Windsor restaurant offers customers a hot meal and a live music show on Sundays
'We basically have 50 little stages every single week somewhere in the city,' says lounge owner
For musicians Andrew Adoranti and Austin DiPietro, it's been tough not being able to perform in front of a live audience during the pandemic.
The lockdown forced the duo to instead perform online, but on Sunday, they — along with a handful of other musicians — drove around the city performing for small groups outside of their homes.
It's an initiative launched by Tom Lucier, the owner of Phog Lounge, and his business partner Ian Phillips.
The restaurant offers customers a Sunday special: a hot meal and a live music show.
Musicians they've partnered with perform along driveways, or on front lawns, while restaurant staff drop off poutine, pizza or other food and drink.
Despite the snow and cold weather, Adoranti and DiPietro said it felt good to perform live again.
"Any chance we can get to get out and play, especially for people? Yeah, it's nice to have as opposed to online," DiPietro said. "Anything like that is great."
"It's definitely different because, you know, people are separated. They're smaller audiences. And to get the crowd that we previously had, it requires us to go to a bunch of different locations, whereas before it was everyone was in the same spot at the same time. But I think this allows it to be a little bit more intimate and make a deeper connection, or a closer connection, with the people that you're playing for," said Adoranti.
"I think people are more appreciative of it for sure," DiPietro added.
For customer Debbie Hazlett, the experience has been wonderful.
"It's cold out here, but I don't very often get the chance to share this with my neighbours. So it's wonderful that everybody came out to see what was going on and just listen to the music and share some happiness for a change," she said, adding that she's glad to be supporting local businesses and local bands.
"They exceeded my expectations. The music was great. They were all amped up and the whole neighborhood could hear them," she said.
The restaurant has been running the initiative for six weeks. Lucier said five artists make about eight to 10 stops, averaging 30 to 50 shows per Sunday.
"It has been the most lucrative, supportive thing we've seen for musicians out of all of the work we've done in the 17 years I've been at Phog," he said.
"I haven't seen this kind of support financially for the musicians like I've seen in the past five weeks. It's startling, and it's definitely something that needs to continue for the betterment of creative people, for people who lend themselves to the cultural tapestry of not just Windsor, but of Canada."
Lucier said the response has been "mind-boggling," adding that he's seen repeat customers requesting the Sunday special.
Up to 50 shows a Sunday
"It does not surprise me that it is mood altering. It is the kind of thing that brightens up an entire neighborhood. People realize how important this kind of thing is and they are extremely responsible with masks and social distancing and keeping their groups to less than five on their lawn or on their property or on the street to watch these things," Lucier said.
"There's a level of respect for live music that I have never seen before. And it's obviously because people have been removed from it for so long, but it speaks volumes to the community to be able to back these artists, this many of them in a pandemic. And it speaks volumes to the artists' talent that they have been rewarded so heartily for their efforts because they're just so gifted," he continued.
He said the initiative has been such a success so far that he plans to keep it going post-pandemic.