The following story covers some notable jams happening in Winnipeg, MB, Toronto, ON and Richmond Hill, ON and their background stories.
When I started writing this blog, it was to share what I was discovering about the local music scene and the indie bands I watched. I, a middle aged woman, mother of 3, had a bad opinion originally of bars and the musicians who played in them. I wanted to go to concerts, but couldn’t afford them. What I discovered was a hidden world of beautiful music that I would have never discovered if I let my bias towards the bar scene inform my decision.
I discovered bands before they became successful. Bands like Walk Off The Earth, biblical, CAYM, Crooked Valentine, Digging Roots, Fefe Dobson, Lyric Dubee, The Standstills, The Johnny’s, etc. They were playing in bars, nice and intimate. I was enjoying them.
Bars are not the seedy, sleezy places people make them out to be. (Okay, some are. Stay away from those.) Mostly these venues are either neighbourhood pubs with a regular crowd of people who live nearby and meet up to see their neighbours and listen to music, or concert quality venues. The crowds are friendly and the bathrooms are clean. They are not pick up joints the way dance clubs are. They are safe.
Recently, my focus has been on musician’s jams. This is where
a) The audience gets to witness the comradery and support the local musicians give each other. The audience gets to see a whole host of professional musicians all in one place. The atmosphere is relaxed and fun.
b) Seasoned musicians play with other seasoned musicians they would not normally play with, and seasoned musicians support new up and coming talent. Photographers show up and the musicians get photos that they can use in social media and for promotion. Bloggers show up and review them. Video is taken live off the floor and they can share that.
There are three important musician’s jams that I am anxious to tell you about so you can see how wonderful and important they are to the music scene.
Sunday Church For Bad Guys @ The Pyramid Cabaret, Winnipeg, MB
Location: The Pyramid Cabaret, 176 Fort St , Winnipeg, MB
Something that I’ve been doing every Sunday lately is going to a musician’s jam at The Pyramid Cabaret in Winnipeg. This venue has been booked by a well respected musician, Terry Wachniak. Wachniak has been organizing this jam for quite a while now and it only recently moved to The Pyramid. The feeling at the jam is different now than it was at the small pub it used to be held at. The Pyramid is a proper concert level room, with full PA, lights and a talented sound guy. Bands who play here sound great and look great. Every Sunday is hosted by a different well know professional band. The venue is booked well into 2019 for this event.
In the past few weekends, the event has been hosted by Prairie Soul, Load, The Bobcatz, The Groove Pirates, and The Draft Night Band (in place of Melissa Plett). On the roster in the next weeks are Tim Butler, Lady Lee’s Blue Noise, You & What Army?, D.B. & The Dead Beats and Debra Lyn Neufeld. All good musicians vetted by Wachniak.
I’ve discovered musicians here that I haven’t seen before and I’ve witnessed how respected some of them are by their peers. There is love in the room and everyone is having fun. I’ve been reviewing the host bands and Facebook is littered with photos from the events. Musicians who haven’t met before are getting to know one another. There is a strong sense of community here. As an audience member, there have been many times I have exploded into applause or been inclined to get up and dance. The musicianship is quality.
Al Reilly’s Open Jam @ The Rockpile Bar and Nightclub, Toronto, ON
Location: The Rockpile, 5555 Dundas St W, Etobicoke, ON
This month I made a point of attending the well known open jam at The Rockpile in Toronto. The Rockpile hosts an all ages jam every Monday from 8pm to midnight hosted by Al Reilly and his band Catalyst. The Rockpile is another concert level room with a raised stage, full PA, lights and a dedicated sound guy, Jake Disman.
I spoke with Jacqueline Lovely Perras at the jam on Sunday night. She recently made the Rockpile’s Rockstar Hall of Fame, and she was keen to show me an individual picture of her and a collection of photos from ARON CROSS’ November 3rd, 2018 performance adorning both sides of the hallway. Lovely-Perras is a seasoned musician, well known in Toronto who has experienced a rise of successes in 2018.
- – Her first album, “Warrior of Truth” was self-published and released worldwide. Two songs from that album appeared in the short film, “Unnatural Appocolyse”. While working on her second album, “The Quickening” she was approached by film maker Gloria Yazdani to sing her unreleased song, “Woman” in the movie, “Flames of Fury” appearing as herself during a party scene in the film. Inspired by the films content about a woman suffering with PTSD from child trauma, she then wrote, “Damaged” with Madam guitarist, Darren Lazary, a song that takes her own feelings of disconnection and blends them with the films story line. Both songs have been included in the upcoming 2019 film and Lovely-Perras is working on two more songs that will become the opening and end credit songs. Flames of Fury Is the acting debut of Jacqueline Lovely Perras’ but has already led to her accepting a role in a second film, shooting next summer.
- – On the music front she will be appearing as part of an ensemble cast supporting singer, Nonie Perez, at The Kalaysian Cultural Centre in Mississauga, a gig she got by contacts made performing at The Rockpile Jam.
- – Her band Aron Cross will be opening for Helix in the Spring and expanding their performances into all of Ontario by the end of 2019.
Aron Cross is looking for a permanent guitar player.
With this busy schedule, Aron Cross is currently looking to secure a permanent rythum guitar player. In the past, Aron Cross has used a variety of contract players, most hired from jam nights, to present their Rock Theatre style concert shows. But just as she has found hanging out at dedicated jam nights, the family vibe is so important in music delivery. “When a band has permanent members, we form a collective. We get to know each other more intimately and on stage, this bonding leads to tighter music and a chemistry between audience and band that enhances the experience for everyone,” says Lovely-Perras.
Lovely-Perras had a lot of supportive things to say about Musician’s Jams. She said she got an offer to open for Lee Aaron back in 2013, because of exposure she got at a musicians jam in Barrie. At that time, Jacqueline was coming off of some solo shows and didn’t even have a band. She was just singing with whoever was there to play. When she was invited to play with Lee Aaron, she quickly put a band together out of people she had met at the jams, including, Lyric Dubee, who recently played with Beth Hart this past summer. “It’s a great way to network with local musicians and find out who the best players are.” She said, “Now that we have a dedicated band moving forward into 2019, you can bet we will be attending a lot of open jams to find our missing rythum guitarist.”
Lovely-Perras also encourages musicians to go out in their spare time and watch others perform at their favourite bars. “The music scene will only stay alive if people who love music support the bars that play live music, by going out and spending money.” She said she goes as much as possible to the bars that regularly hire her and promotes them on her popular social media pages. “We don’t want these bars to disappear. Bar loyalty is very important,” She says, “I go out whenever I’m not working and support my favourite clubs like The Rockpile. I hang out, I eat dinner there…I drink beverages and bring friends along. If we want our favourite clubs to survive, we must support them with our time and love.”
If you are interested in becoming Aron Cross’ new rhythm guitarist, check out the songs from Jacqueline’s first album at www.aroncross.ca and contact the band by emailing email@example.com
Ward 5 Acoustic Jam @ London Pub Co., & Jams @ Falcon and Ferkin Richmond Hill, ON
Location: London Pub, 9724 Yonge St, Richmond Hill, ON; Falcon and Ferkin
10300 Yonge St, Richmond Hill, ON
Matt Bergman (aka Matt Groopie) is a long time booker and event organizer in Toronto and Richmond Hill. Bergman has worked at Cherry Colas, Cadillac Lounge, Stop Drop and Roll, has put on many shows over the years, helped with Indie Week, CNW, etc. He has been booking bands since he was 13 years old and borrowing his mom’s credit card to organize all ages shows. Bergman was nominated Independent Promoter of the Year at Indie Week last year.
Bergman and his friend Steffi Goldfield have both worked tirelessly over the years to create a true music scene in Richmond Hill. Bergman claims Richmond Hill is now doing better than downtown Toronto with better bands and better attendance.
- – Tuesday jam for over 4 years at the Falcon and Ferkin called the York Region Open Mic hosted by Steffi Goodfield.
- – Ward 5 Acoustic Open Mic every Thursdays at London Pub hosted by Bergman (Groopie) and Goodfield.
- – Friday Goodfield books local bands at Falcon and Ferkin.
- – Saturdays Bergman plays at London Pub and sometimes hosts other local bands.
- – Last Sunday every month Bergman hosts a Musician’s Jam at London Pub.
With all this activity, the success of the music scene and the support of these bars coming from these two bookers, it was shocking to everyone when the recent controversy took place between Goodfield, Bergman and Richmond Hill councillor Karen Cilevitz. Apparently, Cilevitz took issue over the use of the name “Ward 5” for an open mic jam. She began repeatedly threatening the bookers and telling them she would take action if they used the name. This CBC article “Richmond Hill councillor loses 90 days’ pay over bullying complaint” (https://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/toronto/karen-cilevitz-investigation-1.4956247) details Cilevitz’ reprimand from the Integrity Commissioner for her rogue and bullying behaviour against her citizens. You can hear in the audio clip, that she says Bergman’s name like she has poo in her mouth. I asked Bergman what that was all about.
“It started as a personal issue between her (Cilevitz’s) partner and my friend Steffi” He said. Steffi Goodfield was diagnosed with Cancer. The decision to dock the councillor’s pay finally came almost two years into Goodfield’s fight with cancer. Bergman got involved in the first place in an effort to protect his friend. A complaint to council and the mayor’s office for support was launched on their behalf, but no one would respond. He finally released one of the taped voice messages from Cilevitz to the media. That’s why she says his name in the recording with the obvious poo-in-mouth sentiment that I detected. Cilevitz is taking Bergman to court for Libel.
The thing is, Goodfield and Bergman have been setting up a supportive environment for musicians to get together and jam for years now. The musicians love them for it. The audience loves it. The bars love it. When all this controversy began regarding the Ward 5 Open Mic, the community rallied around them and gave them love and support. This is not what you get when you are simply booking bands to play. This comes from open mic/musician’s jams. It’s a special thing to witness. It’s a special warm feeling to be in the room with.
Whether you’re a musician, or just love music, I highly recommend attending an open jam. I wish everyone could experience this with me. It’s a music experience like no other. You will feel a sense of community they way one does when attending church. It’s uplifting and inviting. Be sure the jam you attend is at a venue that has a proper sound guy and lights. I’ll be at The Pyramid on Sunday. See you at Church!