News / Edmonton

Despite loss, promoters staying positive after The Needle shuts its doors

But Edmonton has been through performance venue droughts before, survived and thrived

Craig Martell, a local music promoter, says The Needle provided great exposure for local bands, but he expects it's just a matter of time before another venue offers that option.

Kevin Tuong / For Metro

Craig Martell, a local music promoter, says The Needle provided great exposure for local bands, but he expects it's just a matter of time before another venue offers that option.

Even before the Needle Vinyl Tavern shuttered its doors this week in the wake of sexual harassment allegations, musicians were scrambling to find new venues to host their shows.

When a former employee quit her job last Friday, claiming one of the popular bar's owners had groped her, it sparked an exodus of musical acts who were suddenly hunting for performance space in the city's already crowded local scene.

The Tavern's loss--management isn't saying if or when they plan to reopen--will strike a blow to local bands thirsty for exposure, but local music promoters are staying positive.

Craig Martell, a show promoter for Double Lunch productions and former owner of Wunderbar, said the selection of venues for small bands is “the best it’s ever been right now”, but acknowledged that The Needle was typically well attended, which would provide good exposure to lesser-known bands.

“They’d be bringing in three to four times the expected crowd … It is going to be missed in that regard,” he said. “Its decor, its vibe, the friendliness, really opened shows up to a lot of people who wouldn’t go to shows otherwise.

“It was like the place where even my parents could go to and feel super at home.”

Notable acts who have been able to find new homes include Taggart and Torrens (which consists of Our Lady Peace drummer Jeremy Taggart and Jonovision television host Jonathan Torrens), who moved their Monday show to The Buckingham.

Other bands who cancelled or moved their shows include Good Lovelies, A Tribe Called Red and Brunch Club, who were originally supposed to play a show The Needle at Friday but have rebooked their show at Aria's Bistro, formerly known as Cha Island, off Whyte Ave.

But Brunch Club member Ellen Reade said while venues like Bohemia and the Starlight Room will likely be an option for bands who performed at The Needle, but they won’t get the same exposure The Needle provided.

“Pretty much anyone can get on the bill, but you have no idea how many people are going to turn out,” she said.

“I’m really wondering where a lot of the people who really rely on the Needle as their venue where they’re going to go … I think there’s definitely going to be a void left.”

Having said that, she says bands will still be able to find suitable venues, although they may not be ideal.

Martell said he was impressed by how Edmonton’s music community came together in response to the allegations.

“I think this is a positive thing for the community in the long run,” he said. “Having a community come together after all this went down was nice to see. And I think it made it stronger.”

He said he’s disappointed to see the closure of a space that was constructed from scratch as a purpose-built performance venue, because that’s rare in Edmonton. But he expects downtown Edmonton’s music scene to pull through.

“The one thing I’ve learned about Edmonton, we’ve been through droughts … but there’s no one venue that’s bigger than the community.”

Ellen Reade is a musician holding a benefit concert for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, following the recent events at The Needle Vinyl Tavern.

Kevin Tuong/For Metro

Ellen Reade is a musician holding a benefit concert for the Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton, following the recent events at The Needle Vinyl Tavern.

Brunch Club concert to benefit Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton

Reade said her band had initially planned to still perform at The Needle on FRiday, except while also making a strong statement about sexual assault.

“It was still pretty small, no bands had really dropped yet,” she said.

But it didn’t take long for her to realize the venue’s days were numbered, and she realized she wanted to put her music towards a better cause. But that left them with little to no time to find a new venue in time for the show.

“Enough people expressed concerns about us keeping the show there that we decided drop it. But we really wanted to play Friday still because our drummer has to leave the band,” Reade said.

Ultimately, they have managed to find a home for the concert at Aria’s Bistro, which was formerly known as Cha Island. Bands Pallor and Sonlion will join Brunch Club.

Reade said she’s glad her band made the decision to move the band and believes it will be one step forward in the conversation about sexual violence against women,.

“I think my main reason for wanting to do a fundraiser is because its one thing for the community to take a stance on sexual assault and say we’re not going to stand for it anymore, but I think another part of it is we should all actively try to support organizations that support victims who are going through the trauma.”

The show takes place at Cha Island with doors opening at 6 p.m. and bands starting at 6:30 p.m. The show is all ages and a $5 minimum donation is suggested. All proceeds go towards The Sexual Assault Centre of Edmonton.

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