In this post I continue my jog down memory lane visiting the venues that were once testaments to the vibrant Winnipeg music scene. If you want to see more photos, you’ll have to check out my other Flickr page here.
Blue Note Cafe
The only venue ever to black list us. Wow. The bookie was kind of a douche anyway and I didn’t like dealing with him (and I’m sure he didn’t like dealing with me). We were even stopped early. Eeeps. But this venue (now defunct) lays claim to hosting my first show ever as a drummer. I didn’t want my parents in attendance because I though it’d be too crazy for them to handle. Oh, how crazy it was, 12 people showed up, 6 to support the band. Found on Portage Ave near Arlington, the venue was pretty small and had an even smaller stage. It may have fit 50 people. I think it’s a restaurant now or a record store, or both.
Wise Guys Downtown
The venue at which we recorded probably one of our best live shows, has now been converted into some dance bar. Oh well. Those were the days when it was a sports bar and grill on the weekend but local bands hailed the stage on Wednesday nights. For every ticket turned in, the band made $1. I think we made $78 that night, one of our highest grossing shows. We also played one show at Wise Guys On Campus (which I’m told was recently shut down). It was a cover show, the only of its kinda.
Most notably not operational is the now boarded-up Masonic Temple. That building was a brothel of ideas that didn’t work out, everything from restaurants to music venues to the original purpose of being a temple. We played this venue as part of The Evolution of the Scene, an attempt to connect bands and music industry folk. At that time, the venue was called the Blue Agave. 10 bands in 5 hours, it was absolute mayhem, but it fucking rocked. Lugging our equipment up three flights of stairs we only played one thirty-minute set. But that’s not all. The place is said to be haunted. When we played there, we were always careful to leave one seat open for the ghost of the house, in case the ghost wanted to watch the show. Tales of blood streaming down the wall, falling beams, footsteps, etc. all freaked the hell out the building’s workers. Finally, it shut down and hasn’t been used since. It’s for sale, if you’re interested.
As much as I love globalization for the fact that I can buy Starbucks in South Korea or Burger King when in doubt in Bangkok, it really struck a chord when one of my favourite venues was turned into an American Apparel. Host to the last ever Ciaira’s tears show, the Collective Cabaret embraced mostly rock, punk and metal music. It had a great sound system, it was spacious, and it even had a video screen so I could try my “Rock’n'Film” show idea. It was run by the same generous, we’ve-dealt-with-worse managers of the Albert, the Cabaret was a bright spot in the Winnipeg music scene just down the street from the Zoo and, more recently, The Cavern.
I don’t think this place is still operational. Well, I think it’s more one of those places that you have to be invited to. As in, “Pssst, there’s something going on at Wellingtons, wanna go?” To which you’d respond “sure” cause you’d neither know where it is or what was going on. Think raves for goths. I remember they had dirty white tiles for floors.
Oh the Rogue’s. My bandmates spent more time here than I did, mostly because they were older and a part of the “coffee shop hang out” group. Bands played upstairs, which meant lugging the equipment up the winding stairs (fun stuff). Laid back atmosphere, paintings on the walls, books to flip through, and some games to play while sippin’ coffee. Though I’m not clear on why the place shut down, I do know that they often got noise complaints. Or maybe it was only when we played.
Another venue attached to a hotel, but this one is found in St. Boniface. I don’t know what it is now, but it’s sure as hell not The Stone. I can’t remember if there was a strip club next door or if the place was a strip club, but I remember there being strippers around.
My rock band’s first, and last, national tour was to this small city about 3 hours west of Winnipeg. Playing to an all-ages group, it was set up by one of the girls living there who had heard us online. The kids went off hard that day, complete with most-pit, devil horns, and all the black they could find in their wardrobe. Fantastic energy and a highlight in my career as a drummer.
I would be remiss not to mention the fact that Ciaira’s tears only ever played one house party, at my future sis-in-law’s parents’ place. Thanks to our melodic sound and amps set to 11, we cleared the room within a few minutes, though some of our better friends toughed it out. She even paid us $60, which I’m sure we spent on booze. Zrada and Taran, on the other hand, played some house parties which were renowned to get out of hand, often with people juggling (shirtless) with empty wine bottles and patio furniture being moved onto the roof.
And so we played the stages of the Winnipeg rock music scene, sharing them with the likes of Burnbox, Fuller, Needlefish, XengineX, Jerkwater, Dreadnaut, Serrated Scalpel (watch the first video, insane!), Faust, The Product, HCE, Lowball, The Velvet Pill, Trousermouth and a whole list of other like-minded future-rockstars. Yep, those were the days.
As a concluding note, I think I will add one more part to this series, part 3: Ciaira’s tears.