Thursday, November 15, 2012

Bring Back Live Music

Letter To Editor Nanaimo Info Blog
My family and I moved here in 2005 from Burlington, ON.  The goal was a slower pace, to enjoy a temperate climate and have a safe, beautiful place to raise my child.  Now, I fully realized what we would be giving up in exchange for a smaller town.  Easy access to major sporting, music and theatre events to name but a few.  I knew that because of BC's liquor laws I could never bring my daughter to see a local band live unless it was an outdoor festival.  Something I grew up with (the daughter of a musician) and something my daughter started to grow up with. Music, to me, is an integral part of anyone's development and happiness.

The first few years were great.  Live music seemed to be somewhat abundant in the downtown core, not to mention the Summertime Blues Festival and other outdoor live performances.  I was able to expose my daughter to live music in wonderful venues.  My father comes to visit us every summer and has in fact performed two years in a row in the Summertime Blues Festival.  He has also managed to perform live around town with some of our fantastic local artists.  It all started at the Blues Underground (China Steps) and next door at CHLY.  The local blues community welcomed us with open arms and played some really great shows.  The Blues Underground was a beautiful place which welcomed all.  Because of it's affordable costs it was also helpful in keeping a lot of kids off the streets and instead developing interests in music performance.  I thought it was magical, beautiful.  

Sadly however I've noticed a decline in our local music scene.  I realize (for the club owners) a lot of it has to do with the costs associated with SOCAN.  Fine, I get it.  Local musicians that play for free, play for food, play for drinks, whatever, you're not helping.  Music is an art, just like the ballet, the symphony, a Monet.  Our local artists aren't being given the chance to express themselves.  Most of the restaurants downtown are either closed, can't afford to hire musicians, or have someone playing for cheap (free).  There is a complete absence of live music here in the North End.  It's like the dead zone up here after 9pm.  The Queen's is great, no complaints there, the Cambie, they seem to have it going on.  The few other clubs that occasionally have music, have the same artist rotation over, and over, and over, and over again.  And worst of all, no Summertime Blues Festival!!!!  We have a beautiful waterfront park, plenty of room, a BUILT IN STAGE!!!!  The costs of running a show with that stage in that park are much more reasonable than trying to build stages elsewhere.  Add a BBQ Rib competition inviting the best Nationwide and you've not only got a fantastic tourist attraction, but a great party!

I would have to say one of my biggest disappoints music wise is the Port Theatre, but it has nothing to do with the venue itself.  It does however have to do with whomever books the acts for this venue.  The odd live band seems to be vaguely sprinkled amongst the hundreds of Symphonies, Ballets and Tribute acts.  I, and many others, would really appreciate it if the Port would take into consideration it's younger crowd (under 65) when booking acts.  Take into consideration the fact we may want to see some of the acts that seem to bypass us completely only to play to sell out crowds in Vancouver and Victoria.  Maybe we would enjoy the odd 'off Broadway' play even?  Not to insult anyone, but my guess is the Port Theatre Board Members are all over 60.  

And what is with the Convention Centre?  Some of the rooms there could house live music as well.  I once saw Max Webster perform in Hamilton, ON at their convention centre.  A small venue, great band, great night.  Vancouver Island is known not only for it's beauty, but also it's population of artists, musicians and writers.  Nanaimo seems to be strangling the creativity out of our musicians.  The wonderful Blues Underground was forced to close it's doors in place of a more costlier enterprise.  Nothing that could be beneficial to high risk kids that's for sure.  The Summertime Blues Festival - cancelled until further notice.  Local jams being shut down due to lack of interest.  With so many musicians in town, where the hell does everyone play?!  Can they even make a living?  And shame on you SOCAN for being such a bully!

I love this town, both the North and the downtown.  Two separate places indeed, but still one city.  I love it's energy, it's beauty and it's ability to inspire creativity.  All I see from the people running this town is money, money, money.  Shallow goals directed by egos and power trips.  Who are they trying to impress?  Start listening to your residents!  Bring back the Music, bring back the Santa Parade!  Let's bring life back into the city of Nanaimo!
Kim Dowson


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