The behaviour of both journalists and politicians at the Rex Jazz and Blues Bar Wednesday evening shows top politicians and journalists in the city don't care about jazz, the arts, or manners for that matter, charges one of the performers who played that night.
Tim Shia, of the Worst Pop Band Ever, felt so insulted by the boistrous dialogue at a retirement party for a Globe and Mail writer the dinner time pay-what-you-can jazz show, he sent out an open letter to Toronto media, critiquing the behavour of top City Hall players and the press that cover them in attendence.
Here are a few highlights to get you going:
- Attendees in "spiffy suits and dresses" paying less than Israeli music students to enjoy Juno award winners playing original compositions.
- David Miller apparently chipping in $1 for renowned jazz artists (including one musician who not only voted for the man, but also played at his reelection party).
- Adam Giambrone apparently chipping in zilch.
- The appology: When David Nickle, president of the Toronto City Hall Press Gallery was alerted of Shia's rant by the Toronto Star, he responded, "we were a crappy, talkative audience...at the end of it all, really good jazz didn't get the appreciation it deserves."
- Also note the novel idea Miller seems to be hinting at, a pay-what-you-want property tax!?
Here is the original rant by Tim Shia:
Letter to the Editor or someone who cares about the Arts and basic respect
I was performing with a jazz group at the main jazz club in Toronto on Wednesday night at dinner time, when a party of City Councilors and members of the Toronto Star, Toronto Sun and Globe and Mail came out to celebrate the retirement of a Globe writer. There's no fixed cover, but it's a Pay-What- You-Can policy in order to encourage passerbys to come in have a meal/drink and listen to music. The suggested donation is $5 and this was announced. This is how the bands get paid and this generally works better than having a set cover charge given the time of day, the amount of walk in traffic on Queen Street and the general apathy towards jazz. It also encourages people and especially students to come out and see local talent without having to break the bank as they would for clubs in other major cities like New York, London or Tokyo. This policy itself is a commentary on the music scene in the city, but that's another debate.
Being the premier jazz club in the city, the players on the stage included Juno winners that have performed with everyone from Chantal Kreviazuk, Blue Rodeo and Wynton Marsalis, performing original music that's been commissioned by The National Film Board, the Governor General Awards and even the UN. However, the assembled masses talked through the whole performance, commandeered the stage without a word to the band during the set break and about half the assembled party begrudgingly gave $2 or less in change when the tip jar went around to collect the pay-what- you-CAN cover . A few even disdainfully refused to pay (these journalists and politicians were obviously facing hard times despite their spiffy business suits and dresses). Oddly enough, those that weren't there for the retirement party and were there for the music gave between $5 and $10, including an enthusiastic group of high school music students from Israel.
Now, jazz musicians are used to people not getting the music but if one doesn't appreciate the music or the musicianship, don't stay, it's not like they paid a lot to be there. Don't talk over the performance. That just seems rude to those trying to listen to the performance and those trying to perform. Would the aforementioned do the same thing at the Canadian Opera Company or even a movie theatre? Probably not, they paid good money for tickets, even if they didn't like what they saw. Granted, the club has no formal listening policy, but a little common sense and decency would dictate not trying to drown out the performance. I talk in clubs too sometimes, but I at very least try to do it at the back of the club and not in front of the stage. It's curious why they chose to congregate at a jazz club in the first place, were they wanting to show their support for the Arts?
In all fairness, there was a good portion of the party that did ante up and show a little bit of appreciation for the band, but overall it was quite disappointing when the Mayor himself tipped a looney. He obviously didn't remember that I performed at a party for him after he was reelected for a second term. Or maybe he did and felt someone paid me too much. Maybe he used up his per diem. I even voted for him. Too bad my property tax wasn't Pay-What-I-Want or Pay-Something- to-Get-Rid-Of-The-Tax-Collector. At least he gave me something, Councilor Giambrone couldn't be bothered.
I'm curious to see if any of the assembled members of the press at the party are also responsible for editorials and if this little blurb will ever see the light of day. There are obviously more important matters like the tragedy in Haiti, or detainee torture in Afghanistan but there is always the interweb, maybe I can start a facebook group.
Tim Shia of the Worst Pop Band Ever.
Dave Nickle, president of the Toronto City Hall Press Gallery, replies:
My name's David Nickle - I'm president of the Toronto City Hall Press Gallery and, I guess, ringleader responsible for the unfortunate evening at the (club) Wednesday night. Vanessa Lu forwarded me the letter you wrote to the Star, the Globe and various others; I wanted to take the opportunity to apologize, and maybe explain a couple of things.
First, the apology: I'm sorry your music didn't get the attention it deserved, and that our guests didn't honor the PWC cover as they might have. I certainly enjoyed the performance - and personally contributed to the jar. But others didn't contribute, and if they enjoyed your performance, sure kept it to themselves.
Now, the explanation: Frankly, we were taken a bit by surprise. We'd organized the goodbye party for Globe reporter _____________ the same as we've done other retirement/exit parties at the Rex, which in addition to being a first-class jazz venu is also a popular after-work bar among the city hall set. The usual M.O. is to show up early, usually inhabit the back of the room so as not to interfere with the show when it starts up later on... and usually, we show up with far fewer people.
Trouble was, this particular night the back of the room was reserved. And this particular night there was a band playing early (you). And ______ is very popular, and a lot more people came than usually do.
So we did what we could. We spoke with the management, and figured that we'd say a few words during the set break so as not to compete with the music. When that break came, the manager asked me if we wanted to use the stage. This is an important distinction. I didn't actually ask to use the stage, certainly didn't commandeer it, and having been offered it by the (club's) manager, assumed everything was cool vis-a-vis me getting on the stage and using a microphone during your set break.
With that said, I agree with you: we were a crappy, talkative audience. Some of us could have paid, and others paid more (for the record, I chipped in $15). And at the end of it all, really good jazz didn't get the appreciation it needs and deserves.
So please accept my apology on behalf of everybody.
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