember being very little and going to see Mr. Dressup there and thinking ‘This place is huge,’” he adds. “It is kind of surreal. I feel really privileged.” Run With the Kittens plays the Orillia Opera House on April 17 at 8 p.m. For ticket information, call 326-8011.