A Venue to Believe In
by Chris Hibbard
A Venue to Believe In
As the accompanying articles detail, the music scene is alive and well in Lethbridge, with dozens of bands and hundreds of music fans. What could be considered lacking however, are venues in which the two may meet. As strange as it may sound, there is currently only one venue in Lethbridge in which one can attend ‘gigs’ in the truest sense of the word.
It is The Slice Bar and Grill that delivers. Not only some of the finest pizzas that Lethbridge offers, but also as much independent music as two brothers possibly can.
Jesse Freed, co-owner and manager of The Slice claims that while there are a number of other places in Lethbridge that host live music a few times a month, “there aren’t that many places that will take the risk of paying bands money without a big crowd there to support them and make a profit.”
Opening in November of 2005, Jesse runs the promotions side of things, while his brother Tyler acts as Kitchen Manager and main chef. Open daily from 4:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m., The Slice averages about 20 live performances each month.
The brothers’ philosophy is simple. “Why do we do what we do? It’s like… why would you go to a bar? There must be a reason… short of being a place that can hold 1000+ people; you have to make that draw for people. Our draws are the best thin crust pizza in town, and playing host to a ton of live music. We discovered pretty quickly that there’s a ton of talent in Lethbridge and in Canada, all just looking for a place to play.”
Until a few years ago, they were not alone, but the other live music businesses have either changed or failed. “We were doing it first, before we even knew there were other places that did it – it was just always what we wanted to do. Now that they have closed down, we’ve had to pick up the slack.”
Since then, The Slice has been nearly overwhelmed by the demands for live music in town and for venues in which live acts can play.”
“We’ve had to turn some bands away which sucks, because it limits the amount of stage time we can give to local musicians, and it also prevents us from having somewhere else to refer interested bands to if we’re all booked.”
When the business first opened, the only ‘gigs’ took place on weekends but with requests for venue rentals increasing, The Freed’s were able to spend more on bands, based on expected audience turnouts. In turn, this allowed for an altered weekly calendar.
“We like to give locals bands one of the weekend nights, because we know them, we support them, and they often have their own fan base built up. Other Canadian bands; we’ll bring in any weeknight, because if they’re from out of town, people are either going to come see them anyways, or they’re not.”
While The Slice seems to attract a certain ‘regular’ crowd of obvious music lovers, above and beyond that it would seem that the pizza seems to attract some who stay for the music, while the music attracts others who stay for the pizza.
While The Slice managers tend to bring in a lot of alternative country, indie rock and blues bands, they’ve lately been bringing in a lot of world music, including the Caribbean rhythms of last month’s Kobo Town, out of Toronto. “When we hear about something different coming through, we try to bring them in to keep it as diverse as possible. The simplest thing to say is that the majority of bands we bring in are Canadian independent.”
The Freed brothers’ only limits seem to be professional. “We try to maintain an atmosphere that anyone can walk in to and not be offended. Aside from that, the only music we don’t play is the stuff that seems to attract people who are disrespectful or violent. In the past, if we’ve booked a type of show and we end up with damages or problems, it means we have to rethink having that type of shows, which is too bad for both the fans of that music and the musicians who make it.”
Currently the brothers find themselves faced with an enviable predicament. “It’s kind of a chicken and egg situation, where we’d love to have good music every night and we’d like to have a good crowd every night, but you need one to attract the other.”
The overwhelming demand for stage time aside, The Slice Bar & Grill owners and staff maintain their devotion to independent music. Expecting another sellout crowd for the upcoming Sept. 25 performance by Elliot Brood, the Freed’s have purchased a bigger, better sound board and mixing console.
“We find that the best way to attract other bands is to treat every band with respect and provide them with a good experience. If we do that, then they’ll come knocking on the door again. It’s sad though, that in the meantime, we get hundreds of emails from artists each month, and we just can’t support them all.”
Information about The Slice’s event calendar and menu are available on their Myspace and Facebook pages, and at http://www.TheSlice.ca.