Soft-seater venues like the Princess Ave Playhouse create the best concert experiences for everyone, according to Michael Del Vecchio from 331arts.
His words rang true last night (Nov. 3) as the smooth sounds of singer-songwriter Deni Gauthier and folk-rock band Broomsticks & Hammers filled the playhouse top to bottom. Around 60 or 70 audience members soaked in the music and occasionally interacted with the artists from seats surrounding the stage. The fully licensed playhouse also offered beverages to guests throughout the evening.
This was the first time 331arts – a London-based media collective that does events, artist management, PR, and content creation – has hosted an event like this in St. Thomas, and it will likely be the first of many. Del Vecchio is hoping to start a series of similar concerts in the spring that feature musicians playing in intimate venues in towns such as Aylmer and Bayfield, as well as St. Thomas. The idea came about because Del Vecchio, who used to work at the Aeolian in London, started noticing a lot of venues in Southwestern Ontario that offer a great alternative to bars for small concerts.
According to Del Vecchio, “This type of room is where we want the bands to be playing. It’s where you connect with your audience. It’s where it sounds the best. It’s where everybody feels like they have the best experience.”
Broomsticks & Hammers and Deni Gauthier are just a few of many bands that have had the pleasure of playing at the historic playhouse. Del Vecchio says that part of what drew him to the theatre was that some of Canada’s top musicians have performed there, including Bruce Cockburn, Joel Plaskett, The Ennis Sisters, Dave Gunning, and Sloan. “It’s a real privilege for the bands to be able to play on the same stage as their idols,” he says.
Current home of the Elgin Theatre Guild, the Princess Ave Playhouse is an ideal concert venue for intimate events. The elegant main room seats about 120 guests and features a curving balcony and large stained glass windows. Built as a church in 1907, the room’s acoustics are perfect for live music. Both groups commented on the fantastic sound the venue provided. After the show, the keyboardist from Broomsticks & Hammers, Kiley Joe Masson, said, “The sound was amazing. Sometimes you have to sacrifice some of the sound on stage so that it sounds alright up front but here, I could hear everything I needed to hear. It was such a pleasure to play at a place like that.”
Masson has been with the London-based band for just over a year, and played a variety of instruments on stage throughout the evening, including electric piano, a Yamaha organ, the tenor saxophone, and a melodica. Broomsticks & Hammers incorporates elements of folk, rock, country, jazz, and blues into their music, with lyrics that tell stories of the human condition.
St. Thomas musician Deni Gauthier, who is known for his insightful lyrics and haunting melodies, is eager to play more concerts like last night’s as well, saying, “I would like to fill these little theatres up in Canada.” Gauthier is also looking forward to working more with Del Vecchio, who he says has his finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the Ontario music business. Gauthier and his band the Horrible Mischief will play at the St. Thomas Public Library on November 24th in a concert called “Songs in the Stacks,” featuring London band The Pairs.
Watch for future concerts in St. Thomas on Establish Media’s events page, https://establishmedia.ca/elginstthomas/events.