The Joy of “Discoveries”

I was going through some old ticket stubs the other day to realize how easy – and affordable – it used to be to see a favourite artist. The thought of forking out $225 to catch a faint glimpse of Jeff Beck and Eric Clapton at the ACC in late February underlines how much this entertainment circus has turned us off the experience.

Yet there is joy to be found elsewhere for your entertainment dollar. Many of us delight in finding new favourite artists in the time-honoured way of catching them on the way up. Who doesn’t cherish the chance to make our own little musical discoveries at the smaller clubs throughout the city where you not only have access and a much more personable experience but you can actually see and hear them, one-on one. On a good night you might meet them, buy a disc and have them personalize it or pose for a photo.

Like an overzealous parent, we watch our prodigies grow, hoping they make it to a larger stage. It’s an addictive process – all the more so with the realization that there’s no need to sacrifice anything. Who in their right mind would consciously pay more to get so much less?

For me there’s no better to way experience this sensation than by catching one of Jane Harbury’s long-standing Discoveries nights at Hugh’s Room in Toronto. Could any event have a more appropriate name?

Jane is one of the city’s leading publicists – a musical taste fairy who came up with this idea about 6 years ago. She’d been hounding booker Holmes Hooke for opening slots at Hugh’s Room to promote her promising young artists. Holmes offered Jane her own night to showcase whomever she wanted and – voilaDiscoveries was born.

Jane offers these special evenings of musical discovery 3-4 times a year, serving up 3-4 relative unknowns per show. Her only criteria are that she has to like the act and their music and, for the most part, they come to her, eager for the exposure to a Hugh’s Room audience. Each artist is expected to bring out their own fans while the Discoveries brand has come to guarantee a discerning audience of its own, eager to make the acquaintance of some of the country’s best emerging talent.

One such artist is Jana Keeley. A Mom from southwestern Alberta – the daughter of a cattle rancher – who now lives in Vancouver and has just released her first album, Trouble. The attention-to-detail in every aspect of her songwriting and performance underlines just how much her music means to her. Co-produced with percussionist Joby Baker, it’s a well-conceived collection of originals featuring Jana’s soft and breathy, intimate vocals set against a rough and tumble backdrop of crushed percussion, distorted guitar and the occasional wash of B3. Shawn Colvin meets Tom Waits, if you will. But sweeter to the taste – all the more so against its highly textured, rough-hewn backdrop. And, with Jana’s limited ability to be a hardcore regular on the touring circuit, it takes something like Discoveries to bring her to your attention.

But there’s more!

Andrew Cole is a Toronto native who spent his formative years in Liverpool, playing in various bands before returning home in ’03 with the UK’s North West Artist of the Year under his belt. He combines his Canadian roots with elements of British rock to fuel the release of his first solo effort.

Jenna Glatt hails from Ottawa and possesses a strong vocal presence and graceful stage manner beyond her years. An avid competitor, she’s won Gold at the MusicFest Canada Nationals and been invited to the National Arts Centre’s Broadband Jazz Masterclass Series. Her versatility and passion for singing speak volumes.

J.P. Saxe is a 16-year old Toronto-schooled performer who sings and plays both piano and guitar. Weaned on classical music from a very young age before funneling his passion towards jazz and rock piano, he’s surprisingly accomplished and clearly poised, charged with incredible drive, to do great things.

Discoveries delivers this wide breadth of talent to you  at one of the most ambient-rich clubs in the entire city – all for a nominal fee.

Could there be a better opportunity for you to make a discovery you can call your own? Here’s to Discoveries and its vibrant flow of ever-inspiring talent. Discoveries has already revealed  such acts as Ariana Gillis, Jadea Kelly, Allie Hughes and Cara Matthew and now the opportunity to meet promising acts like Jana, Andrew, Jenna and J.P.

It would be great to see similar shows catch on across the country. It sure beats the local arena or stadium, and, with the fortune you’ll save in parking alone, you can pick up a disc or two and help spread the word.

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