local live music


Last week I wrote a piece about a blues club in London, England, and lamented the lack of similar music focused clubs here in Canada. I had proposed the theory that rather than sharing live talent with sporting events and other sideshows, a return to specialized venues would bring a resurgence of live entertainment in cities and towns all over the country. Well, I am both chagrined and pleased to report there is a still place near me where live music lovers can go to enjoy their entertainment without distraction. I am embarrassed to say I hadn’t heard of this place before, and yet delighted to have been introduced to this treasure of live music.

Last Thursday a friend brought me for a visit to the Moonshine Café in Oakville, Ontario. From the very moment I entered the tiny premises and met the Moonshine’s owner, John Marlatt, I knew I was in for a very special evening. Everything about the atmosphere here screamed the words, “You have arrived at a place for music…and nothing but!”. The storefront property just off the strip of highbrow shops and restaurants of downtown Oakville was a welcome breath of fresh air; without airs. In a town that has spent countless energy on redefining its image as an upwardly mobile landing spot, here stands a potential icon for days fondly remembered. Inside these walls magic happens on a nightly basis, if you know what to look for.

Marlatt and partner Jane MacKay have only two things in mind with the Moonshine Café; promoting live music for those who truly love it, and making sure you have a really good time with the experience. The sixty odd seat setting’s walls are dotted with photos of past performers, local artists’ work for sale, and tributes to greats of our musical past. Better yet, as the cafe’s website states, this is indeed an intimate venue… and there’s NO TV. Also on the website, patrons are encouraged to be respectful of the performing artists, or in other words; pay close attention to the stage and you might witness something really special.

Special did occur this night, mostly because of a regular band here called ‘The Beat Heathens’ and their guest artist, Jimmy Bowskill. If you are unfamiliar with the name, Bowskill is a touring member with ‘The Sheepdogs”; has also played with ‘Blue Rodeo’, and was discovered by the late Jeff Healey. Together with his seasoned bandmates on this night, the atmosphere was nothing short of electric. Weaving through sets of music ranging from Hank Williams to Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young, and Little Feat, the band brought the packed house to its collective feet on numerous occasions. Bowskill’s abundant talent, both vocally and as a guitar player were on full display. All the while, a single bartender managed to keep everyone well supplied. John himself, happily set up kitchen outside with a propane barbecue, serving up very good wings, sausages, and grilled chicken breasts. Every aspect of this warm, summer evening was a music lover’s dream. For a cover charge of $15 and the reasonable cost of refreshments, live music fans were treated to a full on exhibition of seasoned professionals thriving in their element.

Now isn’t that what entertainment is all about?

I understand of course that every night’s performance can’t be like this one. On other dates customers are asked to pay $5 to hear emerging artists as they perfect their craft in a live environment. Certainly that’s a small price to pay to be on the cutting edge of potential greatness. Imagine the energy released when a relatively unknown performer knocks one out of the park, and you and sixty other lucky listeners get to witness the beginning of something big. That’s what places like the Moonshine Café are all about, and they deserve; no, require our support. People like John and Jane provide these havens for artists and the people who truly love the art. You can catch a game almost anywhere else. There’s no reason to make musicians or any live performer compete with distractions.

If you have a special spot like the Moonshine Café in your area, please share it here at StageWages. We exist only to help them thrive.

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