WINDSOR, ONT. – Windsor’s hugely popular walking shows with live performances, food and beer are attracting nationwide attention, with expansion into eastern Canada set to begin in the near future.
The “Gravy Train” is the brainchild of Tom Lucier, the owner of the Phog Lounge, and Ian Phillips, the Meteor.
The live venues have been closed for most of the pandemic. Both owners have considered how to keep their businesses afloat while supporting the artists who brought people into their facilities every day.
Shortly before the Christmas closure, the duo started the Gravy Train, booked six to eight weekly performance sets on people’s driveways and combined the experience with food and drinks from local restaurants and bars.
“We’re trying to curate the entire experience. We serve food and beer together with musicians, ”says Phillips.
The news quickly spread across the county, with artists lining up to play gigs.
Russ Macklem, a well-traveled world-class jazz artist, took the opportunity.
“Appearing is my elixir of life, so to speak, and having lost it again and again through this pandemic was extremely frustrating,” says Macklam, who was largely aloof last year.
“Getting the chance to perform has certainly helped me get through my days.”
Phog Lounge’s Tom Lucier says the company’s growth has been very organic, noting that customers are not the people who typically walk through its doors on weekends.
“They see it on their street, or they talk to their friends, or they saw it on the news or in the newspaper and they want to do it,” says Lucier.
Now other markets are paying attention. Artists in London, Kitchener, Hamilton, Guelph, Kingston, Montreal and even the East Coast have shown interest – and so the sauce train is rolling into these communities too.
“This formula comes up. So Windsor, Ontario is not only a very strong music scene but also an innovative one and we are really pushing the limits of music consumption in the 21st sets.
It also caught the attention of an East Coast artist with gig roots in Windsor.
“I freaked out when I saw it, I thought this was the best thing ever,” says Catriona Sturton.
She has played shows at the Phog Lounge in Windsor – but now lives in Lunenberg, Nova Scotia.
On March 13th, Sturton will headline the Gravy Train experience in their new hometown.
“It would be cool anytime, but at a time like this, a memory is very special,” says Sturton. “And a fun, positive, happy memory with music and food, it’s great.”
More than a way to stay busy during the pandemic, it brings independent music closer to new audiences.
“It may change the landscape of independent musicians in every city we visit,” says Lucier. “I have no doubt.”
Lucier and Phillips are using their contacts in other markets to build on the concept that they believe has staying power that will outlast the pandemic.
“We’re going to keep doing this as long as there is demand, and we don’t see that demand wear off,” says Phillips.