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Man singing and playing guitar

When it comes to music, all roads lead to Peterborough

“I’ve got really great relationships with the people that I work with, and with the people that are coming into the community,” says Sean Conway, from The Garnet on Hunter Street in Peterborough. It’s a small venue, but it’s big on music. Some of the most talented independent musicians in the country grace the stage there.

One of many small venue bookers in town, Conway reaches out to bands touring Canada to make Peterborough “the” favoured stop between Toronto and Ottawa. Word has spread that a warm welcome, great local acts, and engaged audiences await them.

Sean Conway at The Barbeside, another venue on Hunter Street in Peterborough which features music programming and events. It’s Catalina’s Salon by day. Photo: Bradley Boyle.

Conway describes Peterborough as a proving ground for musicians.

Artists like himself who travel from the area raise the profile of the local music scene nationally, and even internationally. Local musicians Nick Ferrio and Jill Staveley, for example, have toured extensively. They are founding members of The Burning Hell, a band which originated in Peterborough and now often tours Europe. Ferrio and Staveley frequently appear with the band during their popular homecomings.

Staveley also has an active part in cultivating the next generation of musicians through Rock Camp for Girls (RC4G). RC4G helps build skills and confidence through the creation of rock music and has recently spawned The Lonely Parade, a punk power trio who are asserting themselves on the national scene.

The ever affable Rick Fines having a great time playing at The Market Hall Performing Arts Centre. Photo: Esther Vincent.

Previous generations produced such music icons as Rick Fines.

Fines is a renowned blues artist in Canada and the US, both as a solo artist and as a member of his former band Jackson Delta. A proud member of the Peterborough music community, Fines is an ambassador everywhere he goes.

“Whether or not a lot of these artists are even aware of it, they’re bringing… we’ll just call it “The Peterborough Thing” to other places,” says Conway. “It’s just something that happens.” The recognition that Peterborough is getting has made it a destination town.  “I’ve seen it consistently pop up on lists of best domestic vacations in Canada… “ Conway continues, “With a little sense of adventure, you could do whatever the hell you wanted here. It’s got everything.”

He knows what he’s talking about. A music fan has lots to choose from. There are the larger venues like the Market Hall, Showplace Performance Centre, or even the arena at the Peterborough Memorial Centre. Then there’s the charm of a mid-sized venue like the Gordon Best Theatre. You can take in jazz artists like Rob Phillips and Chelsey Bennett at The Black Horse Pub, or get a bit more rollicking with Al Black and the Steady Band

Augusta Veno of The Lonely Parade rocking out at The Garnet. Photo: Esther Vincent.

If you prefer an early night, the While the Night Is Young (WTNIY) series presents music you can dance to, or you can groove to the smooth sounds of Yacht Rock, both usually held at The Spill Café and Bar.

If a straight up rock show is more your style then the Red Dog or the Pig’s Ear Tavern might be the ticket.  There’s also top notch classical music from the Peterborough Symphony Orchestra. Or if you’re looking to get out of town you can head to The Canoe and Paddle or The Thirsty Loon in Lakefield, or Elmhirst’s Resort for their Friday Night Live music series.

For the adventurous, nothing beats the discovery of a great new independent band enjoyed in a small venue with an intimate crowd. You might even get to chat with some band members over a beer after the show.

These adventures often come with an affordable price tag too. Many small venue shows ask for ten dollars or less. Just remember, always pay your musicians, and always tip your bartender.

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