Calgary musicians help to keep the Ironwood rocking

Click to play video: 'Calgary musicians hope to save the Ironwood' Calgary musicians hope to save the Ironwood
WATCH ABOVE: Calgary's Ironwood Stage and Grill could be closing permanently due to the economic hit from the coronavirus pandemic. But the live music venue that helped start so many musicians’ careers is about to have the favour paid back. Adam Toy reports – Aug 14, 2020

A live music venue that has nurtured Calgary’s talent for the past 14 years is on the verge of closing.

But local musicians are banding together to provide some short-term support for the Ironwood Stage and Grill.

“I’ve been performing at the Ironwood ever since it opened,” Calgary-based R&B/soul artist Jory Kinjo said. “And I kind of got word through the staff that the venue was in trouble. So I took it upon myself with a few other friends of the Ironwood to kick off this event and get the ball rolling on some fundraising.”

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Kinjo — along with dozens of other acts — will be performing three fundraising shows on Aug. 21 and 22 at the Ironwood, “a really important venue in Calgary.”

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The size of the venue is important and the programming that they offer is very unique,” Kinjo said. “They showcase original music and touring acts. So it’s vital to the city because it brings in a lot of talent and artists that otherwise wouldn’t have a place to perform here.

The venue is also a key part of the so-called Music Mile in Calgary, stretching from Studio Bell and the National Music Centre in the west to the Blues Can in the east.

Music Mile co-founder Bob Chartier puts the Ironwood on par with Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge in Nashville, Tennessee.

“Young songwriters got their start, there in Tootsie’s,” Chartier said. “These young songwriters got their start right here with Pat in the Ironwood.

“Nashville would go crazy if they lost Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge. Calgary is gonna go crazy if we lose the Ironwood. And it’s the same importance. It’s just critical.”

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Ironwood owner Pat MacIntyre has seen nearly all of the 6,000 shows the Ironwood stage has hosted. But he didn’t see the fundraising efforts coming from the musicians.

“I wasn’t looking to do a fundraiser, to tell you the truth, because I figure we’re in the same boat,” MacIntyre said. “But when I was approached by Jory Kinjo and he wanted to organize this, I acquiesced and swallowed my pride.

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“He explained that the musicians are going to need these venues as much as we need the musicians at the end of all of this.”

The outpouring of support for the live music venue in Calgary’s historic Inglewood neighbourhood struggling to stay afloat during the novel coronavirus pandemic was almost overwhelming for the man who’s helped foster a music scene.

“I can’t express enough how humbling it is and how grateful I am for for the outpouring, not only from the musicians but from the music lovers in the community as they arranged the silent auction, which is over the top.”

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Kinjo has used the Ironwood as a place to train his music students, allowing them to directly interact with MacIntyre and stage technicians when booking their shows.

The venue’s approach of live, original music was novel in Calgary.

When this place opened, it was a real breath of fresh air and was really important to bands and artists because they could come in and do a show here and actually get paid and make a living from it, because of the size of the venue and the format that they charge a cover,” Kinjo said. “And everybody knows that and they come here to see quality music.

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“I think the thought of it closing has really given a lot of people some perspective and we know we don’t want to lose it.”

Kinjo said the original slate of shows was nearly sold out, and they are considering organizing a second weekend of shows in September to raise more funds for the Ironwood. They have also made the shows accessible online, complete with virtual tipping jar.

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