Kelowna Nets BreakOut West Host City Designation – But Are We Doing Enough?

More Venues, More Music - With the JUNO Awards, and BreakOut West coming in 2018, Indie Dan Tait, asks whether we are ready for the influx of talent that will come from across Canada.

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Kelowna’s Floyd Meets Brown performing in the alley at Milkcrate Records.
Elite Auto Centre Kelowna BC
November 8th, 2017
Dan Tait

What Ever Happened to the Evening Show?

As an artist in town who often plays bar shows, one of the most common complaints I hear from fans is “Why are you on so late!? That’s way past my bedtime!”

This is also an issue we should acknowledge and analyze thoroughly over the coming months. In 2018, Kelowna is hosting the BreakOut West Conference & Festival, and Vancouver is hosting the 2018 JUNOs and JUNO Fest. We will have the best acts from all over Canada wanting to perform in Kelowna. Don’t we want all of our most supportive music fans able to be there?

I’ve been playing music in this town for more than six years now, and before that, I was a regular performer in the Kingston, Ottawa and Toronto music scenes. I’ve been playing professionally for more than a decade, and though I don’t feel like stopping anytime soon – sometimes my body throws-in-the-towel on me. This is when I find myself groggy-eyed and desperately reaching for a coffee at 11pm, just before I step on stage.

This happens often in Kelowna. Don’t get me wrong, I love our late night crowd, but our local musicians have the benefit of knowing the local crowds’ habits, whereas almost all touring acts coming through town don’t have that benefit.

I love the late shows, but it’s becoming evident that I may be growing out of them.

Kelowna is an interesting scene, and it’s a burgeoning scene. The fact is people are paying cover, people are buying albums, and people are choosing to get engaged in live original music in this town. There is however a bit of a divide between the fans in Kelowna – some folks won’t go out to see live music until 11pm or later, while others prefer seeing a show shortly after dinner, or even a matinee.

It seems the bar shows don’t start until at least 10pm, and that’s when an opener steps on the stage. The headliners don’t generally go on until 11 or midnight. Frankly, that’s way too late for some of the most devoted supporters of the scene to attend – especially if they have children, dogs, work or any other sort of morning responsibilities. And believe me, a supporter with work is better than a supporter without work…

BreakOut West Kelowna 2018. See the website for details. Image from www.breakoutwest.ca

Many of my touring-band friends have remarked at how late Kelowna’s music-scene supporters go out, and often leave town disheartened because of it. Most recently, some friends of mine came out from Vancouver to perform, and they played to a near-empty room for more than two hours. They started at 10pm and finished at 12:30am, spent and exhausted. At about 12:45am, a rush of 25 people (or more) walked through the doors and complained that there was no live music.

…Other markets have plenty of happy hour music, or earlier coffee shop sets for music fans to see – occasionally on full stages, with sound technicians and full light shows – like The Needle in Edmonton, or the matinee shows at Café Deux Soleils, in Vancouver.

This happens often in Kelowna. Don’t get me wrong, I love our late night crowd, but our local musicians have the benefit of knowing the local crowds’ habits, whereas almost all touring acts coming through town don’t have that benefit.

In bars across Canada music often begins late, but Kelowna is a bit of an anomaly. Many bars in Vancouver, Edmonton, Calgary, Winnipeg, Ottawa and Toronto start their opening acts at 9 or 9:30, and some even start them at 8:30pm. Kelowna – almost as a rule – doesn’t start their live original music until at least 10pm. (St. John’s Newfoundland doesn’t start music until 11pm-ish… But if you’re playing in St.John’s, you can throw the rulebook out the window – cause regardless of who shows up, you’re going to have a really great time.)

Dope Folk, live at Fernando’s Pub, Oct. 28th… Late shows seem to be the trend in Kelowna.

Additionally, these other markets have plenty of happy hour music, or earlier coffee shop sets for music fans to see – occasionally on full stages, with sound technicians and full light shows – like The Needle in Edmonton, or the matinee shows at Café Deux Soleils, in Vancouver. This often helps open up a secondary (and very important) fan base for bands, and it provides an opportunity for those fans to see live music in a concert setting.

So, where are all the happy-hour shows and evening performances for people to see? We have them, but you may have to do a little bit of digging. I’ve done a little bit of that for you below…

The Kelowna Arts Council (KAC) puts on a bi-weekly series at Benvoulin Church called OUR Coffeehouse, which is usually on a Wednesday evening. The space is wonderful, and the environment is perfect to absorb some live music in a listening-room environment. There is an open mic, and then a feature performer takes the stage at about 8:30 pm. The KAC also puts on the weekly Friday performances at The Marmalade Cat. These are both great options for family-friendly entertainment that won’t cause insomnia.

Heart In The House, as well as Snedden House Concerts offer beautiful house concert listening environments. These are particularly special performances to see, and they are always put on at a reasonable time.

Sandhill Wines has shown how successful a happy-hour event can be, as they run happy hour events every single Friday from Fall through Spring from 5 to 7pm. The added bonus is there is great wine and great appies to catch from local chefs!

Milkcrate Records also puts on shows in the evening. They have been putting together shows in their current shop with a “murphy stage”, as well as in the alley alongside the shop. They have a brand new space opening up soon with a full-size stage, so this will be an awesome option for folks hoping to catch shows a little earlier.

Canoe Coffee Roasters is putting on shows in the early evening at their new spot on High Rd. This is a brand new monthly series called Canoe Sessions Live, and is family friendly.

Kelowna Forum has a wide array of performances coming through, and most of those shows start in the evening – about 8pm. Everything from theatre and dance to live music, this is a new venue worth investigating.

I have also heard that a few other spots will be running live music programming in the evenings; The NAC is a brand new listening-room in downtown Kelowna, Kettle River Brewing has been running a live jam night hosted by Joshua Smith, and Man Made Barbers is working on a live-music night as well.

Bob Cave, performing at McCloskey’s, in the Ottawa Region – at 9pm.

Though it’s true we don’t have many concert-style environments for people to enjoy music earlier in the evening, we do have many options available. We’ve seen a couple performance spaces for earlier shows open up and close down, partially because the late night market is so dominant in Kelowna. Our music scene is strong, but it’s still finding it’s legs – and that’s okay. We’re still a very young city.

We have a surplus of talent, as well as an incredibly supportive and cooperative music scene in this town– and in my experience, those really are the most difficult things to build in a scene. Bricks and mortar for venues will come, especially as long as we have artists that just love to play.

What do you think? When do you go see live music, and why? Is there anything I’ve missed in our Kelowna music scene, or is anything that’s lacking in our scene? Get us back in the comments below with your input!

For more information on BreakOut West, head over to www.breakoutwest.ca.
For more information on the evening shows above, search for them on Google, Facebook or on other Social Media Services.
Kootenay Cabin Resort

2 COMMENTS

  1. well said Dan, and couldn’t agree more… I grew up in Toronto’s music scene and watched with despair as shows at the El Mocambo and Horseshoe Tavern kept getting later and later… even on ‘school nights’.. it was great to land in Kelowna in 2005 where we could catch a show at The Minstrel Cafe or Mary Irwin @ RCA and be home by 10:00. Even the shows at Doc’s or Fernando’s weren’t that late. But as you noted, the trend (who and why ??) has been to go later and later, and I know that keeps me at home (and I am a notorious night owl) It is great to see more and more alternative venues offering music. At the new Milkcrate space (opening Monday) we will have not just a much bigger permanent stage (and we’re keeping the Murphy-Wall stage too) but a much bigger space with couches and tables for our all-ages music fans. We can still offer adult beverages with our Phillips sodas and we’re bringing back our much missed coffee bar, hopefully serving yummy roasts from Canoe Coffee Roasters. Hope to have a Tiger Moon show real soon !!

  2. Great stuff Dan. I find as a full time musician in a cover band for the past 30 years that it is around the 10pm-12:30 where it peaks at most of the places I perform at such as OFlannigans and the Blue Gator. Hard to get a full crew out for 9-9:30 showtime even though, they do eventually show and everyone has a great time. Great live music fans around here and I believe having BreakOut West in Kelowna will be well received and supported along with the Juno’s in Vancouver. BC will be having a fantastic year in 2018.

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