WINDSOR, ONT. — Windsor’s highly popular traveling shows featuring live performances, food and beer are drawing nation-wide attention, with an expansion to eastern Canada set to kick off in the near future.
The “Gravy Train” is the brainchild of Tom Lucier, the owner of Phog Lounge and Ian Phillips, who owns Meteor.
The live performance venues have been shut down for the majority of the pandemic. Both owners have been thinking of ways to keep their businesses afloat, while also supporting the artists who brought people to their establishments, day after day.
Right before the Christmas lockdown, the duo launched the Gravy Train, booking six to eight weekly performance sets on people’s driveways, pairing the experience with food and beverages from local restaurants and bars.
“We try to curate the entire experience. We provide food and beer along with musician,” says Phillips.
Very quickly, word spread around the county, with artists lining up to play gigs.
Russ Macklem, a well-travelled, world-class jazz artist, jumped at the opportunity.
“Getting to perform is kind of my lifeblood and having lost that over and over again through this pandemic has been extraordinarily frustrating,” says Macklam, who has been largely sidelined over the past year.
“Getting the chance to perform has certainly helped me get through the days easier.”
Tom Lucier of Phog Lounge says the growth of the venture has been very organic, noting the customers aren’t the people who typically walk through his doors on the weekend.
“They’re seeing it on their street or they’re talking to their friends, or they’ve seen it on the news or in the paper and they want to do it,” says Lucier.
Now, other markets — are taking notice. Artists in London, Kitchener, Hamilton, Guelph, Kingston, Montreal and even the east coast have expressed interest — and so the gravy train is rolling to those communities, as well.
“This formula is popping up. So not only is Windsor, Ontario a very strong music scene, it’s an innovative one too, and we’re really pushing the envelope of how people consume music in the 21st century,” says Max Marshall, a musician who has also performed Gravy Train sets.
It also caught the eye of an east-coast artist with performing roots in Windsor.
“I freaked out when I saw it, I was like this is the best thing ever,” says Catriona Sturton.
She’s played shows at Phog Lounge in Windsor — but now lives in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.
On March 13, Sturton will headline the Gravy Train experience in her new hometown.
“It would be cool at any time, but at a time like this, a memory is really special,” Sturton says. “And a fun, positive happy memory, with music and food, it’s great.”
More than a way to stay busy during the pandemic, it’s bringing independent music to new audiences.
“It’s going to maybe change the landscape of independent musicians in any city we go to,” says Lucier. “I have no doubts.”
Lucier and Phillips are tapping their contacts in other markets to grow the concept, one they believe has staying power that will outlive the pandemic.
“We’re going to continue this as long as there’s demand, and we don’t see that demand going away,” Phillips says.
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