Recently this month, The Moonshine Café in Oakville, Ontario celebrated its twelfth anniversary. You may not initially think this achievement is anything out of the ordinary. But, given the environment where The Moonshine is situated and the state of live music venues today generally, the survival of this tiny venue is nothing short of miraculous. Tucked away on the edge of a predominantly upscale suburban village, John Marlatt’s homey storefront, seventy seat club has been a ‘safe house’ for musicians and music lovers alike. It quite literally flies in the face of all that is trendy, and its proprietor insists on keeping it that way. It’s time the love for this kind of treasure in our midst was returned tenfold.
This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this, but I feel it bears repeating. John Marlatt has provided us with an increasingly rare opportunity. Fewer places exist now where artists are paid the entire cover charge for their sets. There are some evenings I’m told, when John has even dipped into his own pocket to help out a musician on a slow night. Musicians with varying degrees of skill and experience have come to expect an atmosphere at The Moonshine, where music alone is centre stage. Patrons come here to appreciate their efforts, and enjoy the camaraderie of likeminded guests. Now, it’s incumbent on all of us to show the appreciation John and his wife Jane so richly deserve.
Words do matter!
When an artist does a shout out on their own social media platforms or websites, they influence the people that follow them. Thanking the venue owner during a set is always a kind and appreciated gesture, but these clubs need the support from outside even more. When fans outwardly show their support to their favourite musicians, a simple acknowledgement in return can achieve more good will, and the possibility of expanding their reach to new and wider audiences.
Venue owners like John Marlatt do the heavy lifting by promoting their booked performers in print, and on the internet. Reciprocity for these deeds steeped in dedication to the craft, should always be in the mindset of those who reap the benefits. Artists and fans alike can do more to help their favourite venues stay in business. Every interaction between, fan, artist, and performance provider is an opportunity to ‘feed the beast’ that is live music. Perhaps it’s time for more of us to show our appreciation in every form. I for one thank you John Marlatt, for carrying the torch. Thank you also to all the artists who give their best each time they step on that stage. The light that is live music shines brighter when we’re all an integral part of the process.