By John Swartz
Restaurants and venues closing for good because of the pandemic have been in and out of the news, but it’s usually out-of-town news. Here, we’ve seen the closing of the Viet & Thai Restaurant and Yo!! Taco – both Front Street restaurants which also had to endure loss of business while road construction happened over the year before COVID.
Now the Brownstone is closing.
“It has been a challenging time for small business during the pandemic! After some lengthy discussion, and the realization that an establishment like ours can’t run safely for many more months to come, we have decided to give up our space in Orillia, minimize our expenses and start to plan how we can return when we can spend time together again,” said the message on their Facebook page.
This is more than just a nightclub shutting down. I’ve been at this since 1995 when there were three live music venues within a stone’s throw of where the Brownstone was located on Mississaga Street near Front. Yes, there were other venues in other parts of town, but how convenient. They were all gone by the time the Brownstone opened 10 years ago. While some closed before Orillia’s smoking ban; as predicted, the others closed over the next year.
Sure there are other places which still bring in bands or solo musicians on some kind of schedule, but while appreciated, it was not the same. The Brownstone opening was desperately needed and brought in a mix of bands passing through town, heading up the ladder, heading down the ladder, and local bands. I think it’s the latter which benefitted most.
It’s hard to have a band and not have an audience to play to. The Brownstone did such a good job picking acts it was guaranteed you’d like whoever they had on stage any night. There are only a couple instances I can think of an act didn’t measure up. This was good for local musicians taking their projects out of the garage for the first time, there would be an audience to hear them because there was a good cadre of regulars.
And it wasn’t just a folk club. Sure on balance it might have favoured folk acts, but I heard every kind of music being played in there. I won’t be the only person who will miss the Brownstone and the folks behind the bar. And while I’m on the folks behind the bar, what a great crew. They were one of two places in town with a great staff. They were always friendly with everyone. They set the tone for the kind of behavior they expected from the crowd and you can’t ask for more.
They even shot a movie there in 2018. That’s the producer of Who You Know, Jane Loughman, hanging out in front of the Brownstone in the banner photo. The whole movie wasn’t shot there, but it was prominent near the end of the movie.
I’m encouraged their message to the public includes reference to a future. I think I speak for many wishing them well on whatever may come next – and please hurry back.
Are U Hungry?
There are many who regularly shop at the Farmers’ Market and wondering what to do about now with the pantry running low. The market has a website where you can order food and other market items and pick them up at the library Saturdays between 10 a.m. and noon.
The Orillia Museum of Art and History has a Black History Month recognition for Fayen Bullen on its website. Fayne was on council for a very long time, worked on many community projects, ran for higher office a few times and never fails to go out of his way to say hi to me at functions. He must be very pleased his birthday is during the month of February and he’ll be 91 on the 11th.
OMAH still has its QuarARTine auction running to the end of the month. All the artwork on the 6×6 tiles is by local artists. You can see and bid on the current group of pieces here.
Also in art, Anitta Hamming has another online ABT2 CRE8 workshop from Creative Nomad Studios happening Friday at 7 p.m. It’s called 15 And Done. She’ll be joined by Steph Whalen and they’ll take turns making a painting in 15 minutes. Online viewers get to choose what they paint. People who make a request or comment otherwise will be in a draw for a $50 gift certificate from Eclectic Café. If you missed the last workshop, you can find it here.
Orillia Centre Online This Weekend
The Orillia Centre for Arts and Culture has a series of online workshops and performances coming up February 6 and 7. It’s called Pixels, Programming and Pragmatism ad there are 5 workshop/events. Taking part is free.
Everything starts with a panel discussion with Freya Olafson, Jeremy Mimnagh, Omar Rivero (Driftnote) and Luke Garwood about doing art online – by yourself or in collaboration with others. Register here.
At 2 p.m. Freya Olafson and Luke Garwood lead a workshop called Introduction to AR. AR is Augmented Reality, which is digitally putting things into real time video that isn’t there. Register here.
On February 7 there are three events. The first at 11 a.m. is a workshop about creating an online identity and presence using Squarepsace with Sean Rees. Register for this event here.
At 2 p.m. a workshop by Franchesca Chudnuff and Omar Rivero is about how to take ideas to completion using Augmented Reality, 3D scanning and music and video editing. Register here.
At 7 p.m. the event closes with performances By T.M. Glass, Francesca Chudnuff, Driftnote and ensemble performance featuring Fides Krucker. Register here.
Music and Other Stuff
I think until the extended vacation is done, I’m going to leave the Shorts section you all love on hiatus. There simply isn’t that much to put in there. I will however use this part of the column in a kind of close approximation. Newer stuff will be at the top and I’ll carry over some things as we go along.
The Orillia Silver Band has some new recordings to listen to. Brand new last weekend is a tune called The Earle of Oxford’s Marche. It’s from The William Byrd Suite. Byrd was a 16th century composer and the suite was arranged in 1923 by Gordon Jacob. The previous week they uploaded Scott Joplin’s Something Doing. You can find the music on their Facebook page.
We’re all going a little crazy, but imagine how things would be if you were a little crazy before all this started. Check out Nate Mills’s online series The Nate Mills Show. Do not sit near the computer keyboard with a coffee or anything liquid in your hands. He’s a master at quick cuts to absurd things you will laugh at.
Cole Mendez is taking to the tubes to pass on his knowledge of music. You can catch him talking about how to make music online – and there are a few surprises on that channel too.
Reay has a new video for the song Junkyard. You can watch it and other video they produced here.
Steven Henry is still singing songs on Saturday nights. Check in at 8 p.m. here.
Joe Huron plays some jazz guitar Sunday’s at noon on Facebook. Catch him here.
Leslie Fournier has pictures of this year’s Streets Alive Hippie Van project and accompanying Peace Signs on the project’s Facebook page. The theme celebrates the 60th anniversary (+1) of the Mariposa Folk Festival.
The Leacock Associates opened the annual student writing competition this week. It’s pen to high school and college students aged 14 to 19. They are looking for the student who can write the most humourous story in 1500 words or less.
There are prizes of $1,000, $700 and $300, plus finalists get to read their stories at the June 4 Meet the Authors night – assuming there can be an event this year. The prize money comes from the Dunkley Charitable Foundation donation, which is sponsoring the student contest and the Medal for Humour prizes for 5 years.
(Photos By Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia; Supplied)