Toronto, Canada: One of my true loves is the melodies of Celtic music. The music of my Newfoundland roots brings a warmth unlike any other. Heavy Metal brings a completely different feeling of energy, and release, and it surpasses all others as my genre of choice. Mix the 2, and you will have a seemingly impossible combination. That is until you hear the bowing of a Flying V violin and the blasting bagpipes of Mia X Ally... WHAT???
Mia X Ally is a duo consisting of electric violinist, and Colorado's own Mia Asano (pronounced Mee-ah). Mia's sidekick in the project is Schenectady, New York's multi-instrumentalist Ally Crowley-Duncan (more affectionately known as Ally The Piper). The 2 came together in 2022 after each gained their own personal internet stardom. With their collaboration videos going viral, the next common sense thing to do was to hit the road. The pair played their first show together in Boston in the summer of 2022, bringing their own style of fusion on the road.
Fast-forward 17 months to January 2024, and the band played their first ever live shows in Canada. On January 9, they played in Montreal and immediately headed to Toronto for their January 10 gig at Annabel's, presented by The MRG Group. It was a first for me at this venue that sits right next door to The Queen Elizabeth Theatre on Toronto's Exhibition Grounds, and of course, it was a first for me to see this dynamic duo.
MIA X ALLY
There was a distinct buzz about. A number of fans arrived well in advance for early entrance to the show with their VIP and Meet and Greet tickets. I could tell immediately that these 2 young ladies have almost a cult-like following. Among the early entrants, there are a number of fans with their general admission tickets that are also already here. A good hour ahead of the doors opening. A couple guys in front of me are chatting, and they seemingly spend a ton of time inside live music venues. One of the deterrents that are spoken about is the price of tickets to concerts. It makes this one all the more value for your dollar. With Annabel's being only a 750 patron capacity, the smaller venue shows tend to be much easier on the pocket-book. And in my opinion, there is nothing comparable then being at such an intimate live music event.
Once inside, the buzz became more distinct, contained within the four walls. Finally, at 8:00, the lights went down, and the accompanying guitarist (Toronto's own Dov Beck-Levine) and drummer Dominic Maraffa III appeared before us, followed by the 2 ladies that were about to amaze the anticipating crowd.
The band started their set with 3 original tracks from their brand new album Mia X Ally: The Viral Hits. The band rolled through "Shipping Up To Boston", "Fairy Tail" and "Iridium". The songs have a great beat. They are contemporary, classic Celtic fare, and the crowd is immediately immersed into a head nodding, foot stomping fun time.
With the crowd completely engaged by such a strong start, the pair hooks them in with verbal engagement, introducing the band, advises that it's their first time in Canada, and also sharing what the audience is in for for the rest of the evening. There promises to be a lot of discussion about the history of the band.
The band then starts in on the first of many theme songs from video games, and movies with the "Game of Thrones" theme. Mia then exits stage right, leaving Ally and the supporting musicians on stage for some solo bagpiping. With each of the girls moving around and taking centre stage, and now one of them alone, it clearly highlights that this is a complete, uninhibited collaboration between 2 musicians. Neither of them is running the show. Rather, they are both an integral part of what they have, and they share the spotlight. It's such a simple agreement, but is ripe with respect for each other.
After 2 songs dedicated to her dogs, Mia joins Ally back on stage for "Lunar", a song Mia claims she also wrote for Ally's dogs. This brings a laugh, and adds another element to the musicians' arsenal... humour! It also provides an opportunity for Ally to show her multi-talents by playing the Irish Whistle.
It's now Ally's turn to give Mia the spotlight. She leaves, and Mia absolutely shreds the electric violin. Think of any of your favourite guitarists lighting up their 6-string, and how mind-blowing that is. Now add a bow, and do the same thing on a violin. It seems incredibly impossible, yet Mia Asan burns it up in front of us. Completely insane. With pure love, Mia tells Ally that she missed her upon her return.
With no opening act on the bill, the show tonight is broke into 2 sets. After a 15 minute break, hometown guitarist Beck-Levine appears before us, adorning a #91, John Tavares Toronto Maple Leaf jersey, and the crowd erupts, in typical Toronto fashion. Despite the almost 6 decades of heartache, this is still a hockey city, and they love their Leafs. The band quickly gets the music going again with the original Celtic "Megaladon", and we're thrown back into the moment.
While the band's music contained many originally written songs, some of which were very thrashy, and heavy, some even with coordinated headbanging between Mia and Beck-Levine, the metal part of the show was to happen during this second set. Ally asks for the audience's participation during the next song, telling them that they'll know what is required of them when they hear it. With the very familiar intro to the song, the crowd bursts out into the "AYE, AYE, AYE" of Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train". Ever hear this on the bagpipes? Well, it's CRAZY! Crazy cool!!
This was such a fun show. The band was full of energy, and the crowd was having a great time, but the band made sure to take a moment to keep a promise they had made to themselves. In a more serious moment, after the band played the "Power Rangers Theme", Mia took some time to speak about mental health. The television show's actor Jason David Frank had died by suicide in late 2022, and the band has vowed to speak about mental health at every show. Ally shares that the band is supporting 2 foundations. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, and To Write Love On Her Arms. "You are loved" Ally tells the crowd, and the band moves into "What Was I Made For". With Ally on the Irish Whistle, it's such heartfelt rendition.
Mia X Ally played for 2 hours and 20 minutes (less a short break). They mastered the mix of playing original songs, with theme music, and covers. On the heavy side, with renditions of "It's a Long Way to the Top, If You Wanna Rock n' Roll", "Free Bird" and even Metallica's "Fade to Black", the band has created their own sound, with songs and sounds you likely never thought possible. And they even have the likes of James Hetfield endorsing them, after some knucklehead commented that bagpipes and Metallica do not belong together. As Ally explains, James Hetfield replied telling them that they are awesome, and to keep on doing what they're doing. How cool is that?
Mia X Ally are destined for some much greater fanfare as they progress through this newfound glory of live performance. For those of us at this gig, we'll fondly look back and say "I saw these 2 at their first ever concert in Toronto, at the intimate Annabel's, and it was pretty damn cool!!"
Shipping Up to Boston
Game of Thrones
Lancaster's and Faye's
Pirates of the Carribean
Bohemian Rhapsody/It's a Long Way to the Top (Shorts Medly)
Halo of the Fates (instrument swap)
Cliffs of Dover
What Was I Made For
Fade to Black
The Devil Went Down to Georgia
Through the Fire and Flames
Concert Photo Gallery
show date: January 10, 2024
Mia X Ally Online