The local live music scene is thriving
The lights go down, the musicians take the stage, a hush falls over the crowd. No, this isn’t a packed concert at a huge venue in downtown Toronto; it’s an intimate performance at one of our local restaurants.
On almost any given night throughout the year, artists are stepping up to the microphone at one or more of our area’s eateries and watering holes. From cover bands to singer-songwriters to open mic nights, the live music scene in Southern Georgian Bay is … well, lively, to say the least.
“Live music is alive and well, and growing at a rapid rate in this area,” says Steven Vipond, owner of the Crow Bar & Variety in Collingwood and the Bruce Wine Bar in Thornbury, both of which bring in live acts every week. “It’s an exciting time for live music.”
Even before he opened his restaurants, Vipond was looking for ways to bring live acts to local ears. He started the Bruce Street Social Club in 2008, inviting solo musicians and small bands to play at his home in Thornbury, and putting the word out to friends. The Social Club has now grown to more than 1,600 members, with about 40 coming out for each private concert in Vipond’s living room.
“Back when I started the Social Club 10 years ago, the music scene consisted of local acts playing in bars, but since then, Meaford Hall and the Gayety and Simcoe Street Theatre are bringing in great acts, there are more open mics than I can shake a stick at, and more and more restaurants are offering live music on a weekly basis,” says Vipond.
Vipond opened Crow Bar with music in mind. The restaurant features live acts four nights a week, and there’s even a “residency” program to help local artists improve their stage presence. “We give a local musician a month of Wednesdays,” says Vipond. “It’s a chance for them to hone their skills, try out some new material, get better at stage banter – whatever it is that they need. It’s kind of a proving ground for them.”
Thursday is open mic night at Crow, hosted by Craig Smith and featuring a full band. On Fridays and Saturdays, acts from all over perform (booked in November are the Mike McCarthy Band, the Romney Getty Band, Must Stash Hat, Flat 5, Sean Pinchin and the Rob Elder Band). The weekend shows start at 9:30, but if you’re looking for something earlier, there are also “Crow Sessions” – dinner shows featuring award-winning artists.
Vipond’s Thornbury restaurant, the Bruce Wine Bar, also offers live music every Friday night and an open mic on Wednesdays. Vipond says he’s also pondering starting dinner shows similar to the “Crow Sessions” at the Bruce.
Marcia Alderson has been attending Vipond’s Bruce Street Social Club house concerts for about five years now, and tries to catch as many shows at the Crow Bar and Bruce Wine Bar as she can. She says she has seen an explosion in the area’s live music scene, and she couldn’t be happier.
“It’s part of the lifestyle and part of what makes this area so special,” says Alderson, herself a singer who has performed on the Village Stage at Blue Mountain. She’s also a local real estate agent who “sells” her clients on the wide variety of arts and culture Southern Georgian Bay has to offer, including live music.
“Not only do we have four seasons and lots of outdoor activities, but we have one of the best music scenes outside of Toronto,” she enthuses. “The calibre of musicians coming to this area to perform is really amazing, and there are some great local acts and a lot of original music in this area. The music scene here is just fantastic.”