blues club

BE PART OF THE SOLUTION

 

We all have that special place near our home. It’s the spot some of us call our ‘local’, and the one we know we can rely on to provide the entertainment we crave after a long, hard week. Weekend nights are usually the busiest, but some offer up sets during the week as well.  It’s the place we’ll find familiar faces, and a rockin’ good time, but sometimes life gets in the way and you may not have opportunities to enjoy the scene as often as you used to. You just know it will be there when time does allow; or will it?

Have you noticed a trend the last few times you visited your local music spot? It may not seem evident at first, but if you look carefully, you may witness a change in the venue you thought you knew so well. Are some of those familiar faces gradually going missing? Is the clientele base changing over time? Has the owner made changes to the type of entertainment they provide out of necessity? More importantly, are the crowds generally getting smaller at each performance? Particularly most crucial, will the club even survive?

There are a variety of factors that can affect changes on any establishment despite the best efforts made by ownership, but when it comes down to it, they don’t necessarily need be left alone to discover their own solutions. If you’re like me, and you have come to trust in the reliability of the people that manage your local, then perhaps you can also take a role in keeping their dream alive. A lot of the time what any entertainment venue needs, is an infusion of fresh blood, in the form of new patronage. Of course, if you harbour the belief that new customers are somehow interloping on your turf; unwelcome strangers, then quite frankly, your favourite night club is ultimately doomed to fail.

What I’m suggesting is that if you really have a stake in seeing your favourite venue succeed, then some of the answers may fall to us to make that happen. Next time you visit your local ask the owner or manager how they feel about the trends in their business. If they seem at odds to find solutions, perhaps you can play a part in assisting positive change. We’re reaching out to venue operators all over the country, to ask them to post their scheduled gigs on our calendar page at StageWages. Perhaps you can suggest the same to your local club owner. You never know when someone new to the neighbourhood will discover what you’ve known for years. This place is a lot of fun.

 StageWages wants to provide everyone with a vested interest in the regrowth of live local culture, a single platform to promote each other on. My personal view is that if more information is readily available to eager live gig lovers, the message will spread exponentially. Think of it this way. If someone new to your area, or even passing through, has instant knowledge of what’s available to them locally, it becomes a new opportunity to welcome another member to the fold. I’m not just merely seeking to improve the numbers for venue operators. At StageWages, we’re striving to make live entertainment all over Canada, second nature to searchers that appreciate a great night out. I know the performing artists will appreciate an influx of new fans. That’s what fuels the fire, after all.

Chuck Berry Guitar

THE ROOT OF ALL GOODNESS

Innovator! Trailblazer! Pioneer! These are the words that are often used to describe iconic figures that have recently left our world. With the passing of legendary songwriter and guitar virtuoso Chuck Berry this week, I find myself searching for a more appropriate accolade that befits a man of such stature. In the past year though, I can personally vouch for two others whose recent deaths have prompted the need for extraordinary description; David Bowie and the artist known as Prince. All three of these larger than life figures invoke a term used often today when describing someone’s influence on a generation. Each man, in his own time would become ‘disruptors’, a focal point for dramatic change in music, and in the ways we perceive artists at their core.

Though the last to leave us at the age of ninety, Chuck Berry was the first disruptive force, when it came to the shift in modern music we call rock n’ roll.  At a time in American history when race relations were coming to a head, here was a single lanky black man, who with one riff of a guitar and a hop-step across the stage, would change the way we listen to and experienced music for generations to come. Berry wasn’t only a gifted musician and brilliant songwriter; he was the man who put ‘live’ in rock show. From the opening bars of Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry served notice that the good times of rock n’ roll were here to stay.

His music and stage presence smashed boundaries of racial integration, live music as an art form, and sound barriers in music yet to be realized. Music performers became keenly aware that fans now craved a show, an act that would parcel the music in an epic live journey. During those early years there were others like Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and the great James Brown, but none could match the musical artistry and proficiency of Chuck Berry. His guitar prowess, performance energy, and beautifully crafted songs would turn Berry into a legend very early in his career. Future guitar icons like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton and Keith Richards all paid homage to Berry’s influence.

Then, in the late sixties came another figure of extreme transformation and disruptive presence. David Bowie introduced us to the world of character and persona. From Aladdin Sane to Ziggy Stardust, Bowie would transform pop music into a series of fantasy worlds, where the character portrayed on stage was equal to, and an essential element of the story. Armed with a voice that any crooner would envy, David produced works of artistry and imagination that whisked us away from the drudgery of the normal and real. Bowie’s next themed tour would be the thing that drew fans out in droves time and again. His rock god as stage persona concepts would spawn future greats like Alice Cooper, Elton John and Queen to follow in his footsteps.

Every successive concert tour was an event, like the opening of a Broadway play, where Bowie would bring a fresh new title character to life right before our eyes. In was no surprise then that he would also pursue a successful acting career. Through use of the visual to propel a story, coupled with approachable music became Bowie’s signature. Anyone who had the good fortune to witness his live performance was left with indelible memories of a consummate showman. Not only does his great music genius endure, but so do his characters.

Admittedly, Prince is the one icon of this group that I know the least about. However, I’ve come to appreciate the mastery of this great figure in musical history more recently. Combining the technical proficiency of Chuck Berry with the characterization techniques of Bowie, Prince created a personal persona that spoke to a new generation of music fans. His androgynous approach to imagery, and an ability to create layered brilliance in music by his own hand, makes Prince a true disruptor in modern music. Prince had an uncanny talent for drifting through and melding musical genres into fresh formations that remain uniquely his own.

In no small way, Prince can be attributed with a reawakening of performance artistry in the rock era of the eighties and nineties. When many older acts were winding down their careers, Prince emerged to spark a renaissance in live music on a grand scale. ‘Purple Rain’ alone gave him the distinction of being the first artist to hold a number one single, album, and movie simultaneously. Of course, it was also his work that caused record companies to place explicit language advisories on their packaging. If that’s not disruptive than I don’t know what is. Most importantly though, Prince was one of the very few artists who could take any stage, anywhere and command instant respect and massive appeal with his abilities and his manner. How many will follow in his larger than life footsteps remains to be seen. I look forward to witnessing the work that bears his influence.

It can be said that Chuck Berry was the ‘King’ of the new rock era. David Bowie will always be remembered as the ‘Thin White Duke’. It follows then that Prince was aptly named to carry on a tradition of innovators, trailblazers and pioneers of musical history. All three were magnificent story tellers. The next disruptive force for the goodness of music will have large shoes to fill. Someone eventually will be equal to the task.

story telling culture

So What’s Your Story?

For the last couple of months it seems as though I’ve been banging on incessantly about my own motivation for creating StageWages. My prose may not be the most polished, but I have hoped to express an honest approach to finding a solution to a growing trend; the marginalization of a vital cog in our daily lives. The live entertainment industry is suffering from indifference and heavy competition from other quarters. Many have shunned the allure of a night out with friends for the quiet comfort of home, forgoing opportunities for interaction with others. Advances in home media technology play a large role in this unfortunate trend.  I won’t dwell here on any sociological trends in human behaviour, but isn’t it time now to put live performance back in the spotlight where it belongs, both figuratively and physically?

Since the days of ancient hieroglyphs story telling has been the most effective form of advancing ideas. Communities have been created and expanded through the recounting of experiences in many forms. Every song you’ve written and sung, or joke you ever told is just another link in the chain of a cultural evolution. When the tale focuses on a single idea or event, its power can be attributed to not only the number of times it is told, but more importantly by the number of varying voices. Many a movement has begun from a single tale.

Advertising in all its forms is a prime example of what I’m talking about. How many times does an ad have to replay until it penetrates our very consciousness, and remains permanently embedded as a new part of our vocabulary? Telling the story repeatedly and effectively is the key to permanency. This is the StageWages story; a re-commitment to human to human interaction through our greatest assets; live art.

So now it’s your turn. If you truly believe taking  part in perpetuating the story of local live entertainment, we’ll all benefit from the experience. Share your story with others who are also affected by today’s trends, and it can only ultimately lead to a better solution for everyone. We’re all in this together, aren’t we? Artist, venue operator or fan, it doesn’t matter if you prefer Country to Rock, or comedy to magic. We all have a voice, and a part to play in addressing the solution instead of the problem. I invite you to bring your ideas and experiences to StageWages, where we will post them to our blog for all our visitors to enjoy. Please visit and revisit StageWages everywhere, and join the conversation.

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Vanishing music venues in Toronto

Carla Gillis of Now Magazine recently wrote a compelling article concerning the epidemic loss of Toronto music venues during the first three months of this year. For all who love local live music, I highly recommend you give her article a read.

Click on the above paragraph to view the entire article.