The past few months have seen me write columns for this space praising the high calibre of music that has graced the stages in the areas surrounding Durham Region. As you well know, my own blog space features many national touring musicians on the Americana music scene. While I’m happy and will continue to do that sort of coverage, it’s long past due that I give some love to the hard working and very talented musicians that populate Durham Region. They are many in number, and finding them can sometimes be hard given the lack of live music venues in the area.
I came across one such Durham based act on October 17, 2015 at the annual Apple Fest in Bowmanville. Ugly Horse is a Durham based Celtic and Maritime music band that has been playing shows for over two years. They caught my attention as I was walking by with my family, and I found myself completely hooked on their music and sound. When you’re talking about roots music it doesn’t get more roots based than Celtic, considering its origins are based in Europe prior to the great crossing centuries ago. Ugly Horse plays tunes a little more modern than that, but you get what I’m saying. Their sound is tight, and their cover of the “Wagon Wheel”, made famous by Old Crow Medicine Show and Darius Rucker, was outstanding and really captured the attention of passers-by. I will be writing more about Ugly Horse in a future column, they are earning their stripes and deserve your attention.
Ugly Horse was but one of many musical acts playing on several side stages throughout the Apple Fest, and all of them were outstanding. All of which begs the question in my mind: where can you see these artists on a more frequent basis? For a region that is richly blessed with so much musical talent, why aren’t there more places dedicated to showcasing these wonderful and diverse artists? I’m not necessarily talking about the local pub on the corner that has a band playing Friday or Saturday night, I’m talking about genuine venues that are designed specifically for live music. We can turn to Oshawa venues like The Moustache Club as an obvious choice, the Simcoe Jazz and Blues Club as another, with Wasted Space appearing to take up the mantle as a training ground for upcoming artists. The Regent Theatre and the Oshawa Music Hall would appear to be the big stages in Durham, so all is not lost.
What about the rest of the Region? Durham is massive in size, with demographics changing from urban to rural sometimes as we literally cross the street. For larger urban centres in the southern part of the Region, there are very few places to showcase local talent. Pickering, Ajax and Whitby are all sorely lacking in venues for live music. It shouldn’t be a lot to ask people from those locales to travel to Oshawa and Bowmanville to catch local talent, but the reality of living in those commuter towns can make it difficult to head that much further east to see a relatively unknown singer or band. There is a pressing need for an establishment dedicated to live music in the western part of Durham Region to where new and established acts from the Region can grow their fan base and expand their reach. My call to action is for those reading this to get out and support your local musicians and artists, check out the web sites for The Moustache Club, the Oshawa Music Hall, and Wasted Space and go see a show. The cost is inexpensive and the talent is limitless.