La Scène de la Scène
by Stephan MacLeod
Things were starting to look grim this winter. Local show promoters found out that most doors to community centers and halls were shut to them when looking for venues for all ages concerts. A few months ago I called potential venues to get information on cost and availability for shows, but it seemed whenever I mentioned the words “all ages” I was told to find somewhere else. Other promoters ran into similar problems.
Aimee Power wanted to put on a concert to raise money for her Gaelic class’ trip to Scotland. Aimee says, “I called up the director of the St Pius X to see if I could rent their hall which is right beside the church and would be a fairly good spot for it. I asked if they had anything open for a certain date and he said they were completely free, and I explained to him how we were doing a fund raiser for our high school class and were going to put on a concert. He seemed interested and he asked bar-related questions and I explained to him that it wouldn’t be needed because its for a younger crowd. And almost immediately he got really stand-offish and basically just cut me off mid-sentence and said ‘We don’t want to have to put up with things like this’ and I proceeded to tell him we could get adults to supervise and what-not, and he said, ‘No, there’s no way this will work.’” Luckily Myron’s allowed the Gaelic class to hold their fund raiser there.
Corey Falls heard a similar reply when he called one community center. Corey says, “When I called the York Community Center, they told me ‘I’m sorry we don’t rent out for event like that’.” Corey says, “When I try to rent out halls like the Basilica Rec Center, they don’t return our calls.” Despite the lack of venues, the show must go on. “When all else fails we sometimes resort to having shows in our own homes and basements but neighbors hate it and there’s not enough room,” says Corey.
One brave soul who volunteers his basement for concerts is Nick Gallant. Fed up with getting the run around from venues, Nick started hosting shows in his house last year. Nick explains how his basement became a venue: “About 7-8 months ago, I looked into the Guild as a venue, and talked to a few people working there. I don’t recall the guy’s name, but apparently he was in charge of bookings, and when I was finally able to speak with him - which took about 3 weeks - he told me that they didn’t want to have all ages shows because it simply wasn’t profitable for them to do so.
lding those types of events for awhile. She didn’t give me a reason, either. After these two incidents, I was discouraged, so I decided to try and put on a show in my basement.
“I started having them at my house for a couple of reasons. At the time I decided to have the first one, there were no venues willing to hold an all-ages show. Those places that were had always seemed to be booked, or only open for the events on a seasonal basis, and in some cases, required ridiculous amounts of money to rent. The main reason I decided to hold them, though, was because they’re a positive thing for so many kids that are used to attending them.
“The shows in my basement have all turned out fairly well, but I don’t think it’s a great permanent venue. It’s small, and 20 minutes outside of Charlottetown. A decent venue to call our own would be nice.”
The goal of getting a venue to put on all ages concerts in Charlottetown was the motivation behind a public gathering on January 10. Adam “Spaz” MacDonald came up with the idea to organize a rally and raise awareness of the lack of support for the all ages music community. Over 50 teenagers gathered downtown in the freezing temperatures banging on drums and handing out flyers. The media exposure that this event generated helped reopen the doors to the Arts Guild.
Years ago, all ages shows at the Arts Guild occurred fairly regularly and were well attended, but in the past year promoters were told they could not book the venue because of a policy against these types of concerts. In a CBC story on Adam MacDonald’s rally and the venue shortage, Yvette Doucette, chair of the P.E.I. Council of the Arts, says “the Arts Guild building is still open to young musicians,” and she “encourages any young artists to contact the council if they feel they’re being shut out.”
The day after the story was broadcast, I walked into the Arts Guild and for the first time in over a year, I was allowed to book a show there. Now several shows are being planned at the venue on a monthly basis.
For months I was frustrated about how difficult it was to put on a show in this town. There is a really strong music scene that comes out and supports practically every all ages show that takes place, but the basements were beginning to feel too small for everyone to be able to enjoy the music, and the community centers that were kind enough to allow shows in their venues were too far away for people who don’t have access to a vehicle. The main ingredient in any music community is a venue downtown, but shows in Charlottetown are few and far between.
Despite the lack of shows, over 220 kids showed up at a concert at the McKenzie Theater to see a bunch of underground punk, metal and hardcore bands on the same evening as the demonstration downtown. I was blown away by how a group of people who play music for fun were able to draw such a large audience. And I still can’t believe the results of the positive action that the 50 people who marched in the freezing cold to raise awareness. They got the Arts Guild back. And I believe if they keep trying they can get the support of the municipal and provincial government in helping secure a permanent and affordable space for them to hold their concerts. I hope the hundreds of other kids who enjoy the shows these people put on will join them next time.
It’s definitely worth the city’s while to listen to these people. All ages shows not only keep kids off the streets and out of trouble, but they also nurture the talents of growing musicians and artists. If only people would look at music and the arts as an opportunity for young people to learn to work together, and develop skills that will help them later in life, maybe the government would invest in building a venue/youth center the same way they assist athletes by building new hockey rinks. Investing in the future of a young artists is certainly as worthy a cause.
The scene survived without venues for a long time thanks to DIY ethics, and a shared passion for underground music. But just imagine what these kids could accomplish with a bit of outside support.