Heater History, Part V: The Moonside Experiment

After a long hiatus involving the breakdown of a five year old laptop and a particularly unrelenting few weeks at school, we now return to our regularly scheduled programming with Heater History, Part V. Part IV can be found here: http://www.heatergirl.com/archives/132.

I love playing music. I play pretty much and chance I get. There were times when I was first learning how to play guitar that I’d spend more hours in a day practicing than sleeping. As of right now, I am involved three fairly diverse projects and I love being a part of every one of them. This next story is about one of the extremely rare periods that I hated playing music.

In the late winter/early spring of 2010,  Warren, the lead singer and guitarist of one of Stoo’s other bands, We Are French, was attempting to make a small and admittedly rundown restaurant/bar in our neighbourhood into a viable music venue. While the intent behind it all was great, I’m sure that if you ask anyone involved in the process about it now, we would all wish that we had any time that we put into the place back. But I will confess to being thrilled about being there the first time Warren invited me to play.

My first week at the Moonside was my first paying gig since moving back to Toronto. I split the bill with WAF and I walked away with fifteen dollars. I was ecstatic about it. Mundane as I knew it to be, it felt great to finally be making some headway towards the goal that had initially brought me back to the city. Perhaps it was that feeling of achievement that gave me the will to stick with the place as long as I did when most other had the good sense to leave it behind.

Within the first month of being there, Warren had grown weary of the place and passed along his remaining nights to Stoo. I would end up playing several of these nights with him simply because no other acts could be scrounged up. It was during these nights that had my first real exposure to the breadth of Stoo’s work rather than just hearing two or three songs here and there during open mics. It was also on one of those fated fridays that he gave me a copy of his complete recordings which I still own and frequently listen to.

While I was certainly grateful to be spending time getting to know Stoo and his music, there were several extremely infuriating moments that come up over the course of my time at Moonside. On one night where Stoo and I played, most of the audience was comprised of a single group of (possibly underage) kids who took it upon themselves to take over the night. They asked Stoo if they could play a few songs, and his largess permitted it, but as the night went on the group staked their claim on the stage and began to treat our instruments disrespectfully. Even after relinquishing the stage, they continued to be disruptive and insisted upon joining me on stage anytime I played a cover that they knew. I began playing originals exclusively for the purpose of keeping the now deeply inebriate group off the stage. And as if that wasn’t enough, when the finally did decide to leave, on the way out of the bar a bunch of them stole some food off of Stoo’s plate while he was in the bathroom, something that still angers me to think about to this day. I realize that this can sound like a joke, but I assure you I mean this wholeheartedly: I think that one of the worst things you can do to a person is deny them of their own sustenance. Nugatory as some fish and chips taken off an unattended plate might seem, I see taking away anything that is life giving to a person as malicious.

Anyways, after that night, there were two weeks left on the residency and Stoo couldn’t do it anymore. He asked me to take over the remaining nights and I agreed partly because I still wanted to believe that the place could be successful but mostly because I really needed the money at the time. I had two good friends join me on the last nights, Eric J. Fisher and Dave Hustler, and to this day I feel badly about subjecting them to the Moonside. The night Dave came out the place was virtually abandoned and the few people who were there delayed our start time because they kept putting on songs on the bar’s jukebox. When Eric came out, we spent the first half of the night being pestered by a drunken patron and the second half being berated and insulted by a self-proclaimed “first class musician” who wandered into the bar and was offended by our performances. At one point he actually said, “I’m going to play now and you all have to leave because you don’t deserve to hear me.”

The whole ordeal left an extremely bad taste in my mouth. But I was glad for the time I was able to spend with a bunch of my new friends and also for the lesson. Never again. The money is not worth playing at a place where you will not learn anything and where the patrons would rather drink alone to the sound of a jukebox. Thankfully, I’ve never played at such a place since.

 

to be continued next week with Heater History, Part VI: The Not My Dog Days of Summer

 

wishing you all contentment and cotton candy,

Aaron

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