Updated: Feb 6
The Black Swan Tavern is a bar in Toronto that features frequent live music events, but the first time I ever stepped foot inside this 50-year-old location, was on March 24, 2022. That’s a long time for any business to stay in the game, and I’m glad I have gotten to know it. If you are looking to get some Live Music Photography under your belt, I’m not certain there are many locations such as this. At least not in Ontario’s capital.
At the beginning of March, I reached out to a member of a local band who had posted that they were looking for bands to join them in a charity event at the Black Swan Tavern. Understand that this venue is typically hosting local musicians who are just playing for the love of the art, or perhaps looking to catch a break along the way. The band networking on this occasion was a band called Rosa Ingenious.
Stephen – Lead Vocals/Guitars
Travis – Bass
Maciek - Drums
The thing that intrigued me here with this Brit-Rock/Indie band was that their music was original. Not just a few friends jamming out a 45-minute set of cover tunes. Nothing wrong with that in the least, but a clear step toward creating your own sound, meaning, and art is writing your own music. And it’s quite refreshing when it’s good.
A Fundraiser for the Ukraine
It’s no secret that the “starving artist” is a real thing. And it’s real for a reason. Somehow, we feel that we don’t want to pay for art, regardless of the genre. From experience, the time that goes into your artform is immense. And you simply won’t get it anywhere else. Yet, we choose to not want to pay for our esthetical enjoyment, or for our listening pleasure.
The lineup that came together on this evening were 3 local bands The Roughnotes, Rosa Ingenious and Albatross. For Albatross, this was their first ever live performance in front of an audience which was a cool experience, not only for them I'm sure.
Many bands like these guys play free shows. Perhaps a few beers from the bar for the patron’s entertainment. For these gigs then, you will see a tip jar on the stage. A meagre way to pick up a couple dollars for gas home. What was a true example of humanitarianism was that the trio was donating all their tips to the people of war torn Ukraine. At the end of the evening, they were honoured to donate $650 to their cause. Nice!!
The Young and the Old
At then end of the day, all bands start out the same way. Playing small bars and clubs to their family and friends. If they venture outside of their city, they may only end up playing a gig to a bar with 15 people. Perhaps the next time there will only be 8.
The crowd this evening was plentiful, the music was good and the music was loud, some danced, but it was clear all had a great time. Sadly however, this old man was not able to keep up with these youngsters, and I had to call it an evening by midnight, ahead of The Roughnotes’ set. I’m disappointed to have missed them, but 6:00 comes early for a photographer who has a normal job, to prevent him from “starving”.
For The Roughnotes, my apologies... let’s arrange another evening.
What's your take on original, live music, at a small bar? Got any interesting stories of some bands you've seen in local, small venues who ended up "making it"? Leave a comment below!