Saturday, August 16, 2008


When Tom Glenne hosted the open mic. at the Free Times Cafe on College st., in Toronto, he would often give this spiel that went something like [serious paraphrasing], "You could all be sitting at home watching the hockey game on television, but instead you came out here to listen to live music." And it would make me think about how amazing it was - this tiny gesture - this going outside, to experience music and community, whether I was performing or just taking it in. And of course I would have to suffer through some whiny or boring or even embarrassing performances, but these amazing things happened there, too. I think above and beyond the individual songs and songwriters I discovered was this sense of community that was created in this very organic way. People met future band mates and friends on these Monday nights, arriving as early as six o'clock in the evening to ensure themselves a spot on the list that was almost always filled by the time the evening started at eight. For several months I was in attendance almost every Monday, lugging my guitar home to Etobicoke at the end of the night in time to get barely enough sleep to face Tuesday. Showcases were also held there, one evening a month, featuring four open mic. performers in what was often their first real gig. It was something that the open mic. hosts organized. Musicians waited for their own turns attentively and quietly. It was such a welcoming environment for songwriters, like myself, who were fairly new at performing in front of an audience and even at playing their instruments. More experienced musicians often used Monday nights to try out new material in front of an attentive audience.

Despite my long and comfortable relationship with the Granite Brewery and Ginger's Tavern, in Halifax, I have only ever been a kinda sorta regular at their own Monday night open mic., "Stage Fright," mostly just because Monday has historically been the one evening I have wanted very much to just go home after work. I am not someone who goes home and comes back. I stick it out or I go to bed, and the hours between six and ten seem like a lot and Monday is usually my most sensible day for thinking that way.

But there is clearly a community of musicians who have come together and out of "Stage Fright."

Tonight, Bend the River released their first CD, Revolt of Angels, which they actually recorded in the venue over the winter. The songs on this album were all written by Ronok Sarkar, with the exception of one song co-written by Ronok and the band's drummer and "Stage Fright" host RJ Donovan. The band also includes Adam Fine, Jonathan Andrews, and Matt Myer, with assistance from Evan Kolvoord, Bill Travis, Erin Costelo, and Kevin Corbett. Opening for Bend the River were Erin Costello and former open mic. regular, Jon McKiel. It's unclear to me exactly how all of these musicians found one another, but it seems that Monday nights at Ginger's was indeed the springboard for these friendships and collaborations.

It was an amazing show, let me please state that for the record, even though that's not really what this blog entry is about. I can't wait until these guys are so fucking HUGE, and I can be all "I told you so," 'cause the world is just a terrible, unfair, stupid place if that doesn't happen.

I made some friends at the Free Times, I found some people to sing with, to share gigs with. I appreciated the camaraderie and the recognition. It is some thing to be known, to be "regular."

And the musicians themselves. There is something so intimate and lucky about being in that room, being so close to someone so earnestly, and of course in the best instances, so masterfully, playing their songs like that. Live! You never know what will get lost or altered on the recording. You never know that they'll even make a recording. An original song is a magical, unique piece of work that changes every time it gets played.

Kat Goldman, when she was Kathy Goldman, used to play at the Free Times. She was my favourite. Her lyrics aren't on the internet and thus not so easily paste-able, and so I promise to painstakingly type them all out when I get the chance. But not tonight.

Annabel - Kat Goldman

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