Sep 28

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Allstage Jam

A Great Run: April 2, 2013 – June 25, 2019

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So, since Labor Day I have had numerous inquiries about when the Allstage Jam is going to restart, and after much deliberation with myself mostly & looking how things have unfolded in my life – I feel that it’s time to put it on the shelf for the time being.

We had it at Norma Jeans last year and Theo, Angel, Roxanne Donkers, Amanda Lynn & Gavin did a spectacular job making it a success. Add to that Rainer and Geoff Masse and all the celebrity guests we had (a Jam first) and the whole process was an awesome experience for me. As per always, I had such great support from the patrons and musicians who followed me there and came out each week to support it – my appreciation to them and their talent cannot be stated enough with mere words.

This past summer I had a lot of younger musicians downtown ask me to start one in the core which I was seriously looking into and Mario from FCLMA was going to team up with me, but I don’t need to tell people how downtown is with regards to parking (pathetic) and I didn’t feel right that people that came out to support it would be having to pay to do it. At least at The Fox & Fiddle where my pal Vinnie holds his Tuesday night Jam, the bar can validate your parking ticket so there is no charge. That also was a consideration in not stepping on my pal Vinnie’s shoes regarding a Tuesday, so Wednesday nights was going to be the night and a lot of musicians had said for their schedules that would have been the perfect night – but alas, that parking thing would be a real hassle amongst other downtown issues.

There were also other considerations to deal with – since Barb moved over from Century 21 to Keller-Williams, her business has taken off into the stratosphere due to the edge in the real estate industry that K-tage W has. Their tech side is easily 4 years ahead of anyone else and Barb is going to need me to take on some major tasks for her in that sense for her business.

I’ve been asked to be part of a major musical event in 2020 which is going to involve travel and time, and my responsibilities at the LMA have increased dramatically since being elected the VP there – the goal to help young musicians is going to be paramount going forward. And I think I will be travelling the continent more now than ever before for Music Seminars in both the U.S and Canada which takes time away for days if not a week. Then there is band, Allstage, family, dogs. Cats – well you get the picture.

As I look back at six years of running a Jam, I can feel proud of what we all accomplished – patrons, musicians and those that supported it at different levels.

The “Allstage Jam” no matter which venue I was at, became something much more than just a weekly Jam. It was that one night of the week where good friends came to hang, new friendships were created, and musicians got to spread their wings. I had the immense pleasure of seeing novice musicians who were a little stage shy, blossom into competent musicians who came out of their introvert shell and in front of all our eyes become stronger and more confident as their talent increased from week to week.

I witnessed the magic of networking where musicians got to know one another and decided to hook-up and create something together away from the Allstage Jam, only to return and surprise us all with their new project.

Same with patrons, I can easily count 30 people who became friends at the Allstage Jam and their friendship has only flourished as time has gone on – things like that are priceless in value.

And I think at the end of the day in that regard, Barb and I benefited the most. We have made so, so many close friends over these past 6 years at the Allstage Jams that are the cherished part of the entire process from start to finish.

 

The Beginning

When I started the Allstage Jam I reached out to Shaun Sanders and Rainer Wiechmann to start the After Eight Band along with me and much to my pleasure, they came on board. Shaun and Rainer, I must thank for making me a much better musician, they dragged me along kicking and screaming to improve myself and I owe so very much to them. Shortly after starting the Jam, Shaun suggested we put the weekly Jam under the Allstage banner and there forward it became a brand unto itself.

Soon after doing that the Jam took off as it became a recognizable off shoot of all the many other things Allstage was doing, and there were many nights we went far past the end time at either venue I held it at due to so many musicians who attended.

The other game-changer in the early days of our Allstage Jam at the Eastside was the old sound booth which was on the west wall which just didn’t make sense to mix bands when the sound man wasn’t square in front of the stage. I met with George the owner and suggested that he move the sound booth to the center of the room where it stands to this day. I explained that this was the logical place for it to be and thankfully George saw the absolute merit in the idea and made it happen.

This became a game changer for the bar.

 

The Stars Came Out

Over the 6 years we have had some of the cream-of-the-crop of London’s musical talent at the Allstage Jam. Bands such as Helix (less Fritz), Jamie Constant, Chris Julke, Mike West, Cindy Wiechmann, Chris Murphy, Vultures Playing Ruckus, Dave's NOT HERE, Jim Corbett & Ed Pranskus (ex-Thundermug), Doug Varty, John Bellone Junior, Laura Gagnon, Damn Pigeon, Swagger, Howzat, The No Name Band, Guy Lepage, Livingroom Rockstars, The Def Bombs, Newport Electric, Stunning, Mirage, Jesse Nestor, Angel Guevara and Hiroshima Hearts to name just a few of the hundreds who have attended over the years.

It reads like the All-Star Roster for London & area musicians because it is. We had many solo acoustic acts that became household names at the Allstage Jam from Scott Fletcher, Angel, Stuart Warrick, Nostalgic Brightlights, Ironbound, Mike Barrette and many others over the course of years.

We’ve had dozens and dozens of Indie bands, rock bands, prog bands, blues bands, sax players, harp players, violin players, players with washboards and steel pails, ukuleles.

We’ve had bands that were touring across Canada that would get in touch with me and arrange to show up at the Jam after seeing my posts on social media, and do even now if they are coming into Ontario and are looking for a place to hang for a night and play – now I have the pleasure of pointing them to friends of mine in places like Hamilton, Niagara Falls, Guelph, KW area.

I’ve had co-hosts that have stepped in to sub in for a member in the After Eight Band with the pedigree of Ken Ross, John Knapp, Rob MacEachern, Kevin Wroe, Joseph O'Neill, Dwayne Errington, Jason Michael Drury, Stan Fountain, Duane Welch and Archie Gamble. There's a super star band right there.

We’ve had benefits for Salthaven Wildlife Sanctuary, London Food Bank, Christmas Food drives, Christmas Toy Drives, Salvation Army Drives.

We partnered up with Rockin’ Wheel and Forest City London Music Awards numerous times for some great events such as “Road To The Fair” which was a really cool event.

When we went to Norma Jean’s we decided to come up with a unique idea of having a “Celebrity Guitarist” each week be the co-host with us at the Allstage Jam. Not only did it give some musicians a night of pay through the week but it introduced them to another style of audience to show off their immense talent.

When I took some time off and left the Eastside Bar and moved over to Norma Jeans, the regulars and musicians followed, and many of them stated on more than one occasion “We’ll go wherever you are, because of you”.

That was probably the best endorsement of what we were doing by far.

 

A Jam Like No Other

When I started out with the Allstage Jam I knew I wanted it to be unique as opposed to that same old “people get up and play concept”. I wanted to build a “community” amongst the patrons and the musicians that would foster relationships not only within the bar but outside of it amongst people.

First off, I started taking pictures of everyone and all the musicians/bands that came out to perform. Sadly the 1st camera I had was crappy and consequently the Go-Pro video was less than I wanted it to be, so we invested in a newer expensive camera. As time marched on we bought an even more expensive camera that could take excellent video and that spawned the Allstage Jam YouTube page.

Literally thousands of pictures have been taken and I’ve been complimented on many of them appearing everywhere from people’s FB pages, to Twitter profiles and on band posters for promo – all of I did for free so it worked out great for the musicians.

As the Allstage Jam exploded in popularity Barb decided it would be cool to celebrate people’s BD at the Jam so we started the tradition of our buying birthday cakes (god knows we bought literally a hundred or so over 6 years) out of pocket and presenting them to people at which point we also shared with everyone in the bar – it was one more way of creating the “community” and making our Jam different from any others. Then we progressed to having special events where once again Barb and I would buy prizes and give them out to winners – yes all this added up to quite a bit of money over the years but it was something we enjoyed doing for people so it was worth it on our end.

Then it was a case of “what next”? We answered that with the Benefits, Charities and special events where we partnered up with people. We had the platform to do some good for London, we had the crowds coming in filling the bar each week so why not capitalize on that to do some good for London Charities – that was a huge success and something that everyone felt good about.

At this point I wanted to make an impact for bands in trying to get them a gig since they came out to my Jam to perform. So I would gauge the audience reactions, the level of talent and the songs being played onstage by bands – having taken all that into account I would advise George (Eastside Bar) or Theo (Norma Jean’s) to take notice and over the years with the help from both of them – numerous bands attending the Allstage Jam would get gigs at either bar going forward – it was beneficial for everyone and just cool to see it pay off in that way.

 

 

Allstage Youth Jam

The next ground-breaking idea that I wanted to incorporate into the Allstage Jam was creating a vehicle for young musicians to come out and take the stage. I started this concept at The Eastside Bar and carried it over to Norma Jean’s and it was a hit right out of the gates with younger musicians and parents. I had kids coming from Woodstock to attend and there were so many who took advantage of it I can’t even begin to name them. What began as a “will this work” became a featured event with musicians, parents and patrons alike. Players like Jesse & Lucy Grant, Colin Blissett became regulars and each time they came out they showed an incredible level of musicianship and stage savvy that was well beyond their years. We were graced with kids on acoustic guitars, youth bands, solo acoustic, solo ukulele, father and sons playing together, Clarke Road SS students, students from Joel Jacob’s music studio – the list went on.

And again, for Barb and I, their parents became good friends of ours.

 

Norma Jean’s

By the time I switched over to Norma Jean’s I was looking for the next “new” idea to bring to a Jam to continue all the special things we had already created – this time it was a weekly “Celebrity Guitarist” where each week a new guitarist would come in and play with Rainer and I – be it on guitar or bass.

Patrons really liked the new concept of this – it was different, they got a chance to hear a wide variety of music then the previous weeks guitarist based on their influences and it was just cool.

By now with the new camera I was getting killer pictures and video of bands, and I began doing Blogs on indie bands that came out to the Allstage Jam – which the bands really enjoyed getting those perks for free.

The next event on the platter was a chance to get some of my close friends onstage and share their talent with other musicians who wanted to jam with them,  so we came up with the “Celebrity Guests” event with Cindy Wiechmann (Best Buds, former Helix, NAIL) Jamie Constant (Helix, Who Made Who, Scurvy Dogs), Chris Julke (Helix, Scurvy Dogs), Alan Charlebois (VPR, solo).

The venue was packed to the walk-in fridge for this one and everyone had a great time listening to all the great music and hearing those four play together onstage – it was an absolute blast for everyone involved.

FCLMA & London Guitars teamed up with us for this one and it was really outstanding of them to show their support.

As we neared the end of May, local business heard about what we were doing and how long we had been at it and wanted to participate - so we were thrilled to have local sponsors: London Guitars, DiamondZ Designated Drivers, Lovebird Flowers, Jeff Kreiger Mortgages, Barb Whitney at Keller-Williams, Country Girl Catering, Bite Marketing, Forest City Tirecraft and Bolt Signs all come onboard.

Our last Jam for the summer break was June 25th where again we gave away a prize to close it all out.

 

As summer progressed and my involvement after the Vegas Conference became more involved with the CFM and my being hired for another major event – coupled with Barb’s rapidly expanding business and the tech side of Keller-Williams that now has come into focus – something had to give as extra-time has become a premium.

This year’s ramp up event was a special project I was working on with a venue in Austin, Texas that I’ve become good friends with, where we were going to send a band to Austin (flight paid) for a weekend gig as an Allstage Jam Grand Prize in June 2020 – that’s an idea I will have to put on the back burner for now at least – but it would have been one helluva party that’s for sure.

 

For now, I can say that where we started and where we ended up from April 2, 2013 – June 25, 2019 was a constant upward trend in making a Jam a very, very special event each week. We accomplished more than what we could have ever imagined and I feel comfortable in saying that with the support of all the patrons; musicians; Shaun, Rainer, Ian and Geoff; and of course George and Theo – we attained something that no one had done with a Jam, and I doubt anyone will in terms of creative ideas.

Between the over 9,000 pics, a few hundred videos, funds raised for Benefits and Charities, giving musicians not only an outlet to showcase their talent but resulting in them getting gigs as a result of the Jam, and of course the one BIG highlight for me being the Allstage Youth Jam – we accomplished a lot in only six years.

Add in all the friendships that Barb and I have been blessed with as a direct result and the people who partnered up with us who were dynamite to work with – and there is not one down moment to any of it.

Sometimes in life when things are opening up for you, the result is you have to make changes to accommodate them and something has to give – six years was a damn good run and a lot was accomplished so it’s all good at the end.

 

Thanks again to all of you for your support – it means a lot.

#Allstage #TurnUpTheLiveMusic #AllstageJam

 

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