Take in bands through the Side Door

Have you heard about Side Door?

It just opened wide for all to enjoy.

For people who’ve been to any of Dan Mangan’s concerts across Canada so far this year, you’ve likely heard him talk about Side Door.

 It’s a really interesting concept: take artists who are eager to play shows and people who’d like to host concerts in unusual or non-traditional spaces (aka not a typical venue or concert hall) and matches them up.

In an Instagram conversation Wednesday afternoon, Mangan compared Side Door to a kind of Tinder for bands and hosts.

“The inception of Side Door’s premise came way back in 2008,” he says in an email sent to fans and people who signed up for info at his concerts. “I remember playing a show of maybe 10 people in the main room of an old run-down house in Waterloo. The handful of college-aged roommates called this space ‘The Trepid House.’ I played first, then Two-Minute Miracles, then Hey Rosetta. Nobody had heard of these bands at the time. The audience was largely made up of members of the other bands, but it was pure magic.”  

He remains close with the members of Hey Rosetta, in no small part because of that evening a decade ago and the bond they share from playing in a small space with fans in the room. That show was booked via the now-archaic technology of MySpace: he messaged the house, something that would happen often in those days.

“Playing to 30 people in a club is financial ruin for everyone involved and, with some exception, generally sucks,” he wrote. “The context of a gig is nearly as important as the performance itself. This is something I learned early on… We don’t even realize the full extent of how the context or presumptions of an experience affect the actual experience.”

Mangan co-founded Side Door with Laura Simpson of Halifax’s The Syrup Factory in 2017.

In their Instagram discussion, Mangan and Simpson said that Side Door isn’t limited to by genre, type of space, even kind of performance. Some hosts have welcomed a variety of musicians, spoken word artists, improv groups; performances have taken place in lobbies, condos, houses, outdoor venues.

“Hosts and artist can find each other. We’ve removed the barriers of entry. We’ve removed the gatekeeping,” Mangan wrote. “I get emails all the time now from agents and managers of emerging artists, asking how to apply to play Side Door shows. It’s such a relief to just tell them to sign up and get to work.”

And to prove that anyone can be involved in Side Door, our own Alan Cross is doing a series of living room chats booked through the platform!

Curious? Go here, take a look, and if the spirit moves you, sign up – to host, to perform or to take in a show.

Amber Healy

I write about music policy and lawsuits because they're endlessly fascinating.

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