All tuned up, with nowhere to play

Whitehorse is alive with music. But there’s nowhere to play it. “There are zero venues available,” said Triple J’s Music…

Whitehorse is alive with music.

But there’s nowhere to play it.

“There are zero venues available,” said Triple J’s Music Café co-owner Jordi Mikeli-Jones.

“There really isn’t anywhere. Paddy’s Place was the last real frontier.”

Paddy’s closed at the end of October, after Riverview Hotel owner Ed Festel refused to renew the bar’s year-long lease.

Since then, Mikeli-Jones has been booking bands at the Mt. McIntyre Rec Centre and in the Takhini Arena mezzanine.

“When there’s a band coming to town, people send them my way,” she said.

“And any of us who ever booked shows always went to Paddy’s because of the special, cozy, musical atmosphere.

“Now there’s zilch.”

Local punk rockers Plus/Minus Standard Deviation played their first gig at Paddy’s.

They were supposed to play at the Capital Hotel, but things didn’t work out, so they showed up at Paddy’s.

“We asked if he minded if we set up without any notification, and there aren’t many places like that,” said drummer Josh Tremblay.

 Now with it gone, there aren’t any central gathering places for a good show, he added.

On Friday, Plus/Minus Standard Deviation is playing with several other local bands in the Yukon Arts Centre production room.

The punksters have also played at Mt. Mac.

“We have 25,000 people in this town and there’s so many artists,” said local singer Fiona Solon.

“And where is everyone playing — they’re playing in church basements; they’re playing at the arts centre; they’re playing in halls that are usually used for weddings.

“It’s weird.”

Paddy’s was the only place to see bands from out of town that were interesting and not just playing covers, she said.

“And local bands played there too.

“The only place I’ve seen bands since, is at the arts centre and Mt. Mac,” said Solon.

And Mt. Mac has its problems.

To pay for the venue, ticket prices have to be high, she said.

And bands have to rent and set up a stage, apply for a liquor licence and seek out a PA system.

In a bar, that’s all in place already, she said.

“But local bars have the same old bands playing all the time,” said Solon.

“The Capital has DJs; the Taku (Discovery Bar) has an older blues crowd and karaoke is taking over the world.”

The Yukon Inn’s Boiler Room, which used to host local talent several times a week, is now a karaoke joint.

“The Capital used to be one of the best venues for live entertainment, but now has this stigma because of its drug scene,” said Mikeli-Jones.

Paddy’s had local talent every week, said owner Patrick Singh.

“We had Crash the Car, Death in Venice, Nemesis and Raw Element balanced out with national and international talent, including Texas blues legend Sonny Rhodes and Nunavut throat singer Tanya Tagaq Gillis.”

Now, when bands phone looking for a gig, there won’t be anywhere for them to play, because there’s nowhere else like that in town, he said.

“The Taku’s been there so long; they’ve got their thing, they’re making money. And Lizards has had the same old band playing the same music for the past five years.

“But why wouldn’t people want to embrace artists and musicians and give them a place to play?

“There are some freakin’ amazing bands in this town,” he said.

And a lot of these bands debuted during Peggy Hanifan’s weekly jam nights.

“I’ve been hosting jam nights for 10 years,” said Hanifan, who’s been at the Riverview for the last eight.

“I’ve never had to really go look for a place; they’ve always called me,” she said.

But now, with Paddy’s closed, Hanifan is out pounding the pavement.

Hanifan’s jams were almost always full, even when the weather was frightening.

“You had to come early to get a seat,” she said.

“And usually there wasn’t enough time to get everyone up.”

“Peggy’s was the stage I had most of my experience on,” said Crash the Car’s Kyle Cashen, who also fronts Friend Called Five.

“Having a bar like Paddy’s was a good experience,” he said.

“It was small and Patrick was involved in the music scene and people felt comfortable taking risks.”

Since Paddy’s closed, Friend Called Five has played at Mt. Mac, at the Yukon Arts Centre, and is part of the upcoming show in the arts centre production room.

“We’d definitely be performing a lot more if Paddy’s was still around,” said Cashen.

But there is a silver lining.

The lack of venues inspires creativity in the artists, he said.

“We have to find a way to work with the limitations of the city.”

The Frostbite Music Society has a liquor licence, and provides some opportunities, said Cashen, who’s also booked for the upcoming Canada Winter Games.

“If enough bands are left without a place to play, the musicians will solve the problem,” he said.

On Saturday, Kim Beggs’ solution was Steve’s Music.

Her local CD release packed 85 people in the venue, which is supposed to hold 50.

And Solon’s offbeat ‘80s band Pegasus Wing, grappling with the venue shortage, used to play at a downtown house.

“We’d get over 100 people each time,” she said.

But that venue’s no longer available.

So, Solon’s new funk-rock band, Hammerhead, is planning to play at Mt. Mac on New Year’s Eve.

“It’s the only place we can play,” she said.