People come to the music

Whenever I hear music coming from somewhere I want to follow it. It could be someone practicing the piano, drums or bagpipes, or a lone guitarist; a lonesome soul listening to some Billy Holiday, hip hop on full bass bouncing out of a car window, or a pan band doing warm ups – for me there is something irresistible about almost any kind of public music.

Last night the town of Peterborough was full of music. The street was closed to traffic for the Hootenanny and every restaurant and patio on Hunter was spilling over for the all day music event. I’m guessing it was good sales for them. Mr. Ferrio opened the show with his Feelings, Missy Knott and Brian Mehlenbacher and a host of Peterborough’s finest took the stage throughout the day. Beau Dixon did a curtain call for his lead in the Real McCoy at 4th Line Theatre, then donned his hipster fedora and hit the keyboards and harmonica grooves with his Slips ‘N’ The High Fives band, including tiny perfect backup singers, horns, more keyboards, a great rhythm section, and Dave Tough in a white suit holding it down on guitar. Later the Spades brought the house down with their farewell performance. And let’s not forget to high five the sound man who somehow made 10 bands on an outdoor stage sound great.

Down by the waterfront at Del Crary, everybody was chillin’ to Jarvis Church performing on the Music Fest stage.

And upstairs in the candlelit intimacy of Gallery in the Attic, I’ve been told a certain local celebrity known as Billy the K was actually dancing to the strains of Chic’n Pot Pi.

And if that wasn’t enough, there was even more, more, more Saturday night music at the Spill and the Garnet, the Red Dog and the Moho.

I noticed a skinny shirtless teenage boy, a little hopped up on beer and testosterone, dancing like a wild bronco down the sidewalk and really that’s how I feel inside when I see the community come out for these events. There are babes in arms, kids twirling and girls dancing. The teens can hang around with their own, but not too far from the parental units who have joined their own pals for a pint, folks are hanging out the windows of apartments overlooking the street, there are people on bikes or in motorized wheelchairs and you can be young or old or together or alone and it all comes together here in front of the stage.

And it’s timeless. The music was upstairs and downstairs and all around the house – in your head, in your feet and most importantly in your heart.

Most of last night’s music events were free or nearly free. There is no arguing that the public is fond of free music, plus it means everyone can go. The booze companies are happy to cough up, because they sell a lot of product. Local media get on board, and with a little help from the City, the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) and other sponsors, we have events that benefit the community in myriad ways. Musicians usually don’t make much money but hopefully they sold a CD or two.

In my previous incarnation as a city dweller, I held a day job for many years in the office of a landmark of Toronto’s Queen Street West music scene, the BamBoo Club. It was there that I heard some of the best live music of my life – everything from Parachute Club to Gil Scott Heron, from Screamin’ Jay Hawkins to Baaba Maal, from Hugh Masekela to Buckwheat Zydeco. It was a crazy place to work in, but it had a remarkable impact on the whole city. It transformed the Queen West neighborhood (so well that many artists and businesses couldn’t afford it any more and had to relocate to College or Ossington and do it all over again). Its famous green iron gates opened for all – every age, race, economic status and gender – to gather, and in essence created a working model of positive multiculturalism and social inclusivity. It provided a venue for world music and gave a lot of local bands their training wheels. It was a hub of the arts community. And whether it was luck or timing or a cultural collective will, it was one superb example of how it’s done.

It seems to me that people have gathered and continue to gather to listen to music since forever. You can’t bottle it. You don’t need to build a highway to make the people come to you, because people find ways to come to the music. The beautiful thing is, this is already happening in Peterborough, right now. And it’s really, really good for us.

Check out more reviews of these and other local music events on Electric City Live »

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