Madison Violet, up Close and Wonderfully Personal

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With musicians who have been around for as long as Madison Violet, who have racked up so much critical acclaim throughout the years, and who have such a broad collective range of vocal and instrumental talent, you know that any performance of theirs is bound to be incredible. Even so, I was thrilled at just how much of a joy it was to host them in our home. Such was a stop on their latest tour in support of their new (and absolutely stunning) album, Everything’s Shifting.

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Live and Local with Kamloops’ Mother Sun

55594266_2309097012466415_6987901486965456896_oIn the year or so of its existence, McArthur Castle has welcomed musicians from all across Canada: Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Québec, British Columbia. But we had yet to feature anyone from Kamloops, the city in which our living room venue is based. So when we spotted local band Mother Sun in the Side Door booking system that we’re so fond of using, we were eager to connect with them. And are we ever glad we did!
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The Candlelit Nocturnes of Laura Reznek and ursidae

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As recent operators of home-based music venue McArthur Castle, my wife and I are continually learning better ways to optimize sound, lighting, promotion, seating, etc. At our latest show, for instance, we learned that taper candles give off a surprising amount of warmth—more so in combination with body heat than could be compensated for by opening all our windows and the front door (apologies to any member of the audience who got a little sweaty!). But they sure did look classy burning on the original brass fixtures of our 1800s piano, and provided a fitting ambience for the folk-noir style of Vancouver/London singer and multi-instrumentalist Laura Reznek.

Laura and fellow artist ursidae visited our home for a performance booked by Side Door as the latter stop of a weekend “K” tour between Kelowna and Kamloops. The two had separate sets prepared to showcase their respective songs, though the concert felt like one extended glorious performance, with each providing musical support to the other.
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Music from the Maritimes: Rachel Beck and Adyn Townes in Kamloops, BC

20181010_203132It had been awhile since my wife and I last teamed up with Side Door to host some choice contemporary music at our home, but with the business of summer over and the outside chill of autumn upon us we were ready to fill our living room again with the warmth of kind strangers and beautiful noise.

Enter artists Rachel Beck and Adyn Townes (he previously known as Andy Brown), both of whom have had hits featured on the CBC (check out the former’s “Reckless Heart” and the latter’s “Run”).
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An Evening with Logan & Nathan (& Mary!)

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When my wife and I first signed up our living room as a live music venue, we never thought that anything would come of it. But something did, and one show led to another, followed by one more. Upon the successful completion of this, our third gig booked through Side Door Access, we now feel moved to keep our door open to musical acts who are willing to share their craft on a personal level, and who are able to inspire people in the process.

Like Vancouver “freak folk” duo Logan & Nathan, who recently visited Kamloops to grace our makeshift stage along with folk-blues artist and photographer Mary Matheson. Within minutes of welcoming the three of them into our home, I recall thinking “These are my sort of people!” That sort of people being ones who readily embrace each moment, who take genuine interest in strangers, and who approach every interaction from a vantage of open-minded positivity. On top of that, they are all massively talented musicians who sure can entertain a crowd!
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The Art of Authenticity with Desirée Dawson and Jody Okabe

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If you’re a regular listener of the CBC, chances are you know Desirée Dawson as the 2016 Searchlight winner who soared to the top of the competition with her inspirational single “Hide.” You may be less likely to recognize the name Jody Okabe, but trust me, you’ll be hearing plenty about her someday very soon! Both women currently hail from Vancouver and boast melodically commanding voices along with a knack for embracing positivity and fostering personal connectedness (not to mention mad uke skills!).

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of welcoming both of them to Kamloops via an intimate event booked by Side Door Access. After the success of our first experience with the micro-gig company, hosting Tim Baker of Hey Rosetta!, my wife Brittany and I had decided to explore having additional concerts in our home. While perusing a list of artists looking to play in our area, I came across Jody Okabe, then unknown to me but I followed a corresponding link to a video online. There she was sitting on a set of stairs with a Boston terrier in the background, performing a captivating ukulele cover of Fever Ray’s “When I Grow Up.”

Immediately I emailed Brittany, saying “This gal has an amazing voice and great taste in dogs. Let’s invite her to our house!” So once again we offered our living room as a venue, and weeks later we were notified of a potential match, with the addition of Desirée Dawson who we were absolutely thrilled to learn was interested as well. A little bit of back and forth among the various parties involved, and soon the show was set.
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Use the Side Door

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Back in July I heard musician Dan Mangan on my local CBC radio speaking of a brand-new project he had started, called Side Door Access. This would be a platform for connecting musicians with people who are willing to host them in their homes, small businesses, etc., with the idea of fostering intimate performances in communities across the land. What a cool concept!

A few months later, I read online that Side Door was seeking living room venues for an undisclosed A-list artist’s tour in British Columbia and Alberta, with the prerequisite that an acoustic piano must be available on site. As homeowners in Kamloops with a well-kept antique piano, my wife Brittany and I registered our home on a whim under the moniker “McArthur Castle.” Skip ahead to February of this year, and frontman Tim Baker of the widely acclaimed Hey Rosetta! is in the upstairs of our house, treating an up-close and enthralled audience to a set of piano-, guitar- and banjo-based ballads, as well as engaging stories and banter (not to mention some skillful improvised scatting).
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Shambhala the 20th: Can’t Burn Our Spirit!

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It was a decade ago when, while hotboxing the car of a high school acquaintance, that I was told of a magical place filled with music and love, where every stranger is your friend and you can spend the days in costumes climbing tree forts or lounging in hammocks, and the glowing nights engaged in perpetual dance. The sliver of an image conjured in my mind of such a place intrigued me, but became forgotten as days and weeks and months passed and I never saw that person again.

20170812_001119The notion remained latent within me, however, and re-emerged years later when a close friend of mine returned from an adventure in the Kootenays, extolling the beauty and harmony of Shambhala music festival. For him, the journey to the electronic festival became a recurring pilgrimage, and he continuously urged me to join him.

“That’s not really my scene,” I would foolishly say (being at that time a chronic patron of any punk or metal show I could afford to attend), though I did in fact feel quite enticed.

“It’s everyone’s scene,” he assured me.

20170811_202318So finally I went there for a single day, partly thinking if I just went once he’d stop harassing me to go, but also excited at the prospect of attaching personal sensation to what thus far seemed to me a space belonging to a dream. Without getting into detail about that first time (it’s already been written in my past blog post: “Happy Shambs!”), I found the experience to be wondrous, and I went back on another day pass the following year. The next, the same thing, with my wife now coming with me. And this summer, for the festival’s 20th year, she and I scored our first set of tickets for the entire weekend. Having progressed from charmed but tentative newbie into Shambhala enthusiast, I could not wait to properly experience the place that now endlessly calls out to my soul.

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Meat Loaf Night in the Okanagan

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Words by Cory Stumpf
Photos by Robin Arundel

It was the kind of concert that transcends generations. From elderly bikers to high school hipsters, Meat Loaf fans of every ilk filled Penticton’s South Okanagan Events Centre last night. Whether their first experiences with the legendary artist were streamed on Spotify or cranked loudly on 8-track in a beat up old Volkswagen back in the 70s, all united together under a shared passion for his music, and all went wild when the man took the stage.

If there were any concerns that after more than four decades of performing he might not still have what it takes to stir an audience with his vocal prowess, these were dispelled the instant he opened his mouth. Though his singing at moments came out somewhat gravelly, he did his best to bellow the powerful notes that he is known for, ones that many other singers could never hope to hit throughout their whole careers. And when he did pull them off his voice seemed to permeate and shake the space of every atom in the venue. The impressiveness of his ability to still wail like an angelic mammoth at the age of 68, and to come out and do so a mere week after having collapsed on stage at a separate concert in Edmonton, overshadowed any flaws that might have existed. And those flaws really were few and far between.

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