Here’s looking at you, kids

START OF A BEAUTIFUL FRIENDSHIP: Meghan Parnell, second from right, returned home from a singing stint in Morocco and met up with old friend Dave Barnes, centre, to start Parkside Drive.

Midtown band’s Casablanca connection

Of all the wing joints, in all the towns, in all the world, she walks into Chick’N’Deli.

Vocalist and Christie Pits resident Meghan Parnell slides into a booth at the Mount Pleasant Rd. tavern, water bottle in hand and chats about how she came to join four Humber College alumni after a tour of Morocco.

That’s right, she sang in Casablanca, home of fez hats and Rick’s Café.

Now back from her journey, she has joined up with Parkside Drive through the network that is the Toronto music scene.

“I worked with the drummer who actually ended up doing the gig in Casablanca after me, and I kept in touch with him while he was out there. When he got back I did a few gigs with him,” she says. “But he was going away again, I didn’t have a regular band and the guitar player in the band asked me if I was working regularly.

“I said no, and he said my best friend is putting a band together and he needs a singer.”

The best friend turned out to be frontman and guitarist Dave Barnes, who started Parkside Drive in August.

It’s been almost a year since he formed the cover band, and after weekly practices, and shows at On The Curve, West 50, both in Mississauga, and Club 365 at Fallsview Casino, the band is one solid unit.

Barnes credits it to his acquaintance with vocalist-keyboardist La-Nai Gabriel, drummer Joshua Parks and bassist Mike Meusel, all from Humber.

“I think a lot of it has to do with us playing with each other prior to the band,” Barnes says sitting in the tavern’s patio while in between sets.

“Dave runs the band with an iron fist,” Gabriel adds, with a laugh.

For Parnell, the only non-Humber member, her cohesiveness with the band is all about personality.

“I’m just a gel-ly kind of person,” she says.

Joking aside, the band’s goal is to get popular with the commercial crowd.

“The next step is corporate, we need people to hire us for corporate gigs, and that’s a really hard thing to get into because people go with the bands they know,” Parnell says. “You’ve got to get into one gig where people can see you, enjoy you and kind of pass the word on.”

Dressing to impress is one way to do it. The guys don button-up shirts with ties that match what the girls are wearing.

But for the time being the music is what they enjoy most, performing R&B, soul, funk, disco, dance and Top 40.

Parnell musters a stellar Tina Turner with “Proud Mary”, and the band turns up the funk appeal on Rose Royce’s “Car Wash” and Rolling Stones’ “Missing You”.

The covers have given them success, Barnes says, as they are almost completely booked every weekend to 2010.

Both Parks and Meusel are quiet as they sit on the patio, piping in only to chide Barnes’ final decision on the troupe’s name.

“We wanted to take Led Zeppelin, but somebody else had that name,” Meusel says.

“I remember suggesting, what about ‘Parkside Drive’, and (Barnes) said, ‘Yeah something like that, but a little less lame,” Gabriel says.

As for Parks, he shrugs.

“They call me the cool one,” he says.

The band laughs hard like old school chums.

“No one ever said that, ever,” Barnes denies.

“Except for Josh’s mom,” Parnell adds.

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