Let me tell you about my "Big Day Downtown", a promotion I was involved in through the Downtown Halifax Business Comission. They gave me (and 30 other bloggers) a Visa with $100 credit to spend downtown Halifax, in return for writing about it. I, of course, was thrilled with the opportunity and chose to focus my day on music.
Downtown Halifax - Barrington Street specifically, used to be my neighbourhood. I left my beautiful two bedroom apartment there to buy my first house - in the north end of Halifax. But the thrill of 'going downtown' is still there whenever I head to the heart of the city. I grew up in Dartmouth (sometimes referred to as the New Jersey of Halifax), so going to the 'big city' was always fun for me and my friends. We'd hang out by the public library and scope out guys and then have to run to catch the ferry back home.
The Metro Centre is the first major music landmark I ran into on my adventure, where I have seen many a concert, including Green Day, Pearl Jam, Bryan Adams and Lenny Kravitz.
Down a little further, it's sad to see the empty storefronts on Barrington - especially the old Sam the Record Man, where I spent much time searching and listening to new music with the help of some very knowledgeable staff.
Barrington's recent decline is especially a shame because you don't see this much historic architecture in one spot anywhere else in the city - beautiful facades that top modern storefronts. We're hoping for a swift revival in the area - there's a bit of buzz about the properties being developed soon.
There are some successful stalwarts which have hooked a niche market, like Little Mysteries - a place where you can get your tarot cards read and pick up a book on how to speak to animal spirits.
There's also the Grand Parade, where Tunes at Noon is held every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday through the summer. That's free local music outdoors during lunchtime - you can't go wrong!
My first stop for spending on my
big day downtown was Taz Records, in its third location on Market Street, just down from Maxwell's Plum. I used to go to it when it was on Argyle, always feeling like a bit of a poser because I perceived it as a serious music lover's store and I was still so naive when I was a teenager. I'd inevitably walk out with some prog rock record that I only knew by name, only to look cool to the owner, Bob Switzer (now deceased) who rang me in.
This day, however, I knew exactly what I was going for - local LPs! Many local artists have put their new albums on vinyl recently - for novelty, fun and because a surprising number of fans are consuming their music that way. I chose Myles Deck and the Fuzz because a) it was produced by Joel Plaskett, one of the first artists I ever saw/worked with in the local scene, b) it was only $12.99 and c) the album cover is pretty awesome.
Jon Andrews helped me out at Taz - an old friend from my bartending days at Ginger's Tavern (now closed). He plays with at least two great bands - the Blown Gasket Orchestra and Bend the River - and he told me he's reviving his own music career in coming year, so keep your eyes peeled for his new album.
Onto the Halifax Folklore Centre on Brunswick, just off of Spring Garden Road, where another musician I know, Noah Tye was working. I asked him to help me find some percussion instruments for my toddler, Charlie, who loves music (he has no choice, really!) I ended up going with wooden spoons, a kazoo and two shakers that look like dinosaur eggs - all for under $15. He loves them! I hope to have an arsenal of instruments by the time he reaches an age when he can have his own band.
My next stop is my employer, Music Nova Scotia, strangely located in the Sport Nova Scotia building, but conveniently across the street from HMV. I am currently on maternity leave (baby is due any day...) and my replacement, the wonderful Lindsay-Bea Davis helped me out.
I bought a membership that we're going to raffle off to some lucky student. The benefits of a membership to our non-profit resource organization are many, but I usually start by telling potential members that they can photocopy for free, which goes a long way when you're trying to put up gig posters. We also help with promotion, web presence, gig opportunities and education. It's only $50 for a band for a year ($10 for students), so it's totally worth the cash.
In the evening, I grab my lovely husband for a belated anniversary dinner at our favourite restaurant, Chives, on Barrington Street. It actually has a modern art music installation in the display window outside by Eleanor King!
The food at Chives is always amazing, always local and the service is excellent. They also offer hot biscuits in paper bags to start, which are scrumptious. Our former neighbour, Darren Lewis, is the chef at Chives and always comes out to make sure we're well taken care of.
We had an amazing meal of sea trout with lobster risotto for my husband and a perfectly cooked beef tenderloin in a Dijon reduction sauce with gouda mashed potatoes for me and The Unborn One. Incredible!
We top off the night at The Carleton Music Bar and Grill on Argyle, which I have mentioned before in this blog. It is where Music Nova Scotia holds our weekly open mics on Saturdays. My colleague who works at the Carleton and does sound for the shows there, Jon Cornwall, earned a headlining spot of his own this Tuesday night and so we had to go see him. He has beautiful, heart-felt songs and it was a treat to top off the evening with him and a full band at this gorgeous venue.
I didn't make it next door to the Seahorse (bedtime comes early for pregnant ladies), but Music Nova Scotia has a hopping New Music Tuesday night there every week and it's always guaranteed to be good music and a good crowd. It's also free entry!
So, half of my $100 went to dinner at my favourite restaurant, but the rest went to music, which I think shows that you can get A LOT for your money when you're looking for music downtown!