Many musicians have entertained London, Ontario. Victoria Park is filled with performers every summer for everything from Sunfest to the Home County Music and Arts Festival. Van Halen’s show is one of many the Western Fair District plans to bring to town.
With Downtown London’s announcement to convert the downtown Nash Jewellers into a music incubator earlier this summer, it looks like the city will become more music friendly. However, it’s not the case for smaller, independent music clubs.
The Black Shire Pub (aka The Shire), one of the few small venues left in London, played it’s last song on July 23. Joan Brennan, owner of the APK, says there were between five to six music clubs. Unfortunately, they folded because of the expenses. “I got lucky on this space, because it’s a big wide open space,” she explained, “Most of the other places like Blackshire and CTO are cut up into little rooms. That makes it hard to hold shows. Not impossible, but hard.” Brennan added she pays for the rent, staff, utilities, on top of the bands.
Although the APK charges about $5 per show, she said the Salt Lounge would charge about $20 per show when it was in business, because it had a high price tag for rent. “Nobody could afford that space, it was like five grand a month for rent alone. That’s a heck of a lot of beer to sell.”
Brennan felt the Black Shire Pub’s closure limits opportunities for bands to perform, because there is one less week for them to book shows, adding more competition. She said only the APK, Call The Office, and the Grinning Gator are left in downtown.
“Our demographic is growing, and our clubs are shrinking. There’s only so much we can do with one room, i.e. one show per night. That’s it! CTO, one show per night, so we just lost seven shows in a week when that one club closed, what would happen if something terrible happened to one of these clubs?”
The owner of the 347 Clarence Street facility understood the appeal of big name artists performing in the city, but she would like to see more support for local and emerging artists and bands, along with the venues that let them play. “One of the reasons I started this place’s cause my daughter’s a musician. She would have nowhere to play in town. No Brunswick, no Embassy, and now no Black Shire. There’s no Brass Whale, there’s no Salt Lounge. All of these places went down within a couple of years.”