I Know a Good Room When I Meet One
My most prized possession is a gorgeous mint green 1956 Grestch guitar that plays like a dream. It was owned by a farmer, the original owner, who brought it out once a month for the small-town jam and then kept it locked away. This guitar hasn’t traveled much, but she has stories to tell.
My husband earned a lifetime of wifey points by picking it up for me at Village Guitar & Amp. The shop’s owner is Dan Canfield, who was and is the best live sound tech I’ve ever come across. He was talking for years about opening a shop like this, and he figured the place to do it was Riversdale. Maybe it’s because Riversdale has the hip, gritty quality that his guitars have. The neighbourhood, like the instruments that line the exposed brick walls of his shop, has character, history, and vibe. This is where music should be made.
Shortly after opening, Dan started hosting events in the store. People were drawn not only to hear some of the country’s best artists, but because the room itself exuded a sweet groove.
Now, I know a “good room” when I meet one. Before my 2 sons were a twinkling in my eye, I was a full-time musician traveling Canada and the US, playing music for every kind of audience in every kind of room you can imagine. Bars, art galleries, cafes, house concerts, theatres, book stores, garages, rooftops, amphitheaters, restaurants, gardens, street corners, festivals, and hotels—they were glamorous and seedy, beautiful and boring, thrilling and…not. Through those adventures, I came to appreciate just how unique and powerful a good room can be.
Have you ever walked into a party and before you’ve spoken to a single person or put a drink in your hand or heard the band play a note, you feel like you’ve stepped outside your life? You’ve been transported somewhere inspiring and unfamiliar. You’re visiting a unique place, with character and a story to tell. That’s a good room.
Musicians all long to play those good rooms—where lighting and the sound and the setting opens up audiences to the songs and stories we have to tell. The room helps it all come to life. The room helps the magic unfold from the music.
That’s what Village Guitar & Amp is.
Maybe it’s those romantic pendant lights suspended from the rafters. Or the exceptional sound quality of each note that comes from that intimate stage. Maybe it’s the vibe created by all those beautiful guitars and old amps lining the walls. Maybe it’s the salvaged wood, steel and glass throughout the building. In truth, it’s all of those little details that create a totally captivating experience.
There are plenty of the opposite—rooms that you have to fight against. Try to bring home the emotion of that ballad when fighting with the crunching of a coffee grinder. Try to bring out the romance under blinding fluorescent lighting. Try to get the groove going when the mics are dishing out that ear-piercing feedback. Those situations bring to light how all the little details of a room can make or break a show.
These days, I’m more often in the seat of the music lover than music maker. And with a 5 and 2 year old at home, let’s just say my vibrant social life is more often confined to my living room than not these days. But when I get the chance to check out some live music, I’m reminded how it is food for the soul. There is nothing like music to change our emotional state, bring us back to what’s important or simply help us let go, let loose, feel free. Isn’t that what rock and roll is all about?
One of the things that I love most about Village is that it’s down the street from where I work at The Two Twenty. I usually run into Dan at Collective Coffee a few times a week, and we talk about shows and music and gear and guitars. I love that he brings musicians from around the globe through our neighbourhood, and lets that creative vibe seep out into the street. Because it does. Having venues where music and art and culture live in your neighbourhood absolutely changes it—gives a community stories to tell. Or tells its stories.
The thing is, Dan isn’t the only one doing this in Riversdale. There’s AKA artist-run centre and PAVED. Void Gallery is a new addition across from Rose’s Auction. Underground Cafe hosts the occasional show right beside Village. Art shows are regular events in Green Ark’s backroom gallery. The historic Roxy Theatre features (I think) the best movies in the city. And there are more: galleries, murals, art centres, cultural events, festivals. Art lives and breathes in Riversdale. There’s a reason the city’s all night art festival Nuit Blanche chose Riversdale as its home, after all.
The fact that I can walk to a show makes it easier to make the effort to get there. Because we can all forget how important it is to give ourselves those moments of falling in love with a new band, or hearing them live. Seeing an art exhibit that thrills or engages or infuriates or delights us. But when that show is happening down the block, it’s just that much easier to let art be integrated into our lives. As Picasso said, “art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” We live in Saskatchewan, folks. It can get dusty.
The secret is out about Village. From Brad Wall, to The Brothers Landreth, to Brett Wilson, people are flocking to use the space for music, weddings and events, appreciating how much a good room can set the stage for inspiration, connection, play—whatever the evening calls for. Amelia Curran—who wrote one of the best songs I’ve ever heard —is playing at Village on March 9. On March 24, Saskatchewan’s own troubadour Zachary Lucky is taking the stage. Trust me, you need to hear this country artist unfold a tale for you. I just heard some really exciting news about what Saskatoon’s most innovative classical music festival, Ritornello, is bringing to Village during their festival this spring. Stay tuned!!
And when you get around to buying your ticket and making it to one of these shows, walk into the space, take a deep breath, and notice what a good room is all about.