The Almanac, which opened in December, is putting the finishing touches on a “micro-venue,” which can host 60 to 80 people in a separate room at the back of the pub.
Most shows, however, will land on Saturdays and Sundays — including jazz astronauts N3K (Jan. 16), rocker Motorbike James (Feb. 6) and punk peddlers Counterfeit Jeans (Feb. 27). Tickets are available at the door.
The Almanac, which serves French-inspired food created by chef/co-owner Alysha Couture, is in the old Red Square Vodka Bar, 10351 82nd Ave.
“We figured our micro-venue could fill some of the gaps left by so many other music venues closing,” says bar manager Joshua Meachem. “When we were doing our renovations, we reached out to the music community (about our idea) and got positive feedback from people.”
A total of five venues closed in 2015, including two on Whyte Avenue — Wunderbar and The Pawn Shop.
Craig Martell, who used to co-own Wunderbar, is booking acts for The Almanac. He also programsBohemia, a small art bar in downtown Edmonton.
He’s trying to remain confident about the live music scene in 2016. Two new venues are expected to open soon, including The Chvrch of John in the Grand Hotel (in the coming weeks) and The Needlein the old CKUA building on Jasper Avenue (March 10).
A third, The Aviary on Norwood Boulevard, is also in the works — if the owners and the city of Edmonton can come to a compromise on the all-ages cafe/venue’s lack of parking stalls.
“I think it’s a very interesting landscape,” says Martell. “I’m optimistic, but I feel we’re going to hit a point where not everything is going to survive. We might be stretching the live music crowd very thin. That’s my biggest fear, I guess.”
The million-dollar question is: How do we fatten up that crowd? Thousands of fans willingly shell out big money to see their favourite stars at Rexall Place, but how do you encourage more of them to spend $10 to see a local performer in a small club?
While the Edmonton Live Music Initiative is currently looking at offering financial incentives to venues — such as grants and longer serving hours — Martell thinks we should be nurturing the next generation of musicians and fans.
“I’d rather see the money to go toward developing the artists who are 16, 17 years old now. If we do it right, by the time they’re 20, 21, they don’t move away like (indie rock star) Mac DeMarco and their friends won’t move away. So my idea is to see a publicly funded, safe all-ages room that would also provide services like grant writing, how to write a press release, gear donation. A lot of these things are available elsewhere, but to have it all centralized would make kids think: ‘Wow, our town is cool.’
“We have to keep people here.”