EDMONTON – Edmonton’s live music scene experienced its share of lows in 2015, with three well-known venues closing up shop.
The loss of places like The Artery, The Pawnshop and Wunderbar presented a challenge for musicians trying to find a place to share their music.
It was also tough on promoters. John Kennedy worked at the Pawn Shop booking gigs for four years.
“It’s tough to see a space like this go to waste. It’s a vacant spot where you could have something that’s contributing to the arts community,” Kennedy said.
He believed the economy impacted people’s willingness to pay cover for bands.
“The struggle with the economic collapse we’re going through right now, a lot of people don’t have money to go to shows and stuff like that,” he said.
Some bands, like The Introverts, managed to continue booking gigs despite the venue crunch. The four piece band lined up gigs early in 2015, before the major venues closed.
Drummer Steven Wagers noted new musicians trying to break into the scene may not have been as lucky.
“I think for up and coming artists, it would be a little tricky because a lot of those bands that are established are going back to those places that originally gave them their shot.”
Kennedy agreed: “It’s not as accessible now with the lack of venues. If you have 10 venues, it’s a lot easier for a band to go in there and get their foot in the door. ”
As a promoter, he said he has to prioritize bands that are guaranteed to bring in big monetary returns and that makes it tough to find room for new acts.
But in 2016, the live music scene in Edmonton is about to get a boost. Owners of The Almanac, a new restaurant and soon to be venue on Whyte Avenue, heard about the struggles local musicians are facing in finding places to play.
“A couple closed, a couple couldn’t get permits and we just thought we had a large space in our back room that would work for that,” explained The Almanac’s bar manager, Josh Meacham.
The gastropub has a narrow but long back room with a wet bar that is being renovated to host gigs. The room can hold up to 80 people.
Meacham said although The Almanac is open for lunch, he sees live music as a way to draw customers later in the day: “At night, we also want to have the room full and we feel music is a good way to do that.”
The owners are still doing some last-minute renovations to the stage space, but they plan to have live music starting Jan. 15.
Meacham has a few promoters already booking bands Thursdays through Sundays, but is open to having music on weekdays as well.
“No one really knows we’re here yet, so we’re pretty happy to entertain any ideas,” he said.
Artists will pay a fee to use the audio mixing equipment, but will be able to set their own cover fee and will take home the revenue from that pot.
That’s music to The Introverts’ ears.
“It’s extremely exciting seeing these new places open up because it gives you another place where you can play,” said Wagers.
He had a few tips for new musicians trying to break into the scene as well:
Another restaurant and live music venue, The Chvrch of John, is hoping to open downtown this month as well.
The art bar is located in the basement of the Grand Hotel and will be able to hold between 275-300 patrons for live music events on Friday and Saturday nights.
Kristoffer Harvey, The Chvrch of John’s operations manager, described it as, “a place for common-minded people to enjoy drinks, art and music.”
Harvey, who has a music promotions background but isn’t a musician himself, said it’s important to support local entertainers.
“The more money artists make is more money that’s pumped back into our infrastructure,” he said.
© 2016 Shaw Media