To the music followers of Kelowna
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* Submitted by a local musician who wishes to remain anonymous.
Honestly, I’m not sure how to start this. I am sad, angry and disappointed and have completely lost hope of Kelowna’s cultural identity.
I’m sure many of you have by now heard that one of Kelowna’s cultural touchstones, Fernando’s pub, announced that it will close at the end of the month.
It’s another in a growing list of city music venues to contend with before and after the pandemic, though “Post-Pandemic” is yet to be seen. For a decade it served as a home for art.
I am deeply dismayed by what is happening to our art culture in Kelowna.
I want to tell you, citizens of Kelowna, that your artists, and the homes for your artists, need you badly now, and while they may not say that much – they – WE – need you now.
I’ll keep this as short as possible.
In the short ten years I’ve called this city my home, I’ve seen the music and art scene grow by leaps and bounds, and in the past two years I’ve seen it shrink to something smaller than it was at my arrival was.
I don’t mean the artists because there are about as many artists as always. The Okanagan was a landing pad for artists from all over the world.
Yes, there are “venues” – but art is always a second thought in these places.
Yes, as artists, we’re grateful that these venues exist, but they’re not there for the performance.
The performance is secondary to the food or beer offered, which is okay.
That’s a model that works in the world of low-margin hospitality, and it’s one way to do it.
But many of these world-class artists don’t belong there, nor are they actively trying to get touring artists off the street and into our community.
I ask you – why are we losing all the brave venues that boldly wave the artists’ banner, take the risk to tour artists, highlight alternative styles of music, and do all of this unwaveringly in the face of a multitude of difficulties?
Where did you go in the last 3 or 4 years?
Last year a group of artists, managers, promoters and big-wigs from the Kelowna scene met to discuss the Okanagan music industry.
A consulting firm was hired to survey music fans, artists and professionals alike – and finally results were presented. It showed a number of things that were equally surprising and unsurprising.
One of the things it showed was you as a population. “want to see more live shows“,”would go to more live shows in the future“,”I wish there were more venues in Kelowna,” and “I would go to more shows if the parking wasn’t too bad.”
All of this among other things. Great information, great research – it’s actually really good stuff, and anyone interested in making a significant impact in the local community should read it.
But it all came to a head with discussions and meetings on these things, with industry experts and experts telling great stories about how they are going to make it. “change“The industry as it will do it”revitalize“The scene” and “inject“Culture in this city.
I haven’t even heard of what we can do to support our existing scene – artists and venues alike. Not once has there been a meaningful discussion about how we can support our existing venues.
You and I, dear reader, have seen downtown venue after venue close, which meant more to me than most will understand. And nobody blinked an eyelid.
These were those bold places that put original art at the forefront of their business plan and suffered as a result.
No help from the city or art associations to keep them afloat, or in many cases – no willingness to cooperate.
The grateful Fed was a cultural touchstone that served bands, artists, and all kinds of troubadours as an integral space to hone their skills, collaborate, and empathize. It is went.
Muninn’s post was a cultural touchstone that hosted touring artists and live music from free jazz to black metal. They were a safe place that served great food at reasonable prices. It is went.
Milk crate records was a cultural touchstone that worked tirelessly in conducting indoor and outdoor shows, selling records, providing rehearsal and rental rooms, and a safe place for people from all walks of life. It is went.
The NAC was a cultural touchstone that served partly as an artist collective, partly studio and partly showroom for small shows. Her guiding principle has always been “meaningful experiences”. It is went.
The habitat. A cultural touchstone that provided amateurs and professionals with a much-needed space for all ages, employed sound engineers, musicians and lighting technicians, and was a center for Music BC. It is went.
Doc Willoughby’s used to be home to punk rock, hard rock and music that are not always at home in the Okanagan. They have put shows off indefinitely and this writer is skeptical that they will provide bands like a home PRAYER in the future.
and Fernando’s Pub. The glue that held everything together.
The place this author believes was the fearless standard-bearer of the proud Kelowna music scene.
The home that brought touring artists from Highway 1 to our region who famous artists like William Prince, Terra Lightfoot and We hunt buffalo in.
It was part of what BreakOut West noticed. It provided an early home for our exports and jump-off gigs like The wild one, Yukon blond, and Tiger moon, among other.
Well, Kelowna, it’s from the end of the month went.
And all we can do is talk about “New Venues” and make empty promises to go to shows in the future? It’s a shame.
This is a loss felt by the entire music community and our love goes out to all of the passionate players who have been to all of these places, especially Fernandos.
It is not all doom and darkness. Before I sign off, let me introduce you to this. There are two bold music venues that provide homes for meaningful experiences. If you want to see more shows this is the time – and they provide a safe environment for you to do so in our current Covid reality.
Red bird brow. Shows on Thursdays and Saturdays. Do you want to know what shows will be up there? Follow them on their social networks or follow EiKelowna.
The curious. They host dinner shows from Wednesday to Friday. Follow them on their social networks for show updates or follow EiKelowna.
There is talk of other venues that do live music, and there are other venues that do cover bands all the time. But if you want artists to thrive in this region, and if you want venues to continue to exist, then now is the time to go to a real venue that is blowing that banner of courage.
Pay coverage. Book one ticket and buy another for a friend. Go for the show in the first place.
Support someone you don’t even know. Eat the food, enjoy the drinks, take photos and enjoy the whole experience.
Because if you don’t, nobody else will, and our artists will move.
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