Edmonton’s music scene prospered in 2017 despite unfortunate circumstances
This year began pretty quietly for Edmonton’s music scene, but later, an explosion of controversy and strangeness ensued. The dollar was in a slightly better spot, meaning bigger shows were rolling through town but touring costs have never been higher. Mill Creek Cafe stepped in and took over throughout the year as The Sewing Machine Factory was handling liquor licensing and renovations.
The Starlite Room was taken over by local promoter ConcertWorks. Industry House opened and then closed its doors after patrons realized a shocking discovery. And finally … The Needle shut its doors in the wake of sexual harassment claims from a Facebook post. It’s been a year for sure, and we wanted to see what a few venue owners thought of it.
Tab CA, manager of The Sewing Machine Factory
Vue Weekly: What are some challenges Sewing Machine has had to overcome?
Tab CA: Using Mill Creek Cafe as a temporary home for five months while working towards reopening the basement was a huge challenge for us. Turning a cafe into a DIY music space and bar was a huge exercise in patience and elbow grease. Figuring out the process of hosting all-ages shows was another big challenge we were really happy to overcome.
VW: What should people be excited for in 2018 at The Sewing Machine Factory?
TC: Diverse arts programming, the addition of new weekly events, our debut as a BYOV for the Edmonton Fringe Festival, monthly all-ages events with a focus on youth artists and as always, tons of local and touring live music acts.
Tyson Cale Boyd, director and talent buyer of the Starlite Room
VW: Are there any shows or experiences at Starlite that really stood out this year?
Tyson Cale Boyd: UP+DT Festival was it for me personally. It was a huge weekend for us to showcase the new lighting rig and PA that we had recently installed into the Starlite Room, but overall the vibe was off the charts. It was exciting to see the response and participation of so many folks who were attending, volunteering, and involved in the various capacities. It was very much a community event, and I am very looking forward to seeing it continue to grow.
VW: Has becoming the new owner of Starlite been a challenge?
TB: Any transition has its challenges, however, this one has been relatively comfortable as our company ConcertWorks has been producing shows within the Starlite for several years now—we were already part of the ‘extended’ family, and we were familiar to most of the staff.
Andrew Devlin, general manager of Union Hall
VW: Are there any shows or experiences at Union Hall that really stood out this year?
Andrew Devlin: 2017 was extra special for Union Hall, due to our licensing classification of a minors allowed theatre. This new business format has paved a path towards a broader range of artists and fan bases. Notable shows for 2017 include: Method Man and Redman (sold out), Simple Plan (No Pads, No Helmets…Just Balls 15th Anniversary Tour, sold out, minors allowed), Rural Alberta Advantage (two sold out events) and more.
VW: What are some challenges Union Hall had to overcome this year?
AD: In 2017 some adaptations were needed to accommodate the Alberta-wide minimum wage increases, but the show must go on. Fortunately, this hurdle was overcome with hopes of continued local economic growth, which will allow us to produce a greater volume of events and shows for our community to enjoy in 2018.
Ben Sir, general manager of The Buckingham
VW: Are there any shows or experiences at The Buckingham that really stood out this year?
Ben Sir: There’s a couple that really stood out to me in the last month. It was kind of in the outfall of everything that happened at The Needle, which was a really weird and complicated time for everyone. There’s this live podcast called Taggart and Torrens that’s this Canadian pop culture podcast and after this Needle stuff, everyone coordinated to have it at The Buck within like a day. It was a great night, but there’s this big asterix beside that with the reason for it happening in our room. It was pretty warming when we had this guy from Our Lady Peace and Jonovision singing “Ahead By A Century” in wake of Gord Downie’s death. It was a pretty heavy moment man, and we got to provide that experience for people.
This band we had called Iron Chic was probably my show of the year too. It was cool when during Rockin’ For Dollars we had The Flatliners come down. They came from playing in front of 5,000 people to playing two of their own songs and a Sloan cover to a hundred kids.
VW: What are some challenges The Buckingham has had to overcome this year?
BS: You definitely can see with downtown and the arena proliferating that Whyte Ave has its challenges. Downtown people are obviously really enthused and truthfully, the fact that the Oilers are sucking this year makes quite a difference with all that enthusiasm. You can see on game nights that Whyte Ave. is a lot slower. We’re not a fulltime venue, but we offer specific shows so regardless, you’re going to have people coming. In recent years of venues shutting down, those were hits to the scene, but you always have people picking up the slack. Like, it’s awesome that Sewing Machine is back up and running and Starlite is run by a more independent company now. So there’s a lot of positives.
VW: What should people be excited for in 2018 at The Buckingham?
BS: I think we have refocused and now view ourselves as somewhere people want to put on a show. We’re a smaller venue, but also a launch pad. To see bands like The Velveteins, Altameda, Wares, and Marlaena Moore that are all exploding, I think we’ve had a small part in providing a small place to cut their teeth.
So I really want to offer this space for other upcoming bands like Sister Ray, Feminal Fluids, there’s just so many, and I wanna use The Buck to keep that going.
Caitlin North, programming presenter at Arden Theatre
VW: Are there any shows or experiences at the Arden that really stood out this year?
Caitlin North: William Prince put on a spectacular and very understated show a few weeks ago. Rose Cousins is always a hilarious and heartbreaking highlight, too.
VW: What are some challenges that The Arden had to overcome this year?
CN: The cost of being a touring artist is higher than it’s ever been and those costs come back on us as promoters (increased performance fees, etc.), so it’s a challenge to manage the costs while keeping ticket prices affordable for our patrons.
VW: What should people be excited for in 2018?
CN: There are a lot of great acts returning to the Arden in the second half of our season (Josh Ritter, Iris DeMent, Fortunate Ones) and a lot of new faces for our patrons, too (Lindi Ortega, The East Pointers). I’m also really looking forward to hearing from Frank Warren on February 3, the man and mind behind the social phenomenon that is PostSecret.