There is a hidden gem on Simcoe Street in Oshawa for anyone interested in live music.
If you are looking for local talent, or have an inkling to try your hand on stage yourself, Simcoe Blues and Jazz Bar (SBAJB) holds a weekly open mic evening called The Woodshed.
The event allows those with musical skills to perform in front of a live audience. The emphasis is on encouraging participants to experiment with new material and fine-tune their performance skills.
“I came here eight years ago,” said Ajax resident Kevin McKendrick, “My daughters talked me into coming to the open mic. I play all over the place now. I have a full band backing me up. This place changed my life.”
McKendrick is one of a core group of about 15 musicians who have built a friendly camaraderie at the bar. The players take turns performing a mixed bag of jazz, blues and country music on the small stage at the back of the darkened bar.
The setup gives each artist the opportunity to perform three songs. The rest of the musicians mingle in and out of the set, exchanging their guitars and mandolins in well-organized, supportive, harmony.
Linda Wright is a singer-songwriter who has been coming to the bar for three years. She said some of her songs were picked up by an up-and-coming artist in Nashville. “Deanna Dunning just put two of my songs on her album right now and she has three songs lined up for her next album,” said Wright. “That’s what you do as a songwriter.”
The event is hosted by Don Niblett, Noel Conway and Frank Zachodne, who is a former faculty advisor at UOIT.
Niblett said the event is open to everyone.
“Any kind of music, any age, you are welcome to come in and have some fun,” Niblett said.
It is not only local talent who perform here. Jack de Keyzer, the Juno award-winning blues guitarist, has also played here.
“That’s a big name,” said Niblett.
Gary Forster said he has been playing at SBAJB for seven years. He said he started to play during a break in his employment.
Now back at work, he spoke of his ambition. “My goal is to learn how to play, and then entertain the less fortunate,” he said.
He told a story of how an elderly lady in a nursing home gradually became more animated after she heard him sing and play.
“Music is an international language,” said Forster.
Liam Currie, a Durham College finance student, was at the open mic event to celebrate his birthday. “I’m from Wasaga Beach where there is no live music. I always try and hunt for live music,” said Currie.
He said he likes all different genres of music.
“It’s good to have variety,” said Currie.