Reside music is prospering in Guelph, however extra venues are wanted

The music scene in Guelph is already thriving, but some say more affordable mid-sized venues are needed to keep it growing

As restrictions were placed and venues closed, live music seemed like nothing more than a distant memory under the pandemic’s chokehold. But as the Guelph music scene begins to recover, some think it’s poised to be even better than before.

“We went through a period with the pandemic where everything was restricted, we didn’t have access to live music. And any time you have that kind of compression, the music scene, it’s gonna rebound, gonna be a lot bigger,” said singer Aleks Liskauskas.

Liskauskas is a member of Excuse Me, a Guelph-based band that’s played pretty much every venue in town.

Though it hasn’t fully recovered, he said it’s in “a state of growth.”

“With the proper care and investment, it can blossom into something really beautiful. The potential is there,” he said. Others agree.

Jake Cadieux, a musician who does the bookings at Jimmy Jazz, said local venues like Silence, Jimmy Jazz, Red Brick, Onyx and Brothers Brewery did “everything in their power” to keep the music scene alive during the pandemic.

Now, he feels there is a renewed sense of excitement for live music.

“The scene feels re-energized. I might be getting ahead of myself here but I definitely feel like we are entering a new golden age of the Canadian underground scene,” he said.

Silence executive director Scarlett Raczycki said the reason being is “there are just so many amazing people working to make it happen.”

“The restaurants and bars that are participating in the music scene, they’re kind of filling a role that’s above and beyond what they normally would be doing,” she said. “But I worry that it’s just not sustainable.”

So what can be done to keep the music scene on its current trajectory towards a “golden age?”

More venues to start.

Raczycki said the competition for existing venues is tough, and they often end up turning people away because they’re booked up for months in advance.

On top of that, executive director of the Guelph Arts Council, Damien Weston said that while Guelph has many smaller venues and a larger performance centre, we lack particularly mid-sized performance venues.

Adding one or two financially accessible mid-sized venues would increase audience capacity, in turn increasing revenue for local and touring musicians like Excuse Me..

But Weston said it will benefit everyone, not just musicians.

“Live music is an economic driver – and a physical one as well. It moves people from their homes to hospitality venues – bars, clubs, theaters with economic runoff for the associated business and individuals who work in the sector,” he said, like musicians, engineers, sound techs and hospitality workers.

Tabu could potentially help fill that gap.

After being closed for more than five years, the venue space in the basement of Trappers and Palace was reopened by Excuse Me. member, lead guitarist Heyden Jennekens. It’s already hosted one show, an album release party for local band SHEBAD.

But there also needs to be more support for existing venues.

“If people want to see this scene continue to flourish, they need to support those venues as much as they can. And it’ll show others that there is a demand for this,” said Liskauskas.

Still, he said, the bud is there, and he’s confident good things are coming for the Guelph scene.

“It’s already such a great scene to be a part of. I can only imagine where it’s going to be two years from now.”

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