Sat. Sept. 17 – Phog Phest returns for its third year (or, How The Little Venue That Could Became The Little Venue That Did)
When Phog Lounge – the little venue that could – won the CBC Radio 3 Searchlight contest for Canada’s Best Live Music Venue (an on-line voting across all of Canada to determine the best live music venue in the nation) a collective “What the fuck?” was heard for miles (and provinces) around. By all definition – and no offence to either owners Tom Lucier or Frank Incitti – Phog shouldn’t have been anywhere close. It’s stage is minimal and barely fits a three piece band, let alone a band the size of The Unsettlers or Five Alarm Funk. It’s capacity is 65 people which is nearly half the size of some of the venues a LOT of the acts that come through there usually play (such as The Pack AD, Tokyo Police Club, Julie Doiron, Arkells, and Yukon Blonde over past years). There is only a small PA for bands to work with and there’s no one there to do sound – unless one of the patrons at load in time knows how to work the board for you. And let’s not discuss the bathrooms, shall we?
But you know what helped push this little orange shack to the highest vote getter across all of Canada, ahead of such legendary venues as The Horseshoe Tavern, El Macombo, Black Sheep Inn, Call The Office, The Commodore Ballroom, or La Sala Rossa? The Phog Spirit. That’s what. What is the Phog Spirit? It is a genuine feeling of intimacy and loyalty that Phog’s patrons have. They will take chances on bands they have never heard of simply because they trust Tom’s instincts when it comes to booking great Canadian indie music. And while he usually gravitates to the indie rock/alt. folk circuits, he doesn’t exactly shy away from metal, hip-hop or punk. On nights where no live music is present, many a soul spends their last few hours of the evening exchanging entertaining quips and banter with bartenders like “Big Joe” O’Brien or the dour Frank. There are people who go to Phog to play Scrabble with the same ferver someone else might go to see Eric’s Trip‘s Julie Doiron. And many out of town acts – such as Lindy, The Schomberg Fair, Wax Mannequin or Square Root of Margaret – often get mistaken by some casual listeners or goers as Windsor acts because of how often they make the trek to Phog to play. They’ve been overwhelmed by the generosity of the owners and staff, the patience, attentiveness and respect shown by those in attendance, and the sheer good times and balls-to-the-wall party vibes Windsor can exude (seriously, tour out of town or travel, and in a lot of “big” cities, people are marveled at how much alcohol Windsorites can consume on a regular basis and with abnormal haste). A small tightly knit community – and lots of ex-patriots and touring acts – voted daily for weeks and weeks to show their support for their little indie watering hole. One by one the big names dropped from the contest – people voting for Lee’s Palace or Zaphod Beeblebrox assumed their scene was big enough that one vote each would win them the contest – while Phog continued to storm forward. Every day Tom barraged the Phog phriends to overwhelming annoyance, but most of us still voted. And then in February of 2009, more Windsorites tuned into CBC Radio 3 than ever before to listen to the announcement that Phog Lounge in little old Windsor, Ontario had won Canada’s Best Live Music Venue.
That day was our announcement to the rest of Canada. We have a music scene. Our city may not recognize it, but you will. And we’re going to show you.
To celebrate that occassion, Phog held their inaugural Phog Phest in July of 2009, out on University Avenue in front of the venue. Sponsored in part by CBC Radio 3, it featured a line-up that included Holy Fuck, Green Go, Arkells, The Pack AD, The Kramdens, and Megan Hamilton plus a plethora of local acts, such as Michou, Orphan Choir, Yellow Wood, The Locusts Have No King, and Field Assembly. It was a huge success as it was the physical unification of CBC Radio 3, Phog Lounge and everyone who voted that tiny 65-person venue to the top spot in Canada.
Last year, Phog Phest was moved into the parking lot next to the venue at 157 University Avenue West, and included local vendors and artists, creating a smaller scale Lollapalooza atmosphere. Shows inside the venue were scrapped so that all focus would be on the main stage out doors, that utilized national headliners Young Rival, The Mark Inside, Lindy and Raised By Swans mingled with local heavyweights Magic Hall of Mirrors, The Locusts Have No King, The Bulletproof Tiger, James OL & The Villains and VEX.
This Saturday, the third Phog Phest arrives upon us and the trend from last year continues as national headliners Elliott Brood (whose deep Windsor connection was evident and appreciated when they held their last homecoming at the Capitol Theatre past Christmas), Grand Analog, and Detroit’s The High Strung (the first US act to play Phog Phest, best known now as the band who did the theme for the TV show “Shameless”), are on a bill that features great local talent in Explode When They Bloom, What Seas What Shores, fiftywatthead (doing their acclaimed AC/DC re-working/tribute set), The Swillingtones and ASK. Once again it’s being held in the parking lot next door.
And once again, it’ll show us that Phog Spirit and remind us just how we made the little venue that could, the little venue that did.
Phog Phest 3, Saturday, September 17, Phog Lounge Parking Lot (157 University Ave. West), 12noon until 12midnight (outside), after-party with DJ Jamie Greer inside (midnight to close), tickets are $15 (being sold in advance and at door), All-Ages