When the Snow Flies, the Beat Goes On in Owen Sound by Zak Erb.

Winter always brings out a variety of responses in us hardy South Ontarians. Maybe you’re the type to strap on your skis and take to the slopes, or perhaps a warm fire and warmer beverage are more your speed. Wherever you fall on the winter appreciation scale, don’t let the chilly air keep you from enjoying some great live music this season.

Ok, I get it. When you think Owen Sound and live music the first thing that comes to mind is probably not winter concerts. After all, our tentpole musical event occurs in mid-August and includes the word Summer in its name. Don’t let this fool you into thinking that the beat doesn’t go on while the snow flies, as quite the opposite is true. In fact, the very nature of our long, trying winters seems to encourage local venues and promoters to think outside the icebox to provide great entertainment during the chilly months.

Heartwood Concert Hall is a prime example. This rustic, well appointed event space, located in the heart of downtown on 2nd Avenue East, has quickly established itself as one of the premier venues in the Grey/Bruce area. It features a beautiful high-ceilinged room with lots of warmth, and most importantly, a great stage and excellent sound system. I’ve taken in a variety of acts at the hall, ranging from spoken word and soft acoustic sets all the way to roots reggae and hard driving rock. Each act has sounded great—a testament to the care the staff gives to their performers. In their short two-year history Heartwood has hosted many Canadian music icons including Séan McCann of Great Big Sea fame, Juno award winner Sass Jordan, Juno nominated indie-folk legend Hayden and fellow Juno nominee Matt Epp.

Matt is of particular note, not least for having recently won the grand prize at the International Songwriting Competition but also for calling Owen Sound home.

Photo by Zak Erb

So, how can you break that cabin fever and cure the winter blues? How about live blues and local whisky? Collingwood Whisky has partnered with RRAMPT.com and the OSC Media House to bring the legendary Canadian Bluesman Harrison Kennedy to Heartwood on January 27th. Harrison was just awarded the 2016 Juno for Blues Album of the Year and has been touring and recording since the 70s. In short, this man knows blues. Between the whisky and Harrison’s achingly soulful delivery you’ll find your cares melting away like so much late season snow. Did I mention there will be whisky? As in samples of an exceptional recently released double barreled whisky?

Matt Epp Photo by ZakErb

Acts including Partner, Ice Cream, Witchprophet and Kingdom of Birds. This last is a great inclusion, if you’ve ever wondered what a band composed of 10-14 year olds sounds like now is your chance to find out (hint: they rock).

In addition, there are two acts with local roots performing; the festival opens on Friday night with an upbeat dance set by local DJ Osound, while Joyful — performing later in the festival —- features stirring electronic ambience composed by Owen Sound native Dave Grenon.

Rebecca & the Arcades Photo by Joel Loughead
Justin of Rebecca & the Arcades Photo by Joel Loughead

Rebecca and the Arcades are a new local group busily making a name for themselves and looking great while doing it. I had the pleasure of catching a set of theirs at a sold-out show in October and was immediately taken with them. The eponymous front-woman, Rebecca, possesses a rich and powerful voice which is equaled by her commanding stage presence. This up and coming rock outfit is one to watch — don’t miss your chance to do so at Heartwood on February 23rd.

While Owen Sound boasts great concerts year-round there’s something special about trading in your Sorels for dancing shoes and singing the night away in the middle of winter. It’s the time of year when community events like these are most needed. Great music, camaraderie and maybe a whisky or two go a long way in the winter, especially in these parts. |E|

Leah Mathies, Matt Epp & Joel Couture Photo by Zak Erb