Month: September 2010 (Page 1 of 2)

Venue: Open Mic with Robbie Hancock

The University of Waterloo Grad House is usually open to members only, however, on Tuesday nights, it opens its doors to music lovers and players alike.  Host Robbie Hancock starts the evening off with his own tape loop infused guitar, piano and vocals and invites people to sign their name on a chalkboard if they want to perform.  This relatively new weekly event emerged from a songwriting competition earlier this year, also run by Robbie ( – after the competition finished there was a desire to continue the creative exchange and another public forum for sharing music was born.

This week I was joined by fellow jamseekers, Trish & Pete, so we added our trio to the list of performers.  Even the general manager of the establishment, Rose, came out to join in the end of evening jam, which brought all the musicians to the stage.  Host Robbie doubled as sound man and accompanist – lyric sheets available if you feel moved to sing but didn’t bring an instrument.

The pub and restaurant is housed in the historic Schweitzer Farm House, a quaint building leased by the Graduate Students Association, surrounded by large, modern university structures.  In addition to pub snacks and light meals, tasty local microbrews are served (Grand River Brewing, Cambridge and Flying Monkeys, Barrie).

If you are in the Waterloo area, come help keep the momentum going.

[Open Mic with Robbie Hancock, University of Waterloo Grad House, every Tuesday 8 – 11]

Venue: Brantford Open Stage

This week I met up with co-adventurers Trish and Marg in Brantford to check out the open stage I have heard so much about.  Held in a meeting room of a Best Western, this venue looks more like a place you would attend a conference or AGM than a folk club, but it is quickly transformed when the lights go down and the music starts.  To start the night off we were treated to a 3 song set by Al Parrish, member of the group Tanglefoot, now showcasing his solo material.  Following Al were performers that spanned at least three generations and many genres.  The B.O.S. website has a record of the all the open stage performers and the songs they played.

The Brantford Open Stage was launched January 2006; prior to that the Brantford Folk Club, hosted by Donald and Brenda McGeoch, had been on the scene for 23 years.  The event is hosted by Dave Jensen who shares his guitar, his button accordion and his quick east coast sense of humour.  There is a sign up sheet at the door and I was warned that the order in which you sign up has nothing to do with when Dave will call you to the stage.

The atmosphere is very welcoming, from the volunteers at the door to the host and sound folks, to the friendly audience and, as a bonus, the $4 cover is waived for performers.

[Brantford Open Stage, 19 Holiday Drive, Best Western/Brant Park Inn, last Friday of the month Sept – June, 8 pm  – ?]

Venue: Celtic Jam at the Shepherd’s Pub, Elora

Last night I paid a visit to the weekly Celtic jam in Elora.  I remember visiting when it was still being held in the historic Dalby Housewhere it began in 2000.  Still hosted by Eva McAuley and Robin Aggus, the event has made a successful transition to its new home at the Shepherd’s Pub and boasts a variety of instruments, many of the musicians switching easily from one to another.  One thing I did remember from my last visit is that the players were very proficient and they played fast! So I kept my whistle buried in my bag thinking I’d only bring it out if I felt I could join in – maybe on a slow number – but the minute I sat down, the fiddle player next to me said “you might as well get that flute out!”  I was startled enough (how did he know what I was hiding in my bag?) to admit that I was indeed carrying a whistle but I thought I’d wait to see if I played it or not.  I eventually brought it out for one tune, played with the assistance of some written music (which did not appear to be anywhere else in the room – all the tunes played from memory) and with the moral support of a couple of musicians joining me in the second go round.

So if you are looking for a place to share some traditional tunes, bring your fiddle, flute, whistle, pipes, concertina, guitar, bodhran, mandolin, harmonica (see a pattern? – use your imagination) to the Shepherd’s Pub on a Friday night.

[Celtic Jam, Shepherd’s Pub, 8 Mill Street West, Elora; every Friday, 9:00 – midnight, no cover]

David Celia at the Elora Acoustic Café

Elora locals will tell you that their little village is brimming with musical and artistic talent.    Last night, that cup of musical gifts spilled over.

It was a unusually quiet night at the Elora Acoustic Café, starting with a half a dozen open mic performers.  We then took our seats politely, ready for the feature set by Mississauga musician, David Celia.  That Rich Burnett claimed him as his go-to guy for guitar work on his recordings should have given us a hint that we were in for a treat.  David Celia drew us in with masterful guitar work, playful lyrics, and a warm, engaging stage presence.  For the last piece, David traded leads with harmonica player (Rein) and guitar (Rich) – it was hard to say who was having more fun, the musicians or the audience.  And to finish it off David thanked the open mic folks for sharing their songs and “putting it on the line”.

I have mentioned before that one of the beauties of the open stage scene is that you never know what you might hear.  For a $5 contribution we lucky few heard a set that wouldn’t have been out of place at Massey Hall.  Thanks to host, Steve Royall, for setting this up.  And thanks, David, for bringing your music to Elora.

Sharing music

Time to stop lurking on-line and go public!  Post a story of a particularly great shared music experience – one that made you laugh or cry or just ponder how great it is to have public places to play music together.  Tell us about an unexpected or memorable collaboration, a first timer that blew everyone’s socks off, or maybe your own musical transition from private to public spaces.  Don’t be shy . . .

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