After building a successful Friday night music series at The Elks Lodge on Bentinck Street in Sydney, local music company We Unite! Music found themselves without a venue when the Elks closed in October 2013.
“I approached the Fox Den quickly after the closure of the Elks,” says Joe Costello of We Unite! Music. “They did not have a lounge license at the time but were in the process of acquiring one. I had six other bars approach me about shows, from taking over a night of their bookings to just doing more regular events at their location, but the Fox Den was the best fit because of the size, location, and arrangement they were able to make with We Unite! Music.”
“We ended up booking our two Sydney dates of December’s We Unite! Tour at the Fox Den. Both shows, headlined by Black Tooth Grinn and Iron Giant respectively, did very well and feedback was positive about the location. The bar was ready to start doing events right away, but I decided that a proper lead in was necessary.”
So Costello started plotting out the We Unite at the Fox Den concert series, which has been running now since the beginning of February. And to help promote the shows, We Unite! Music has released a free twelve track mixtape of bands playing there in February and March.
“The idea came from old CBLocals compilations I used to pick up at shows in the late ’90s / early 2000s,” explains Costello. “I always thought it was cool to get a mix of music that challenged your tastes and comfort zones. Maybe you find a new band you’ve never heard before. Maybe you attend a show that before you might not have interest in. Selling compilations has always been a challenge, so people have kind of stopped putting them out. I think that’s a bummer, and I hope to buck that trend in this ‘free download’ format.”
For Costello, the mixtape is all about getting more exposure for local music.
“I think, in our music scene, recorded music often takes a backburner to live presentation. That said, so many local and traveling bands have a backlog of music in various states of release that should be heard. The mixtape is a way to get this music out there for the We Unite! Music audience to hear. Our audience has been quite loyal over the last number of years, so whenever we can give them something to show our appreciation I do my best to do so.”
The mixtape features three groups nominated for 2014 ECMA Awards: The Tom Fun Orchestra (nominated for Entertainer of the Year/Rock Album of the Year); Black Moor (nominated for Loud Album of the Year); and Scientists of Sound (Electronic Album of the Year). Also included on the album are emerging local artists Black Tooth Grinn and The High Tide as well as Toronto’s Partycat.
Costello is pleased with the lineup and everybody’s willingness to participate.
“The only bands that turned down the opportunity were bands that did not have suitable music to release. Everyone else, including Toronto’s Partycat, Halifax’s Scientists of Sound, and local rising stars The Tom Fun Orchestra, were nothing but supportive and got tracks to me nearly immediately.”
It’s too early to say if the mixtape is having an impact on attendance at the shows, but for Costello, that’s really secondary to getting the music out there.
“We Unite! Music does concert promotion because I love it. Our group of individuals work very hard in every aspect to make sure the production, promotion, and presentation are as strong as we can make them. I think this mixtape is just one more way we can be innovative in our promotional effort while also saying to our audience, ‘Hey, we dig that you help us do what we love to do.'”
WE UNITE! AT THE FOX DEN is a weekly concert series occurring each Saturday night at The Fox Den in Ashby. All concerts are 19+ and admission will be charged at 10pm with music to follow shortly afterwards.
The concert series continues with The High Tide / Thirty Aught Six (March 8); Tom Fun Orchestra (March 15); and Black Moor (March 22). The mixtape download is free and can be found at weuniterecords.bandcamp.com.