Vintage Bistro

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Vintage Bistro

Postby Alain Benoit » Mon Jun 18, 2012 8:33 am

The Vintage Bistro & Lounge in Hampton suddenly shut its doors at the first of the month, leaving a hole in the local music scene.

Musicians who were supposed to perform earlier this month saw their shows cancelled at the venue. A sign on its door said: “Effective June 1, Vintage Bistro is now closed. We sincerely thank you for your support over the last three years and apologize for any convenience.”

Owners Carole Anne and Gary Forsgren, who opened the Bistro in May 2009, recently sold their house and moved out West. In an email, Carole Anne Forsgren said:

“We will miss the business, but were working too hard for the return on our investment.”

Jeff Liberty, owner of JL Artists and manager of the likes of Matt Anderson and Mike Biggar, said the closure leaves a huge void in the Saint John area music scene, especially for up-and-coming artists trying to build audiences.

The opening of Vintage Bistro three years ago had given these artists an intimate place to play after Sessions in the Kennebecasis Valley was forced to close, he said.

“A lot of the music that comes through here is roots music, folk and acoustic-based so the closure of Vintage means there’s no place to play. It means a lot of people will be skipping the Saint John area.”

The owners have placed the building, located at 14 Centennial Rd., on the market. According to icx.ca, it was listed for $750,000 last week. Two other local businesses, who lease space from the owners, remain in the building.

The Bistro had become a hot venue for local music talent as well as acts in Canada and the U.S., showcasing the likes of Folk Thief, My Boy Rascal, Jadea Kelly, Fred Eaglesmith with the Fabulous Ginn Sisters and Sherman Downey and the Ambiguous Case, to name just a few. In the past, it’s attracted the likes of Stan’s brother Garnet Rogers, Mick’s brother Chris Jagger and Jen Chapin, the daughter of Harry (Cat’s In The Cradle) Chapin.

But local businesswoman Paula Perry, who was a frequent patron and lives across the street from the Bistro, said it was mostly people from outside the town who came out to the shows.

“Sadly, I don’t think it was embraced very well by our community,” she said. “For me, I enjoyed the Bistro because it was quiet. It was just a really nice environment and a nice way to wind down at the end of the week.”

Perry said she wasn’t surprised by the closure “just because I saw the numbers.”

The Forsgrens, who also owned their own human resource management and consulting company, opened the business three years ago in the building they had previously purchased. They spent nearly a year renovating part of the building to accommodate two floors of seating and a rooftop deck overlooking the Kings County Courthouse and the town square.

Within a year, they had become one of the hottest new live music venues in the Greater Saint John area. But that posed a dilemma. The owners found that on nights when they were charging a cover charge for live entertainment, they were turning customers away who had come for a quiet evening of food and drinks. So a year after opening, they expanded the Bistro, converting an area that had been rented by a local dance school into a nightclub.

In an interview at the time of the expansion, Carol Anne said: “We’re dabbling in this. We don’t know what will fly and won’t fly … but you have to take risks. We don’t really have the market in Hampton to support it, but I’m hoping people that we have the market in KV, Sussex, Hampton and Saint John to support it.”

Around the same time, the Forsgrens lost one of their largest building tenants, a fitness gym which relocated to a brand new building. That space remained empty.

Last year, the business was nominated in the “Venue of the Year” category for the prestigious 2011 Music New Brunswick Awards. The awards are designed to recognize the hard work and excellence of the talented artists and music industry professionals in New Brunswick.

But the recognition from the music industry wasn’t enough to lure more patrons to the Bistro.

Liberty blames the lack of audiences for live entertainment on the local economy. He’s even seen it with some of the acts he’s booked. A Barney Bentall performance in uptown Saint John, for example, only drew 30 people.

“I think it has a lot to do with the economy,” he said. “It’s incredibly disappointing that we lose a venue as such. An area or city is not measured on its industry. It’s measured on how rich we are with the arts.”

The Forsgrens did not reply to a followup request for further comment.

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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Alain Benoit » Mon Jun 18, 2012 9:47 am

The above was from the Telegraph Journal.

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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby macrae11 » Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:19 am

That's really unfortunate. It seemed like a cool spot and I never even got to go.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Mon Jun 18, 2012 10:35 am

It is really unfortunate. It was a great venue, I had played there a few times and saw a few shows there as well.

I find Mr. Liberty's comments interesting, since I had heard that he pulled his own support for that venue some time ago. I don't know exactly what happened there or what the truth behind it was but I can't remember the last time one of his artists had performed there.

The Legacy Nightclub closed down sometime at the end of May as well. I'd say that I was worried about where people were going to play, but honestly booking agents will always find new places to book their acts. As unfortunate as these closings are, the sky has yet to fall.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Mon Jun 18, 2012 11:28 am

I don't think there are many events not happening in the Saint John area because there isn't anywhere to play.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Alain Benoit » Mon Jun 18, 2012 11:30 am

Malcolm Boyce wrote:I don't think there are many events not happening in the Saint John area because there isn't anywhere to play.


I am certain that a lack of venues is not an issue currently plaguing concert opportunities around here either.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Mon Jun 18, 2012 2:21 pm

Alain Benoit wrote:
Malcolm Boyce wrote:I don't think there are many events not happening in the Saint John area because there isn't anywhere to play.


I am certain that a lack of venues is not an issue currently plaguing concert opportunities around here either.


"'A lot of the music that comes through here is roots music, folk and acoustic-based so the closure of Vintage means there’s no place to play.'"

Oh come on now.

That said, this is still sad news, and I'm sorry to see it go. I'm also sorry I never got out there, but, I'm not comfortable driving home from Hampton in the dark. Lame reason, yes, but my sense of direction isn't the greatest, and it's much worse when I'm tired and groggy.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Burnsy » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:01 pm

On the same topic, but not really.... is there anything on the scene that is involving UNB, or the community colleges in any way in Saint John? I know UNB used to have performances for local artists/bands back 10-15 years ago. The colleges, not so much. The reason I ask is because I'm studying in Fredericton...and students here get out to these events. It seems to not matter so much if there are bands presenting their own material, or a cover band....people just get out. Maybe it's demographics?

Everywhere Southside Fredericton is within 20 minutes of walking distance to everywhere else. 2 universities, a number of colleges......When I played in Fredericton a few weeks back, at the Crowne Plaza.... it was a decent turnout. I played all original songs, and the crown was more or less attentative. When I played the Ale House, which was a blast by the way.... I played 4-5 originals, after which point people started saying... play some Pearl Jam! Play some ACDC! I lovingly obliged. But I'm wondering is there just something different going on between the musical psyche of an audience based on demographic alone?

My suspicions are yes. I've wondered if an audience, for the most part at these gigs, want to come out to hear that old familiar juke box song they can stomp their foot to, and belt out the chorus line with the performer... do people generally enjoy that more than an artist playing his or her own stuff. It probably depends on a variety of factors... I find, living in Fredericton, that audiences here really come out to hear original material. Is this happening in Saint John? You see, I'm really interested in putting a band together, and a band that wants to work on original material. I have tons. So a serious business question I'm asking myself, is do I put together a band for playing parties, weddings, essentially a cover band....or do I stick with putting a band together for pursuing original music. Someone told me to do both....hmmmmm...... thinking out loud.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:08 pm

Burnsy wrote:On the same topic, but not really.... is there anything on the scene that is involving UNB, or the community colleges in any way in Saint John? I know UNB used to have performances for local artists/bands back 10-15 years ago. The colleges, not so much. The reason I ask is because I'm studying in Fredericton...and students here get out to these events. It seems to not matter so much if there are bands presenting their own material, or a cover band....people just get out. Maybe it's demographics?

Everywhere Southside Fredericton is within 20 minutes of walking distance to everywhere else. 2 universities, a number of colleges......When I played in Fredericton a few weeks back, at the Crowne Plaza.... it was a decent turnout. I played all original songs, and the crown was more or less attentative. When I played the Ale House, which was a blast by the way.... I played 4-5 originals, after which point people started saying... play some Pearl Jam! Play some ACDC! I lovingly obliged. But I'm wondering is there just something different going on between the musical psyche of an audience based on demographic alone?

My suspicions are yes. I've wondered if an audience, for the most part at these gigs, want to come out to hear that old familiar juke box song they can stomp their foot to, and belt out the chorus line with the performer... do people generally enjoy that more than an artist playing his or her own stuff. It probably depends on a variety of factors... I find, living in Fredericton, that audiences here really come out to hear original material. Is this happening in Saint John? You see, I'm really interested in putting a band together, and a band that wants to work on original material. I have tons. So a serious business question I'm asking myself, is do I put together a band for playing parties, weddings, essentially a cover band....or do I stick with putting a band together for pursuing original music. Someone told me to do both....hmmmmm...... thinking out loud.


A good hypothesis. I think however that the big difference in Saint John is that they stuck the university campus in the middle of nowhere and it cuts off much the student traffic by forcing them to have to make special trips into town to do anything. Fredericton (and most university cities for that matter) don't have that particular oversight to deal with.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Burnsy » Tue Jun 19, 2012 12:41 pm

Mathieu Benoit wrote:
Burnsy wrote:On the same topic, but not really.... is there anything on the scene that is involving UNB, or the community colleges in any way in Saint John? I know UNB used to have performances for local artists/bands back 10-15 years ago. The colleges, not so much. The reason I ask is because I'm studying in Fredericton...and students here get out to these events. It seems to not matter so much if there are bands presenting their own material, or a cover band....people just get out. Maybe it's demographics?

Everywhere Southside Fredericton is within 20 minutes of walking distance to everywhere else. 2 universities, a number of colleges......When I played in Fredericton a few weeks back, at the Crowne Plaza.... it was a decent turnout. I played all original songs, and the crown was more or less attentative. When I played the Ale House, which was a blast by the way.... I played 4-5 originals, after which point people started saying... play some Pearl Jam! Play some ACDC! I lovingly obliged. But I'm wondering is there just something different going on between the musical psyche of an audience based on demographic alone?

My suspicions are yes. I've wondered if an audience, for the most part at these gigs, want to come out to hear that old familiar juke box song they can stomp their foot to, and belt out the chorus line with the performer... do people generally enjoy that more than an artist playing his or her own stuff. It probably depends on a variety of factors... I find, living in Fredericton, that audiences here really come out to hear original material. Is this happening in Saint John? You see, I'm really interested in putting a band together, and a band that wants to work on original material. I have tons. So a serious business question I'm asking myself, is do I put together a band for playing parties, weddings, essentially a cover band....or do I stick with putting a band together for pursuing original music. Someone told me to do both....hmmmmm...... thinking out loud.

A good hypothesis. I think however that the big difference in Saint John is that they stuck the university campus in the middle of nowhere and it cuts off much the student traffic by forcing them to have to make special trips into town to do anything. Fredericton (and most university cities for that matter) don't have that particular oversight to deal with.

That makes a ton of sense. I'm wondering if there's some way to literally bridge that gap? Bring the music to the students?
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Chuck Teed » Tue Jun 19, 2012 5:17 pm

Not a big fan of the article - artists that want to play in Saint John will find a room, or someone who will host an event on their behalf. Venues come and go - I'll start raising my voice in concern when the people who put on events start leaving town.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Tue Jun 19, 2012 6:02 pm

Chuck Teed wrote:Not a big fan of the article - artists that want to play in Saint John will find a room, or someone who will host an event on their behalf. Venues come and go - I'll start raising my voice in concern when the people who put on events start leaving town.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby sean.boyer » Thu Jul 05, 2012 3:58 pm

Christian LeBlanc wrote:
Alain Benoit wrote:
Malcolm Boyce wrote:I don't think there are many events not happening in the Saint John area because there isn't anywhere to play.


I am certain that a lack of venues is not an issue currently plaguing concert opportunities around here either.


- BEGIN RANT -
I fully beg to differ on this matter. Outside of a very narrow list of genres (folk/roots, "jam", "cover bands" and "famous acts" [read: Pauly D, etc]), there is an enormous gap in the types of music that are able to book shows in this city.
Perhaps I'm mostly speaking to the "fringe" artists, but let me tell you: they make up a vast portion of the musical melting pot in this country.

I could spend all day long naming acts that such venues as Vintage, Peppers, Imperial, etc (actually - gee, what's left...?) wouldn't even dream of booking here, but enjoy great success in just about any other city in this country.

I can't think of anywhere in town that has an adequate stage/PA/space/staff/etc that would touch the following broad genres: metal, punk, hard jazz, experimental, industrial, live electronica, avant-guard, etc etc. Even bigger named acts of those genres will be turned down. For example, a metal band called Darkest Hour who toured on Oz Fest, or 3 Inches of Blood who are on Guitar Hero, wouldn't find a place to book them in Saint John.

Need some context? Think Elwoods. Or, even better, think the Sunstar Lounge. While I realise that most of the members of this board had probably never been to the Sunstar, you should all have a grasp on what kind of music was typical at Elwoods. It was basically "everything else", and for someone like me (and hundreds of others in this city) that was a blessing. It was the only place many would go to see shows not because of some form of Brand Loyalty, but because it was the only place they could go in town to see the bands that they otherwise would have had to have driven to Fredericton/Moncton/Halifax or beyond to see. Trust me. I was one of them, and guess what I'm doing again...? I'm driving to Fredericton every other week to see a fantastic show that couldn't be booked in Saint John.

A lot of people complain about low attendances in this town. I complain endlessly about that myself. You know what a large part of that is? People are sick to F%^#ing death of Brown Eyed Girl and country songs about dogs and trucks, or "hippy jams" that smell like dirt-oil and go C-G-A-C-D for 6 hours straight. Not everyone mind you, but a lot of us. For example, just about EVERY PERSON I KNOW in this town will avoid going to shows when the bill consists of tired, played out, unoriginal, boring bands, unless it happens to be one of their poor friend's bands, who is only playing in such a band because no one will let their "real" band play at their venue, because they're too "original", and thereby, they either Comply-Or-Die.

You want to talk about the F&$%^ing culture in this city dying, JL and anyone else, look at yourselves and consider how things have run around here for a long long time (with the exception of Elwoods and the Sunstar and maybe a few other places at different times) in respects to what kind of acts a given establishment will book or won't book, and there's your answer. Why do cities like Fredericton, Halifax, Montreal, ANYWHERE ELSE enjoy vibrant culture? Because they book ALL the bands, and you can go see any damn type of music you please on just about any night of the week.

-END RANT -

Okay, sorry about that. I got a little heated. I mean no disrespect to anyone's musical preferences, or any person as an individual etc. I'm just standing in a room with a man with a purple face with his own hands gripped tight around his throat croaking out "why am I choking?!?!"

And with all that mess said, I love this city. Let's keep moving on, shall we?

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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Scott DeVarenne » Thu Jul 05, 2012 9:46 pm

Within the last couple of years I've gone to shows at both the SJ Arts Centre and Ganong Hall at UNBSJ. A restaurant or bar setting wouldn't have been appropriate for these shows. Also, they didn't require any sound reinforcement. They were nice shows. I bought CDs.
I think the Sunstar may have been adequate for a small group requiring little to no sound reinforcement, provided the group brought their own little PA (if required). Anything more than that, drum kit and electric guitars, made for a very unpleasant listening experience. Unfortunately, my handful of visits there all fell into the latter category.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Thu Jul 05, 2012 10:55 pm

My comment was based on the premise that "roots music, folk and acoustic-based" acts having trouble finding places to play was silly; maybe I misunderstood the quote? I only mention it 'cus I saw my name on your quotes there.

I dearly miss the Sunstar. Mike encouraged me to put the 'experimental' into experimental night; not just anyone would let me play an empty patch cord into my pedals for 13 minutes, a far cry from my former solo sets of just singing along to my sequencers. Nights like that gave me a sense of validation and encouragement that I can't get just noodling around at home.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Fri Jul 06, 2012 9:18 am

This should be fun... *rolls up sleeves*

First of all I'd like to preface my remarks by being clear that your "rant" is very much welcome. My favorite thing about your input on these forums is that you tend to have a different perspective than some of us. This leads to interesting conversations and debates that are a healthy part of any online community.

sean.boyer wrote:I fully beg to differ on this matter. Outside of a very narrow list of genres (folk/roots, "jam", "cover bands" and "famous acts" [read: Pauly D, etc]), there is an enormous gap in the types of music that are able to book shows in this city.
Perhaps I'm mostly speaking to the "fringe" artists, but let me tell you: they make up a vast portion of the musical melting pot in this country.

I could spend all day long naming acts that such venues as Vintage, Peppers, Imperial, etc (actually - gee, what's left...?) wouldn't even dream of booking here, but enjoy great success in just about any other city in this country.

I can't think of anywhere in town that has an adequate stage/PA/space/staff/etc that would touch the following broad genres: metal, punk, hard jazz, experimental, industrial, live electronica, avant-guard, etc etc. Even bigger named acts of those genres will be turned down. For example, a metal band called Darkest Hour who toured on Oz Fest, or 3 Inches of Blood who are on Guitar Hero, wouldn't find a place to book them in Saint John.


Most of our responses were specific to the type of artists that Mr. Liberty tends to book. He was making a statement to the effect that Vintage Bistro closing somehow was a huge blow to artists that want to come to this area. My point was that Mr. Liberty is not running out of places to book his acts and to allude otherwise may have been misleading. It was my understanding that Mr. Liberty had stopped booking acts at the Vintage in any event.


sean.boyer wrote:Need some context? Think Elwoods. Or, even better, think the Sunstar Lounge. While I realise that most of the members of this board had probably never been to the Sunstar, you should all have a grasp on what kind of music was typical at Elwoods. It was basically "everything else", and for someone like me (and hundreds of others in this city) that was a blessing. It was the only place many would go to see shows not because of some form of Brand Loyalty, but because it was the only place they could go in town to see the bands that they otherwise would have had to have driven to Fredericton/Moncton/Halifax or beyond to see. Trust me. I was one of them, and guess what I'm doing again...? I'm driving to Fredericton every other week to see a fantastic show that couldn't be booked in Saint John.

A lot of people complain about low attendances in this town. I complain endlessly about that myself. You know what a large part of that is? People are sick to F%^#ing death of Brown Eyed Girl and country songs about dogs and trucks, or "hippy jams" that smell like dirt-oil and go C-G-A-C-D for 6 hours straight. Not everyone mind you, but a lot of us. For example, just about EVERY PERSON I KNOW in this town will avoid going to shows when the bill consists of tired, played out, unoriginal, boring bands, unless it happens to be one of their poor friend's bands, who is only playing in such a band because no one will let their "real" band play at their venue, because they're too "original", and thereby, they either Comply-Or-Die.

You want to talk about the F&$%^ing culture in this city dying, JL and anyone else, look at yourselves and consider how things have run around here for a long long time (with the exception of Elwoods and the Sunstar and maybe a few other places at different times) in respects to what kind of acts a given establishment will book or won't book, and there's your answer. Why do cities like Fredericton, Halifax, Montreal, ANYWHERE ELSE enjoy vibrant culture? Because they book ALL the bands, and you can go see any damn type of music you please on just about any night of the week.


So much to point out in all of this. I think to blame the "dying culture" in this city on the fact that venues won't book certain types of bands is absurd. Where there is money to be made there are shows to be had. Attendance is a big issue when considering booking an act. If I am either a promoter or a music venue (not a restaurant but purely a music venue) the first thing I consider is attendance. Simply because there is no sense in booking a band that won't make any money. That isn't just a money thing either. Not many bands want to play to an empty room. If a band has to play to an empty room enough times in a city, that band may avoid said city on purpose next time.

If a promoter wanted to take charge of bringing in the "fringe" bands, they must do so at their own financial risk. Eventually many promoters that deal with these types of acts end up getting a day job since they grow tired of booking bands that no one comes out to see. "Comply-Or-Die" is simply "supply and demand." The market for Christian's experimental night at Sunstar might be a little more selective than Nickleback at Harbour Station. That's just the way the city is made up demographically. The promoter that brings in the Nicklebacks of the world is not going broke anytime soon, because Saint John is full of people that will go to those shows. Say what you want about Nickleback fans, they show their support and loyalty in dollar signs.

As an experiment, I'd love to win the lottery and buy the building the old waterfront/neptunes/pirates/ect. was in and get it all set up and basically have it run for free. With no overhead to worry about, nice big main room, big stage/PA, I wonder how many people would actually use it? I'd book nothing but the "fringe" acts too. If they played four-on-the-floor I'd pull the plug on them. In a situation like that some of these venues may have been able to survive, but in the real world EVERYONE has bills to pay. Bands have to pay bills, club owners have to pay bills, promoters have to pay bills, and the concert-goers have to pay bills. So unless the concert-goers as a community are willing to part with enough money to pay everyone elses bills, then the whole system collapses.

If anything, the community of people that want to see these types of acts needs to take more responsibility for itself. If there were enough of you that supported these types of venues you'd have your "sub-cultural utopia". Careful though, it's a double-edged sword... If you do too well then you'll become mainstream. That may be a fate worst then death for some.

Either way... Talk don't cook the rice.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby sean.boyer » Fri Jul 06, 2012 12:46 pm

I should further mention that that diatribe wasn't really pointed directly at that article, or JL or anything, and I understand that the central point of the article was focused on folk/roots, and I agree, no one is starving for a place to play in those genres. I guess it was just the 11 cups of coffee I had had that afternoon, and the fact that I've had to listen to a lot of people winge on endlessly lately about how much it sucks here compared to Montreal/Halifax/whatever. It sparked the gas building up in me over the last few years. So sorry I hadda hijack this thread and dump it on you fine people.

I'm a constant defender of this city. Honestly. I like it here. This is why I haven't left, ever, for more than 2 weeks at a time.

As far as "death of culture" being related to lack of musical choice being "absurd", again, I call horseradish on that. Is it the ONLY factor? Hell no. Is it A factor? Absolutely. I 1000% agree with your comments about attendance and booking. Why book a band that no one will come see? That does happen a lot. However, it's a give and take. A chicken and the egg kind of situation. You need to be firm and hold strong sometimes.

For example, a lot of promoters and show attenders alike complain about shows starting extremely late (sometimes as late as 12 on a weekend night). Yeah, that's crazy. But the reason they start so late is because only a handful of people bother to show up before midnight. Why? Because the shows don't start til midnight. And forever and ever. So, someone has to break the cycle. And stick with it. Not just try for a week and then go back to biz-as-usual. Have a show one Friday, advertise it as 9pm SHARP. No one will show up til 12. They'll miss the band, and the band will play to the walls and their girlfriends (except the drummer who obviously doesn't have a girlfriend). Then the next time, maybe they'll show up on time, because they KNOW that shows start at 9. Period. If not, tough titty man.

This works very well at the Capital in Fredericton. For most shows (ie. the ones that don't have crazy guarantees for bands like Wintersleep et all attached to them) this is what they do, for every show:
Doors are at 9. Show starts at 10:30. If you get there before 11, you get in for FREE. There is also usually a drink special available to those who come early via a wristband they are given. After 11pm the applicable cover is applied and the drink special is not available to them. Two important keys there: consistency, and incentive.

I have tried to explain this to various venue owners and promoters in town over the years and I am apparently wrong, and they are right, obviously, because save for one, they're all out of business now. Why does O'Leary's still have great crowds on Wednesdays, after over 20 years? Because it's a staple. It's ALWAYS the same night at the same place at the same time. People can RELY on it. They don't have to wonder what time it starts, or if it's even going to happen, because it always does.

This, in my opinion, was the greatest downfall to Elwoods. There was a complete lack of consistency in everything. The restaurant didn't even have stable hours, so people gave up on it because they couldn't count on it. Some days it was outright closed... Randomly. Shows would start anywhere between 8 and 12.... They would try something like an open mic night, or a Metal night, and after only a week or few (with no advertising) would give up on them because they didn't do well in sales. Well, ya gotta let people KNOW that these things are happening, and you have to stick through the initial bad weeks! Cougars obviously knows this, because they've been doing it for years, and sometimes the turnouts are crap. But they keep it going. I could move away from SJ for 5 years, come back, and without even asking anyone, show up at O'Leary's on a Wednesday or Cougars on a Sunday, and get what I expect. This is what MOST other places around here are missing. Stability, repeatability, and something to entice the listener.

I'd also like to make it absolutely clear that I don't begrudge people who are able to make a living, or supplement a living doing cover music or "boring, tired, whatever other insults I flung earlier". At all. I think it's GREAT. kudos to you! I was just generalizing and bashing on for dramatic effect and brevity. However, I, personally, myself (and a lot of people I know feel the same way) cannot stand listening to those same songs repeated endlessly, week after week, year after year. Sorry. That's just how I roll. This is probably why I listen to free jazz where the "song" doesn't do the same things twice in 12 minutes. It's obvious that I'm in a minority here, because there is a substantial market for cover bands, and especially cover bands that play classic rock hits, as is evident by attending one of their shows on any given week/month/year. You'll get way more people out to see a band like, say, Bigg Medicine than a band like, say, Hospital Grade. And that makes sense. That's fine. That's expected. It's cool man. As long as people are digging it, and the artists aren't getting ripped off doing it, ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE. Give the people what they want.

With that said, I, and many others like me, need a bit more variety, and believe it's extremely important to bring in "cutting edge" weirdos from all around the world. Variety is the spice of life, blah blah blah blah. There IS a market for it around here, and it was really starting to bloom between the Studio 112/Elwoods era, and was hurt badly when Elwoods went into the toilet, and then months later, closed it's doors.

Also, I know the Sunstar was an unpleasant experience for a lot of people. It was small. It smelled funny. The floors were stick. Gross drunk weirdos seemingly lived there. The sound was deafening and terrible. It was hard to be in front of the band, on all 12 square feet of viewable area. I get it. What I was referencing, was the fact that that place would book ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE. It's where a lot of younger bands got to cut their teeth. It's where the only punk bands in town got to play (and some of those shows had 150+ people, believe it or not - that that's 150+ punk rocker that are looking to drink a case of beer each. You do the math there for financial viability). It's where a lot of "fringe" bands got to play, where no one else would book them, and people in attendance sometimes left with a new favourite band, or exposed to a new genre, or label... met new friends, all that good stuff. It was a wonderful creative outlet, as you could get away with stuff there that other "serious" places simply wouldn't tolerate (like BA Johnston doing an encore acoustic song crammed into the girls washroom).

As far as the community aspect of Matt's reply, I agree, mostly, with that too. You need a certain amount of guaranteed clientel, or subculture, existing to make it work building in the first place. But, you don't grow a community like that if there's no where for them to "be", man. They will move to Halifax, or Montreal. Happens every day. Part of the problem is that every time a venue starts going, and a community starts building around it, it gets shut down. I've seen this SOOO many times. With the Local, with the Deepend, with Studio 112, with Callahans, with Tapps, with Elwoods, with Sunstar, with Waterfront/Neptunes/Akhord/etc, and on. STABILITY OR BUST.

Toronto has about a dozen venues like this that are friendly to "weirdos" and the fringe. Most of them look like they've been open since the dawn of time, based on how grimey they are. All the ones I'm thinking of off hand have been there a minimum of 10-12 years (Bovine Sex Club, Sneeky Dee's, Fun Haus, Velvet Underground, etc). Same goes, on a smaller scale, for Montreal and Halifax and other citys. Most have several. I'm just askin' for one.

Anyway, I guess it all boils down to what Matt was getting to: one of us needs to win the lottery and build a kick ass venue. If it was me, I'd be booking the craziest bands I could fine, and for once, SJ would be the place that people are driving to from Fredericton/Moncton/Halifax and beyond to attend.

My hot wind forum windging ain't gonna cook no rice, but when "rice" is an investment of several dozens of thousands of dollars... it looks like probably no one in SJ is going to have one million of something to eat, anytime soon.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:19 pm

Chuck Teed wrote:Not a big fan of the article - artists that want to play in Saint John will find a room, or someone who will host an event on their behalf. Venues come and go - I'll start raising my voice in concern when the people who put on events start leaving town.
I'm quoting this again as I think it captures the major component of the business we are talking about.

I completely understand people wishing there were more shows of different kinds happening in closer proximity to and/or in Saint John. I just don't believe it is simply a lack of rooms to hold these events in. Booking shows is a complicated business that many factors can make or break. It's not as simple as focusing on a certain type of show or style of music, even though you can get caught up in what you love. I recently drove to Summerside to catch Bryan Adams at Credit Union Place on his Canadian tour. This drive to PEI was for no other reason than there was no NB date on the tour. St. Johns, Halifax, Summerside, and then on westward. This wasn't because there aren't enough Bryan Adams fans in NB, which was apparent by the license plates in the parking lots. This wasn't because of the lack of venues to play in, as there are certainly arenas of the proper size and setup. It was because booking successful tours is a detailed process, and sometimes shows just can't happen everywhere you want them to.

I think it's important to separate "venues" from "presenters/promoters/producers" of shows. Too many people thinking/saying there aren't enough venues, when in fact what they mean is no one will bring in the acts they want to see, when they want to see them. Some shows are in fact booked in a room by the venue itself. The overwhelming majority of events don't fall into this category.

When talking about venues, I think it's important to recognize some facts that often are misunderstood. I hear people all the time talking about performance venues like Imperial Theatre, or The Playhouse not wanting to "book" such and such band. What many don't realize is that while these venues do produce a certain number of events during a season, they are rental halls... Period. Most things that happen in a place like Imperial Theatre are produced by someone who is bringing a given act to Saint John and they select the appropriate venue for them to play in, or are just straight rentals for local events. It would be the same if they were playing there, or any other room for rent in the city. Anything that Imperial, or other venues like it, produce itself is usually decided months/years in advance as part of a planned series. They aren't like a promoter that you can come to and say... so and so is touring this way and they want to book a show in Saint John... Are you interested? It just doesn't happen that way.

Bars as venues are an x factor. I'm talking about bars as venues being places that serve liquor and also book live entertainment. This is different than a performance venue that happens to also serve booze.... big difference. This has to do with what they spend a predominate amount of their time working on in their office. My experiences with bars as venues in this region is that they typically know far less about providing performance space for events than they do about providing the drink. Successful bars, no matter where they are located, do a good job of catering to their existing clientèle. The only clubs that you see changing their image are ones that aren't seeing their business sustain itself, and they need to shake it up. Successful bars, unlike performance venues, will typically only host acts that will appeal to their regular patrons. This is regardless whether they are acting as a room for rent, or as producers of the shows themselves. This is just smart business. There is of course some wiggle room, but that is the venue's chance to take. If you are wanting to see an act in a bar setting, and they don't fit style wise into any of the local clubs, good luck. It's just not going to happen. I still don't think that means that this wouldn't fit into a room other than a bar.

If you were talking about lack of rooms and production capability 20 years ago, I would agree with you, but now it's just not the case. If I were a presenter, assuming nothing else logistically getting in the way, I would have little problem fitting any given artist into a space already existing in Saint John.

Sean mentions production provisions like having sound and lights on site. Unless a room is steady busy with events making use of said production, purchasing equipment instead of just providing for the date is financially a losing game. Once again, it would be different 20 years ago when we didn't have decent production supply readily available, but it's 2012 and things are way easy now.

If there aren't enough shows happening to your liking, we need more/better presenters, not more rooms.

Great discussion everyone.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:20 pm

Uh Oh.... Sean posted again while I was posting... This may take a while to get caught up... :lol:
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:21 pm

So many brilliant things in this lost posts. I'll focus on a few things in particular that stood out.

sean.boyer wrote:For example, a lot of promoters and show attenders alike complain about shows starting extremely late (sometimes as late as 12 on a weekend night). Yeah, that's crazy. But the reason they start so late is because only a handful of people bother to show up before midnight. Why? Because the shows don't start til midnight. And forever and ever. So, someone has to break the cycle. And stick with it. Not just try for a week and then go back to biz-as-usual. Have a show one Friday, advertise it as 9pm SHARP. No one will show up til 12. They'll miss the band, and the band will play to the walls and their girlfriends (except the drummer who obviously doesn't have a girlfriend). Then the next time, maybe they'll show up on time, because they KNOW that shows start at 9. Period. If not, tough titty man.


Exactly, what I've been saying forever...

sean.boyer wrote:I have tried to explain this to various venue owners and promoters in town over the years and I am apparently wrong, and they are right, obviously, because save for one, they're all out of business now. Why does O'Leary's still have great crowds on Wednesdays, after over 20 years? Because it's a staple. It's ALWAYS the same night at the same place at the same time. People can RELY on it. They don't have to wonder what time it starts, or if it's even going to happen, because it always does.


Amen. Now if we can just get that king of consistent crowd at Cougars. (I'm willing to your advice on that one.)

sean.boyer wrote:As far as the community aspect of Matt's reply, I agree, mostly, with that too. You need a certain amount of guaranteed clientel, or subculture, existing to make it work building in the first place. But, you don't grow a community like that if there's no where for them to "be", man. They will move to Halifax, or Montreal. Happens every day. Part of the problem is that every time a venue starts going, and a community starts building around it, it gets shut down. I've seen this SOOO many times. With the Local, with the Deepend, with Studio 112, with Callahans, with Tapps, with Elwoods, with Sunstar, with Waterfront/Neptunes/Akhord/etc, and on. STABILITY OR BUST.


Fair enough, but in your opinion why are they shutting down? Is it because they were run poorly (I suspect that to the case in many examples) or was it because the community wasn't supporting it? Perhaps both? Maybe one followed the other?

I'm staying in Saint John. I'm not planning on moving anywhere. So I'm invested in making this city better. Where do we start?
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:44 pm

sean.boyer wrote:This is what MOST other places around here are missing. Stability, repeatability, and something to entice the listener.

This.

sean.boyer wrote:I'd also like to make it absolutely clear that I don't begrudge people who are able to make a living, or supplement a living doing cover music or "boring, tired, whatever other insults I flung earlier". At all. I think it's GREAT. kudos to you! I was just generalizing and bashing on for dramatic effect and brevity. However, I, personally, myself (and a lot of people I know feel the same way) cannot stand listening to those same songs repeated endlessly, week after week, year after year. Sorry. That's just how I roll.
Most people who are successful doing this kind of gig usually understand the sentiment, but just don't dig the slagging.

sean.boyer wrote:You'll get way more people out to see a band like, say, Bigg Medicine than a band like, say, Hospital Grade. And that makes sense. That's fine. That's expected. It's cool man. As long as people are digging it, and the artists aren't getting ripped off doing it, ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE. Give the people what they want.
I have seen too many artists sabotage themselves by trying to maintain some kind of "indie" status instead of doing what they need to do to develop and maintain an audience. I'm not talking about changing your music or "selling out" or anything. I've just seen too many examples of people not wanting it to be about business... which it is.

sean.boyer wrote:With that said, I, and many others like me, need a bit more variety, and believe it's extremely important to bring in "cutting edge" weirdos from all around the world. Variety is the spice of life, blah blah blah blah. There IS a market for it around here, and it was really starting to bloom between the Studio 112/Elwoods era, and was hurt badly when Elwoods went into the toilet, and then months later, closed it's doors.
I hear this so many times, but yet I continue to see great, poorly attended performances at Imperial Theatre by cutting edge, world class talent, of all styles. I will be the first to agree that some blame falls on Imperial's inability to capture certain demographic's attention as a "place to go" on date night, but people who continually profess to "seek out new life" but rarely appear at these shows I speak of seem to contradict themselves. I'm certainly not point a finger at you out Sean, but it's something that I hear over and over, while seeing great shows with 300 people at them instead of 800.

sean.boyer wrote:Also, I know the Sunstar was an unpleasant experience for a lot of people. It was small. It smelled funny. The floors were stick. Gross drunk weirdos seemingly lived there. The sound was deafening and terrible. It was hard to be in front of the band, on all 12 square feet of viewable area. I get it. What I was referencing, was the fact that that place would book ANYONE, and I mean ANYONE. It's where a lot of younger bands got to cut their teeth. It's where the only punk bands in town got to play (and some of those shows had 150+ people, believe it or not - that that's 150+ punk rocker that are looking to drink a case of beer each. You do the math there for financial viability). It's where a lot of "fringe" bands got to play, where no one else would book them, and people in attendance sometimes left with a new favourite band, or exposed to a new genre, or label... met new friends, all that good stuff. It was a wonderful creative outlet, as you could get away with stuff there that other "serious" places simply wouldn't tolerate (like BA Johnston doing an encore acoustic song crammed into the girls washroom).

As far as the community aspect of Matt's reply, I agree, mostly, with that too. You need a certain amount of guaranteed clientel, or subculture, existing to make it work building in the first place. But, you don't grow a community like that if there's no where for them to "be", man. They will move to Halifax, or Montreal. Happens every day. Part of the problem is that every time a venue starts going, and a community starts building around it, it gets shut down. I've seen this SOOO many times. With the Local, with the Deepend, with Studio 112, with Callahans, with Tapps, with Elwoods, with Sunstar, with Waterfront/Neptunes/Akhord/etc, and on. STABILITY OR BUST.

Toronto has about a dozen venues like this that are friendly to "weirdos" and the fringe. Most of them look like they've been open since the dawn of time, based on how grimey they are. All the ones I'm thinking of off hand have been there a minimum of 10-12 years (Bovine Sex Club, Sneeky Dee's, Fun Haus, Velvet Underground, etc). Same goes, on a smaller scale, for Montreal and Halifax and other citys. Most have several. I'm just askin' for one.

Anyway, I guess it all boils down to what Matt was getting to: one of us needs to win the lottery and build a kick ass venue. If it was me, I'd be booking the craziest bands I could fine, and for once, SJ would be the place that people are driving to from Fredericton/Moncton/Halifax and beyond to attend.

My hot wind forum windging ain't gonna cook no rice, but when "rice" is an investment of several dozens of thousands of dollars... it looks like probably no one in SJ is going to have one million of something to eat, anytime soon.
There need to be more folks like those of us who decide to stay and stick it out and improve things for everyone in this burg. I have seen huge changes for the better just in my 20+ year investment in this business here. I wish I had the advantages people have just coming out of High School now. It can and will change even more. How quickly depends on us getting involved, and getting community oriented. It does work.

One more thing about "clubs" or bars. I'm in the minority... A non drinker. I do, however like to see good live music. I would so like to see a venue that I could go and see/hear artists without having to put up with half assed attempts at being a live room, in what is essentially a bar. The better set up "bars" for venues, are the ones who have the cover bands playing that you all love so much. I don't hate the stuff.... It's just way less likely to get me out, and that's why you don't see me out often. When I do stray to catch a band, which I recently did at the once again closed venue on Water Street... who's room I do love, the sound was so bad I couldn't stand in the room with the band very long without feeling angry and annoyed. Oh well.... I tried.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Malcolm Boyce » Fri Jul 06, 2012 1:48 pm

Mathieu Benoit wrote:
sean.boyer wrote:For example, a lot of promoters and show attenders alike complain about shows starting extremely late (sometimes as late as 12 on a weekend night). Yeah, that's crazy. But the reason they start so late is because only a handful of people bother to show up before midnight. Why? Because the shows don't start til midnight. And forever and ever. So, someone has to break the cycle. And stick with it. Not just try for a week and then go back to biz-as-usual. Have a show one Friday, advertise it as 9pm SHARP. No one will show up til 12. They'll miss the band, and the band will play to the walls and their girlfriends (except the drummer who obviously doesn't have a girlfriend). Then the next time, maybe they'll show up on time, because they KNOW that shows start at 9. Period. If not, tough titty man.


Exactly, what I've been saying forever...
Guys.... We can't even get people to show up at the right time for shows at Imperial, where they have tickets in advance, with the time printed on them.... :lol:

Mathieu Benoit wrote:I'm staying in Saint John. I'm not planning on moving anywhere. So I'm invested in making this city better. Where do we start?
You know I'm in..... and we start with conversations like this.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:22 pm

Of our valiant promoters of yore who had the thankless tasks of booking local all-ages shows, punk shows, original acts, etc - did anyone hedge their losses by also steadily promoting more popular, less original shows? I don't know what the returns are like on a 'sure thing,' maybe it's a losing proposition all around. Just brainstorming a little, but it seems to me if some acts can't stand on their own (oh hai!), one alternative is government funding for the arts, while another alternative is to put on bigger shows that help fund less sustainable shows/acts.

For this to work, several people with different areas of expertise and sets of contacts, but a shared vision, would have to work together. Thoughts? Has this all been done before?
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Mathieu Benoit » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:37 pm

Christian LeBlanc wrote: one alternative is government funding for the arts,


The government is barely interested in funding music class in public schools. But one can dream...lol.
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Re: Vintage Bistro

Postby Christian LeBlanc » Fri Jul 06, 2012 2:39 pm

And as much as I hate the idea of committees, would a shareholder method for a promotional organization work? That is, everyone on the committee gets a say in what bands get brought in, what shows get put on etc, but dues are...I don't know, $10 a year? $50? $100? Apply for non-profit status so you can issue tax-refundable receipts to people? Ponying up a little bit of cash might inspire participants to take it that much more seriously and feel some sense of ownership.

What does that mean for local bands who wouldn't otherwise have a place to play, though - does that mean they never get paid for gigs? Or they do, but only if all members pay dues to the organization?

Is what The Gilman did/does worth looking into for ideas?
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