Blowing the (Steam) Whistle on Boring
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Blowing the (Steam) Whistle on Boring

Photo from Unsigned January 2009 by Robert Ciofli. Courtesy of Steam Whistle.

Chris Goddard really likes his job. As the marketing manager for Steam Whistle Brewing, he, along with Events Administrator Matt Weed, decided that instead of competing with mega-brewers’ money for sponsorship at the city’s best music festivals or shows, they’d throw their own party. “[Steam Whistle] had been partnering up with various festivals over the years, but it was hard to set ourselves apart from the rest of the logos on the poster. One of the bigger breweries would decide that they wanted to sponsor indie music, and once their cheque book came out, we were history. It made us evaluate what we really wanted to do with indie bands and how we could get that done without having to worry about getting bumped, and that’s when we came up with Unsigned.”
Started in 2007, the Unsigned Indie Music Series showcases some of the city’s best indie bands (Woodhands, Rural Alberta Advantage) for cheap cover (five bucks!) in an economically minded venue (by night, the green-friendly Roundhouse is a five-hundred-person-capacity live music room). If all this rainbows-and-kittens good stuff isn’t enough, all proceeds are donated to local music-related charities. This week’s show will be another for the Artists’ Health Centre Foundation, which to date has reaped over ten thousand dollars in donations from Unsigned. The centre provides health care for professional artists who may not have the means to pay for non-OHIP-covered treatment of profession-related problems. Joan Smith is the singer in local snarky blues-rock duo Little Foot Long Foot. The band will be playing this week’s Unsigned, and Smith agrees that the cause is indeed worthy. “The equation I am used to is musician plus day job plus touring equals contract work, and contract work equals no medical coverage. In all honesty, neither [drummer Isaac Klein nor I] had ever heard of the foundation until this show. I certainly wish I had heard about it sooner. It’s an excellent idea, and I’ll be sure to spread the word from now on.”
And the good deeds don’t stop there. “Cherry Beach Sound offered to record, produce, mix, and master a single for each of the bands that play Unsigned, which we thought would be a great resource for some of the smaller bands,” Goddard enthuses. “I have to say, working for a brewery already walks the line of mixing business with pleasure, but when we started building this series, it made it almost all pleasure.” Beer: world’s biggest softie.
The Unsigned Indie Music Series happens Friday September 18 at Steam Whistle (255 Bremner Blvd.). On the bill are Little Foot Long Foot, Foxfire, and Machetes, plus a special guest DJ. Doors at 8:30 p.m. $5.