My last musical adventure of 2016 didn’t get posted until now – pleading holiday chaos for the delay.
Once a month (or so) on a Thursday (or Friday) the Berlin Bicycle Café serves up a participatory evening of music along with gourmet treats and coffee. Hosted by Janice Jo Lee, the open mic starts off with 10 minute sets – music and spoken word/poetry welcome – and has a feature performer half way through the evening.
Last night Vienna D’Amato Hall filled the feature spot with her haunting tunes. A surprise bonus in the second half of the open mic was a few songs by Alysha Brilla who generously had us all sing along.
Graham, owner of the Berlin Bicycle Café (there are actual bikes downstairs), also hosts concerts at his venue. Check out the FB page for upcoming concert dates and future open mics.
[Berlin Bicycle Café, 701 Belmont Ave W, Waterloo; once or twice/month 7-11ish; $6/pwyc cover]
I’m always excited to see a new forum dedicated to songwriters. There are many places to share well-loved covers and old classics but not enough where original songwriting is celebrated and given the spotlight. Jay Moore has launched just such event in Waterloo: Songwriters’ Showcase at the Churchill Arms – or just “The Churchill” as it is referred to by owner Bob Ringwood. Bob is a fan of folks coming together to share music. The Churchill is also home to a Tuesday night open jam, Wednesday Celtic jam, Thursday Blues night, and karaoke on Friday.
The inaugural event was held October 16th and featured Sing Me a River and David Lum. Performers shared stories (including tales of life-changing Nashville trips) and inspiration behind their songs. Hosting the event on a Sunday is a welcome change for those whose workdays don’t allow for late weeknight events.
The Songwriters’ Showcase will continue every Sunday afternoon with 3 song sets followed by a half hour feature set. Contact Jay (firstname.lastname@example.org) in advance to request a spot on the performers’ list.
[Songwriters’ Showcase at The Churchill Arms, 355 Erb Street West, Waterloo; Sundays 2:30-5:00pm, licensed, no cover]
Today was a perfect day for strolling tree lined streets listening to live music and the Grand Porch Party was the place to do it! How it works:Residents of the neighbourhood just west of Waterloo Square are recruited to volunteer their porches as temporary musical venues. Then performers are matched with porches and – voilá! – an afternoon of music for all to enjoy.
I don’t know what the estimated attendance was but there were significantly more people congregating in the streets than there were at the inaugural event in 2011. Another change for the better was that there was an attempt to stagger performances that were close to each other. This helped avoid the unfortunate occurrence of one act competing with the sound of another.
The performers were diverse: from the young rock ‘n’ rollers of Adrian Jones Music School to the more mature players of the Grand River New Horizons Music, from solo performers like Ian Reid and Maleidoscope to ensembles like the Ever Lovin’ Jug Band, the music was diverse and intriguing. In addition to the themes of local music and community building, there is an environmental thread to the Grand Porch Party. The event is held on Canadian Rivers Day and each year there is an “eco-partner” (this year: Community Car Share).
The concept of making a residential neighbourhood into a public music space is an appealing one. In fact, another KW community launched a similar event in May (Hohner Avenue Porch Party & Picnic). Wouldn’t it be great to see these initiatives springing up everywhere? Until that happens, I hope to be back for the 2014 rendition of the Grand Porch Party.
Maxwell’s Music House has been open for about three years and has presented many talented players. On Tuesday nights, the stage is opened to all comers and I had heard that it can be a busy place. My first impression, however, was underwhelming. There weren’t more than half a dozen people there at the scheduled 9 pm start and there seemed to be a very loose structure to the evening without anyone playing the role of host. I did enjoy some original tunes from Jay & Wendy (two of the four members of mennogroove) and Don Sawchuk.
I think this venue needs a return visit to experience it with a full house to really get an idea what it’s like. Despite the best efforts of the performers the ambiance was a little flat.
[Maxwell’s Music House, 220 King St N, Waterloo; every Tuesday 9 pm – 1am, sign up at 8 pm]
I signed up for a songwriting competition. A crazy thing to do, really, for a couple of reasons. The first one: I play music with other people; nothing tops the great feeling of blending our styles and sounds to make something sound richer and sweeter. What an odd concept that I will be competing against other musicians, with somebody, at the end of the day, winning. The second and more deep-seated: I left music because of competition and the pressure of high expectations. I rediscovered music as something joyful, not attached to an adjudicator’s comments or audition result or exam mark, but something I do for fun. The main goal: fun. The primary outcome: fun. The lasting impression that stays with me for days after a session: fun.
So what would possess me to sign up for a songwriting competition? I think I am ready to venture out of my comfort zone of playing with and for familiar faces who support and applaud my creative attempts. (I say “I think” because I am not at all sure – I’ll confirm or denounce this theory after the experience is over.) I am curious to see if my lyrics resonate with strangers as well as with my family and musical friends who know me well. And – it’s a test. A test to see if the dreaded performance anxiety monster has been tamed or is lurking in the wilds of Waterloo Region waiting to pounce when I least expect it. We shall see. . .
If anyone feels compelled to launch themselves into this creative and educational endeavour, you can sign up for venues in Fergus, Waterloo and Cambridge – just one or all three (“triple play”). The competition starts January 2011, hosted by Robbie Hancock who also hosts the Tuesday night open mic at the University of Waterloo Grad House. There is an early bird rate if you register before October 28th so don’t delay. Details and registration forms can be found at: http://rjentertainment.ca/. And if you do sign up, let everyone know about it! Leave a comment at the bottom of the post – the place beside “Read the whole story” that says “no discussion yet” or “2 comments” or something similar.