Musicians hope fundraiser can save Ironwood from closure
Endangered Inglewood venue has hosted 5,000 live shows since 2006
Since opening in 2006, the Ironwood Grill & Stage has hosted more than 400 live shows a year in an effort to support and showcase predominantly Canadian musicians.
Almost 15 years later, and in the midst of a pandemic that has decimated the service industry, some of those musicians are rallying to return the favour.
A fundraiser organized by local musician Jory Kinjo called Banding Together will be held at the venue on Aug. 21 and Aug. 22.
It will feature performances by a slew of local talent who are donating their time in attempt to save the Ironwood, which has been bruised by the COVID-19 shutdown and the reduced patronage that followed.
"Venues are running at half-capacity at best, and people just aren't going out like they were, of course," Kinjo said on the Friday edition of the Calgary Eyeopener.
"And so, we're just trying to keep the Ironwood alive until things can get back to a little bit more of a normal state."
Ironwood won't survive past November, owner says
The fundraiser launches about three months before the Ironwood could face its swan song.
Without intervention, the venue will likely close permanently by November.
"The Ironwood means the world to me, because I wanted to open a place that had live original music, and get the talent that was stuck in a garage out here — playing in front of an audience," owner Patrick MacIntyre said.
"I think it opened the doors for a lot of artists to showcase their talent. And it's been an honour to be able to showcase it."
MacIntyre said the trouble really began around the second phase of re-opening. Barriers were installed inside the Ironwood to keep the music playing during COVID-19, but limits on capacity took its toll.
"I was just going to try to find a way to keep the doors open … I was always looking for ways to keep the music going and have the artists showcase their craft," MacIntyre said.
Talent roster kept growing
Kinjo spearheaded the initiative when staff confided that the Ironwood was struggling.
He began reaching out to artists who also valued the venue to create a plan, and soon, a fundraiser and silent auction was conceptualized.
As Kinjo began recruiting talent to perform, the project began to take shape and grow — and then, it just kept growing.
Soon he had enlisted musicians and bands including T. Buckley, Liz Stevens, Amy Bishop and the Polyjesters, and snagged sponsorship from Long & McQuade Musical Instruments.
"I was inundated with calls from artists that wanted to play, and people that wanted to donate," Kinjo said.
A connection to the audience
On the whole, MacIntyre said, the community he has tried to foster is rallying around him. It's an experience that has been humbling.
"Artists have come out of the woodwork, and so many of them that they wanted to do a second one, because we couldn't get them all on the bill," MacIntyre said.
"No one ever plays the Ironwood for free, so it's been against my personal grain to allow them to do it. But it's been amazing."
Asked what the Ironwood means to Calgary's music scene, Kinjo said it has become a supportive gathering place where audiences and performers find each other.
"The Ironwood gives us a stage, and it gives us connection to the audience, and it bands people together from all walks of life — and from all over the world, really," Kinjo said.
"It's a hub for the arts in Calgary, and it's a vital one .... and so, that's why I think it means a lot to so many people. "
The Banding Together concerts at the Ironwood start at 8 p.m. on Aug. 21. There are matinee and evening shows on Aug. 22.
For more information, visit the Ironwood's website.
With files from the Calgary Eyeopener