The final week of shows at The Silver Dollar was part celebration, part wake, all counting down to the venue’s closure on April 30.
The six nights included performances by local heavyweights Metz, Blood Ceremony and Dilly Dally, a one-night-only revival of High Lonesome Wednesday, the Dollar’s long-running bluegrass jam, plus out-of-towners the Coathangers and SUUNS. All came to pay and play their respects both to the venue and to the man who made it happen: Dan Burke.
Bands like Frigs know first hand how invested Burke is in helping connect musicians to audiences.
“Dan was very instrumental for us,” vocalist and guitarist Bria Salmena recalled ahead of the band’s Friday night show, adding that Burke was an early champion of the now Arts & Crafts signees. “He really liked us, booked us shows and vouched for us with other bookers. He’s always been super-helpful and very supportive.”
It was clear just how important the space had been to their career: Frigs put on the standout performance of the week. They opened the Friday-night bill – which also included Darlene Shrugg and Dilly Dally – as though they were the headliners. It was a commanding and spellbinding set, with Salmena exploring every inch of the stage to squalls of noise before making her way into the audience and onto the shoulders of Greys’ Colin Gillespie.
Although Burke received high praise from every act that played throughout the week (I attended all six nights), he downplayed the impact he’s had on the music scene. “I’m only as good as the bands I book,” he told NOW. He credited co-conspirators such as local musician Simone TB, who was instrumental in putting together the six farewell gigs. “She’s been a tremendous ally for me on this. She’s an incredible friend of mine.”
TB got her start in Tropics, whom Burke first booked at the Dollar when they were still in high school, and she’s played the venue in the many projects that followed.
In addition to helping out with the bill, TB also did double duty, sitting behind the kit for both Darlene Shrugg and Fake Palms. The former’s set was another highlight, immediately after Frigs. It was no surprise that three of the most memorable sets were all concentrated on the same night, which predominantly featured female musicians. Burke has been a stalwart supporter of young, emerging female acts throughout his career, especially in his “Class Of” series.
Meanwhile, Dilly Dally played a consistently good set that felt slightly surreal only because I watched it on a closed-circuit TV from the comfort of the plush emerald green vinyl booths in the poolroom. The Dollar’s layout is unlike anything else in the city, and the dividing wall between main room and poolroom sometimes seemed incompatible with a great live music experience. But it’s that layout, and everything from the terrazzo floors to the immense bar, that are set to replace the current building at 484 Spadina.
As for that redevelopment, questions hung in the air each night: How long it will take? Who will run the restored Dollar when it reopens? Will it’ll even be a music venue? But the Silver Dollar’s fate seemed far from Burke’s mind as he rode the venue’s iconic sign, which usually hung above the stage, like a surfboard through the crowd as Metz closed their Sunday-night show with Wet Blanket.
UPDATE: DAN BURKE IS CROWDSURFING ON THE SILVER DOLLAR SIGN pic.twitter.com/0Vgzrzvb1Y
— Richard Trapunski (@trapunski) May 1, 2017
At first Burke hadn’t thought he could get the popular local rock trio to play his final show, as they’re used to performing at much larger venues. But they gladly proved him wrong, bringing the packed house down.
Lit only by their trademark white lights, Metz had arrived like a sonic demolition crew,and turned the space into a sweaty, humid mess of a good time. They’re far from a one-note band, so there were moments of contemplation, too. As they played a particularly quiet number, it felt as though they purposefully withheld the song’s inevitable, raucous conclusion, maybe to deny us the violent gratification we longed for, or just to give us all a few more minutes to soak up a place we’d all come to love.
In conversations with NOW throughout the week, Burke was intensely proud of the final slate of shows designed to bid the Dollar farewell. He never got that chance when he was evicted with a measly 45 days’ notice as the booker for the nearby El Mocambo 16 years ago.
“He felt alone in this, basically being told that what he does [at the Dollar] isn’t as important as what a developer wants to do,” TB says. “For me [this last week] is more than a bunch of bands playing a show. This is about my good friend thriving in his own creation.”
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