Last Friday evening the CBC’s ‘The National’ ran a story about the epidemic closing of music venues in the city of Toronto. The piece followed the perspective from club owners and artists, that the rampant real estate market boom is one of the chief causes of this dilemma. Where once the city’s older industrial districts like ‘Liberty Village’ for example provided ideal music club spaces, are now turning into refurbished lofts; or they’re being torn down completely and being replaced by high-rise condominiums. The dwindling numbers of venues that remain physically untouched by rapid residential development are being strangled by rising rental expenses, and other operating costs for their properties.
Toronto’s ‘Now’ magazine in fact, has been posting articles almost weekly concerning this very issue. Famous venue closures like The Brunswick House, The Silver Dollar, The Hideout, and Hugh’s Room however, signal more than just economic shifts in city life. These unfortunate and tragic occurrences also spark radical changes in Toronto’s culture as a whole. It seems that it’s becoming more difficult to find what was once billed as ‘Music City’. Moreover, if one even begins to harbour the notion that suburban areas and small towns are immune to ‘big city progress’; think again. In Southern Ontario, as hamlets outside of Toronto, Ottawa, and Hamilton reinvent themselves, the conditions for the venue operator change exponentially. With every new face lift on Main Street, the cost of doing business naturally goes up.
While many artists and music lovers have turned to DYI style venues as an alternative, the inherent dangers and illegalities always linger. Several municipalities have also suggested and tested community based venues as a solution to disappearing live outlets. Their motives emphasize the inclusion of younger concert lovers as a growth producer of future fans and artists; a valuable and underfunded perspective, indeed. But, if the culture of nightly local entertainment is to maintain any status, perhaps we all need to take more of a part in its preservation.
We all know the places where future stars grow; where musicians, comedians, actors and live performers of all disciplines earn their stripes. They achieve their greatness from grinding it out night after night, moving from town to town, club to club. Honing their craft and developing the stamina and fortitude required to rise to new levels in performance art. True talent emerges from the very places that have always been a vital part of our culture, and now they are rapidly disappearing. Perhaps, one or two nights per month club owners could introduce a more inclusive feature to their schedule. Encouraging parents to attend a gig together with their children on a traditionally slower night; with a meal attached to the event, this might be another opportunity to grow the fan base from within. Local theatre companies regularly put family friendly events on their schedules.
Supporting our local live clubs isn’t just about economics or civic identity. Going out and enjoying your local venue is an opportunity to witness the beginning of something big. Everyone loves seeing a local act on TV, only to be able to say they remember them before they made it huge. Of course, we all know that performances can’t always live up to these extraordinary standards. Some artists may be merely content with the prospect of entertaining people as a sideline, covering classics and creating a party atmosphere when they play. If all they did was provide you and friends with a fun night out, wasn’t it worth the trip? The bottom line is, every working artist deserves our support; and so do the business people who provide their stages. Without the continuing patronage and support of live loving fans, more venues that represent the vitality of local culture will be destined to fail. The real tragedy here is that we’d only have ourselves to blame. The artists will always be ready to perform, given the chance.
Please be a ‘LIVE SAVER’ today. You won’t be disappointed. You will most certainly be appreciated more than you may know.