Four years ago it was just two guys with an idea and a passion for music. Today Vive has influenced dozens of local bands and changed Saskatoon’s music scene.
Phil Greer and Rich Taylor saw a need for a venue where local musicians could get involved when they started Vive in 2007. The non-profit organization began promoting concerts and holding Vivefests at various spots throughout the city until they opened up their own venue, Jale, last year. Over the course of its short life, Jale brought plenty of excitement to the downtown music scene.
Appropriately, Jale’s grand closing on Saturday, Sept. 4 began with the screening of “No Fun City,” a documentary about venues being shut down in Vancouver and the artists who were left with nowhere to go. Here in Saskatoon we have a similar problem: a serious need for small venues that are available for local bands.
There are quite a few medium sized spots throughout the city that host touring bands, but not many small locations for local acts. Jale filled the need for an affordable venue where starting musicians could get exposure. The all-ages setting also saw many more youth performing and coming to shows causing a positive change from the older crowds that fill the 19-plus concerts.
Although Vive is excited to see more youth getting into the scene, that’s not their sole focus. They hope to see a growing arts culture throughout the city in all areas.
The final show featured musicians of all ages and styles. Shakey Wilson, of folk-style band Shakey and the Part-time Elevators, thinks so many types of music could be too much, but Vive is making it work: “They’re trying their absolute best to bring every kind of act into this town. I sometimes think they’re like fricken crazy in the head ’cause they’re so broke…but they just…they don’t give up. They love music so much. And it doesn’t look like they’re going to give up in the near future.”
A dozen bands played at the closing on Saturday, some of which are being left homeless without Jale. The Sea Hags, an all-girl prairie band, has called Jale home for the past year and are sad to see it go. They don’t know where they will play until Vive finds a new space.
The Sea Hags got connected with Vive when drummer Brenda was cutting Rich’s hair. He set them up with shows at Jale and continues to connect them with touring bands. “Vive has been great,” guitarist Ricky said, “and this venue has been awesome downtown, too, because it’s really given a lot of local artists a place to play.”
The band hopes to see more venues the size of Jale appear in the city, especially on the west side where there exists a great musical community with a serious need for such venues .
Tim Crabtree, the sole member of Before and Apace, played at Vivefest 2 and loves what is happening because of the non-profit organization. Originally from Halifax, Crabtree says he sees the Saskatoon music scene through a Vive lens. “Those guys have done a lot. The (Vive) festivals just bring so much life to the community.”
Comparing Saskatoon to his home city, Tim thinks there needs to be a re-emergence of formal venues that can do justice to sounds that bands are working on and to serve as focal points in the community’s musical scene. He thinks that too many buildings that could be great locations are sitting empty because of money and bureaucratic issues.
Saturday’s concert got quite a bit off schedule as most bands “quickly” added an extra song to their set…despite what Rich had said. As the final band of the evening, Pirate Friday’s, played, Rich called out to any musician who wanted to come back up after the set to keep playing. The show went long into the night, with people shouting for more music and the bands more than willing to oblige.
Even though Jale’s doors are closing, there’s a lot more to be heard from small acts in this town. The small downtown venue has given many bands momentum and they don’t feel like quitting now that Jale’s finished. Many of the artists who played at Vive’s fundraiser on Saturday are feeling that Saskatoon’s music scene has a bright future. This city has a growing arts culture with plenty of talented musicians; all they need is somewhere to play.
Phil Greer hopes that Vive will soon have a bigger venue, ready for a bigger scene: “Jale was…a toehold and we’re climbing a big mountain.”