The Cameron House Turns 30
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The Cameron House Turns 30

With three decades and a new record label to its name, the historic Cameron House prepares to throw a massive bash.

Photo by {a href=""}kcnickerson{/a}, from the {a href=""}Torontoist Flickr pool{/a}.

Remember when there was talk about the Cameron House going up for sale in late 2009? Well, don’t. The historic Queen West institution, which helped to launch the careers of such now-storied acts as Blue Rodeo and Ron Sexsmith, is on the cusp of its 30th birthday, an occasion that will see the bar reunited with artists from its past and present.

“The actual official birthday is the 15th, which is the Saturday, but we’re kind of doing the whole week,” says new manager Cosmo Ferraro, whose uncle, Paul Sanella, has been one of the establishment’s co-owners since its 1981 inception. Ferraro then proceeds to list off the week’s formidable roster, which will include members of the Sadies, Big Sugar, Run with the Kittens, the Fedora Upside Down collective, and actor/poet Gordon Pinsent, as well as some very special “surprise” guests. The performances are scheduled to start on October 10th.

Since its sell-off scare, the bar has been a busy place. After Ferraro took over management, he and his high-school friend Mike McKeown set off to further the Cameron House’s legacy of fostering new and homegrown musical talent with a leap of faith, launching the Cameron House Records label this January. So far there are three artists tied to the label (including Devin Cuddy, son of Jim), all working on their first albums. “They’re all very fresh,” says McKeown. “But so are we, so it’s a good partnership. We work together to benefit the both of us, I guess. They’re all great musicians and they all deserve to have some help.”

Ferraro and McKeown haven’t run record labels before, but they both have business degrees and Ferraro plays in a band with his brothers. Additionally, as McKeown points out, with 15 to 20 bands playing the space on any given week, “We get to see a shitload of music, and we get to see who we really like and who we think has a lot of potential. And that being said, there’s a lot of [artists] that have come through here and done residencies here before moving onto bigger and better things.” Justin Rutledge and Royal Wood are two of the acts who have recently risen to prominence following Cameron House residencies, but over the years there have been dozens more.

The bar’s 30th birthday events will be a celebration of that musical history. “It’s a huge favour,” says McKeown of the number of high-profile musicians who have signed on to perform. “Some of these guys play all the time for tons of money, but here they are playing for us for basically nothing. I think that says something, that they’re willing to do us a favour.”

Ferraro agrees. “We think they’re doing us a huge favour, and I think they’re also appreciative that we’re asking them to come back and play. It’s a nice relationship.”

“It’s exciting,” says McKeown. “And this is just the beginning.”