Andrea Macko, Dishing It Out
I’ve been self-indulgent and saw one of my favourite performers, Joel Plaskett, twice this past week. While you’ve been missing out on some great music, I understand if you’ve not heard of him. While there will always be the Lady Gagas, Celine Dions and Nickelbacks of the world, musicians such as Plaskett represent music’s future — and a potential boon for St. Marys.
The Internet, as usual, is the game-changer. Radio, with every station playing the same 20 “adult contemporary” songs, and “music television” that focuses more on reality TV than music videos, are becoming irrelevant to the music scene. iTunes and YouTube are leveling the playing field of what people choose to listen to — the musical world is your oyster if you’re willing to spend some time digging. The Internet has also made it easier for artists to get their music out; instead of relying on a record deal for promotion, websites and affordable home recording equipment have blunted the need for a “big break.”
Which brings me to Mr. Plaskett. I discovered his witty, earnest song stylings during the Stone Age of the Internet (the late 1990s) and love him more and more with each album — and every live show and online-exclusive song he’s released. So when I heard that he would be playing Bayfield’s tiny town hall last week, I scrambled for tickets. It was a perfect date night: dinner at the delicious Black Dog pub and a sold-out intimate concert (less than 200 seats). As it turns out, Bayfield has an annual summer concert series, and has drawn renowned acts like Ron Sexsmith, Andy Kim and St. Marys’ own Emm Gryner.
Plaskett’s Bayfield stop coincided with London’s Home County Music and Arts Festival on Saturday night. It was my first time at this “by donation” event, and I was impressed by the mix of people it attracted. During his band’s performance — a completely different show than in Bayfield, to his credit — we were surrounded by people who were unfamiliar with him, but were converted by his engaging act. There were some die-hard fans who knew every word… and familiar faces from Bayfield, too. That’s the thing with many of these lesser-known acts: their fans are a dedicated lot. It’s only fair, for these musicians are just as dedicated to their craft.
Live shows are more important as a revenue source now that albums — or single songs — are very cheap to download. Concerts are especially vital to these independent acts, as they help spread the word in place of nonexistent airplay — Canadian musicians are generally known for having stellar live acts out of promotional necessity. And while you may not be willing to plunk down $100 for an unfamiliar act at the Air Canada Centre or $50 at the JLC, $20 for an evening of live music in your own town becomes much more reasonable.
I think that St. Marys could follow Bayfield’s lead and attract some awesome (if not omnipresent) acts for concerts. The Black Angus has set a great example with its own concert series, and I think it’s time to take it to the next level. St. Marys is just close enough to Toronto and London that we could lure touring performers for a night, and just far enough away that die-hard fans could make an evening of it by visiting one of our restaurants before the show. Our recently restored town hall auditorium is every bit as quaint and comfortable as Bayfield’s, and we have plenty of overnight accommodations available. It’s a win for local businesses and music fans. It’s a different kind of tourism — providing a guaranteed attraction which, in turn, allows the town to show off its attributes with minimal effort.
I’m somewhat aware of many people in town with musical connections who can help bring this concept towards fruition, certainly in time for next summer’s touring season: let’s pick some acts and get planning. Please take advantage of my current state of enthusiasm and post-concert “high” — I’d be glad to help however I can in making this happen. And if you can’t lend a hand, then lend an ear to the amazing talent we have in this country. I know who you can start with…
Frustrated by bananas turning overripe in this heat? Here’s a great soft cookie from my sister that solves the problem deliciously.
Banana Oatmeal Cookies
1 cup white sugar
1 cup butter, softened
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 cups rolled oats
1 cup butterscotch or chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cream butter with sugar until smooth, then stir in eggs and vanilla. Sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon and stir into mixture. Add remaining ingredients and mix until well blended. Drop by rounded tablespoon onto ungreased cookie sheets and bake for 10-12 minutes. Cool immediately on wire racks.
Note: in last week’s corn chowder recipe, an ingredient was missing. Two peeled and diced medium potatoes are required. Thanks to my eagle-eyed aunt who pointed out this omission.