Skip to content

Local musicians reminisce about memorable gigs

Live music has been one of the areas of the arts hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, with little to indicate that it is returning to its previous form any time soon

Ontario’s framework for Stage 3 reopening, concerts are officially allowed to happen.

But there are specific conditions and appropriate health and safety measures that are required to be in place (physical distancing, physical barriers between audience and band, masks), as well as limits on gathering sizes that will make it difficult, if not impossible, for live music to happen in the short-term.

It really doesn’t sound like a whole lot of fun.

So we thought we would ask performers from, or currently living in, Sault Ste. Marie to reminisce about the good times and tell us about some of their most memorable gigs over the years.

Many of them got on board and shared their memorable gig(s) below.

“The most recent memory I have of a spectacular gig was actually in Wawa [at] the drag races in August 2018. It was actually just before the gig [with the band Soundcheck]. Seconds before the first song, I was standing there looking out over the crowd, the racetrack and beyond [where] the sun setting on a huge expanse of forested hills when the thought hit me, ‘How lucky am I?’ I have this exciting, fun, exhilarating hobby while other people have what? Collecting coins or woodworking or whatever? Not that I would ever disparage anyone into those things, but they're just not for me. Anyway, I really enjoyed that moment and revisit it often.” – Paul Belair

“My most memorable performance was playing in Tiller with my friend and bandmate Jamie Cameron, who died a year to the day after the performance. It was in the Sootoday studio filming a live performance for the show Bare in July 2015.” – Sean Halliday

“While playing out of town gigs the Vendettas met a young man named Alan Thicke who pestered us to let him sing with the band. I often wonder what kind of career he might have had if we had let him. [For the local gig], a few nights after appearing on The Ed Sullivan Show [in the mid-1960s], the Searchers were playing at the Sault Memorial Gardens. The Vendettas were asked to open for them. Being dumb high schoolers we learned all their hits and performed then in our opening half. They were so mad at us they wouldn't speak to us when we invited to have supper with them afterwards.” – Alfred T. Johns

Dusty Rose Band playing in Blind River 1992. Oh the memories….Or when Spyder's Web was a four-piece band [at the] Eastgate. We had a lot of fun hanging out as a band … I really miss that place.” – Shirley Kominos

“With Gates of Winter at our homecoming gig at The Grand Theatre in 2008. We sold it out and recorded a DVD of the performance. We had just finished a tour of Ontario and some American cities so our performance was top tier.” – Brian Holmes

“One of the most rewarding things is that I've been playing in various groups for the last 10 years with my son, Jonny Jr. on the drums. Never expected this in my wildest dreams. [For most memorable gigs], in Boogie Fever, I played the Algoma Tubes Christmas party and we got to share the stage with April Wine. We also headlined Rotaryfest a few times. Opened for Honeymoon Suite with a band called Bootlegger back in around 2000 and April Wine the year prior … Lots of miles with excellent musicians and people. I consider myself an entertainer more than an artist so what I miss the most is the crowds. I love to socialize.” – John Amendola

“My favourite show was an easy one to decide on. It has to be The Barn Board Trio album release show at Loplops in 2019. First ‘proper’ album I’ve recorded with anybody and I was so glad to be able to do it with Jaime [Jacques] and Marshall [Jaaskelainen]. We had been playing our original tunes for a couple years, mostly at Loplops, so it was a treat to play the ultimate “regular gig” with a packed house of friends and family. At the last “socially distanced” get-together I had, I came to the conclusion that the worst part about COVID for me was not playing live. I remember saying, “I just want to rip a solo on my Strat with a band behind me.” My favourite moment “ripping a solo on my Strat” was with The Barn Board Trio.” - Liam Seymour

“In December 2018, I was playing with Chris Johns, Frank Deresti and Jay Case at the Blues for Food night in The Pub at the Water Tower Inn. It’s an annual event that brings dozens of musicians together for a night or two of music while raising money for charity. Although I have done many of these shows in the past with local musicians, it was my first gig with the talented Christopher Johns. A great night to remember surrounded by many friends.”  – Catherine Taddo

"It is so hard to pinpoint a singular moment. The Inner City Surfers played our most memorable gigs at Foggy Notions and to find one moment is impossible. Yet, in my mind, I think of all those nights together like one really blurry, hazy 20-year experience. I think of, hearing Pat Casey, Brendan Fyfe or Ryan OReilly calling out last call and being so drunk the room is spinning. Sweat pouring into my eyes and the lights blinding me, we bust into a few closing songs, firing on all cylinders and playing perfectly together. Looking back at Mikey [Hawdon] and across to Dustin [Jones] after Dave [Bahun] has done something truly amazing with his guitar, sharing a look between the four of us. Despite how many rye and cokes, shots of Jager or Tequila and OJs, we are still of sound mind enough to notice and appreciate these spontaneous magical moments when the songs and the crowd are riding a gloriously chaotic wave together. Hearing the crowd revitalized and screaming along to 'Screwed' or 'Booze and Doobs' or hearing the crowd screaming 'I make the F-in Rules' still sends chills up my spine. Memories that I will cherish forever." - Brad Example (Lacell)

"I was in a Beatles tribute band called Beatles Forever when I was 60. I began my career playing Beatles, so it was a swan song. In Calgary in 2010, we played the best bars and we were great. Love doing exquisite harmonies. We worked a hard day's night and did it with love." - Raymond Gassi

"A great memorable time will always be 18 Forever. My mentor was Jimmy Scali, my best friend who always pushed me to the limit. And maybe I pushed him a bit also. Three women in the midst of so many outstanding men, and I got to sing Move Over. No band, just the most amazing assembly of the best ever. What can a woman ever say? I actually got to do this song again. It was the 3rd annual Anniversary of the Blues. Dawn Tyler Watson was the main draw. I got to do Move Over prior to her on-stage event. Playing with Rusty McCarthy and Ed Young, Josh Norling, Martin Verta and Jeff Holmes. What a great time." - Valerie Powley

"One of my favourite gig moments was on tour three years ago with Frank Deresti and The Lake Effect. We were playing a show at Governors Pub in Sydney, Nova Scotia. The first night we played to a small but appreciative crowd, it was a quiet night. The staff really enjoyed the music and we ended up booking an extra night to play the next day, on a night of the week when they usually never have music. It worked out in our favour since we had planned on taking the next day off anyhow. When we returned to play the next night we had a packed room, people had so much fun they cleared the chairs and tables out of the way to dance, the whole room turned into an East Coast kitchen party. A great night." - Josh Norling

"It's super hard to pick one show. Around 2012, I was playing with Frightlight. The Misfits had to roll through town and stayed in the hotel I worked at (Days Inn).  I worked out a merch and autograph signing set up for them and we ended up jamming a bunch of their songs with them. Playing a set after performing with your favourite band and having them in attendance is a trip. Nerve-wracking to say the least." - J.D. Pearce

"It's an interesting remembrance. I've had so many great memories of gigs in Toronto, the UK, New York, L.A. It's almost like bigger is better. But honing it down to small-town parameters, I see a decade of special parties at the Watertower Pub: Neil Young nights, Little Lilith Fair, Blues Festivals and Blues for Food, which all chime in as memorable gigs involving the creme of the Sault's musical community. But honing it down Id have to say in the Sault it was the 18 Forever show, a remembrance of the 60s generation, gathering together at the [then] Essar Centre for a glorious two days of every band that played locally mid-60s and 70s. The DVD supports the popularity of the event with people coming home from far and wide." - Rusty McCarthy