By Justin Allec

Bless these local bands, for they are doing good work. Bless them even if they play out-of-tune or off-time. Bless them for their cover songs and their originals. Bless them even though they aren’t “your thing” and you mostly think they suck. Bless them because those aren’t faults—they are the hurdles that every band must surmount to become listenable. 

These local bands play your local venues, over and over, all for your $5. These bands play on Mondays, on Thursdays, on Boxing Day, and the day after St. Patrick’s Day. They play to empty rooms and bored bar staff. They play to their friends and partners and parents—but they really want to play for you. They play for free, or for beer, or simply the chance to get paid for their art in cash instead of “experience.” Bless them because $5 is a small token to see greatness, even if it doesn’t always sound great.

Inflation has affected everything, except for the tithe you pay to get in. Consistently, and if there’s no touring headliner, local shows have been $5. Dane Newbold of The Foundry puts it this way: “Five dollars is the accepted charge for live entertainment… so [when we opened] we adopted the same model. It hasn’t ever increased, and honestly it has been the community standard for the last 20 years.” You aren’t paying that $5 to get into the venue; you’re actually paying for the entertainment the venue has arranged to increase your enjoyment. Additionally, Newbold points out that the admission revenue is always pushed forward to book the next set of acts, which means that attending a show one night helps guarantee a future night out.

Not many people are going to get rich playing music anymore, so the $5 that venue charges isn’t going to change a musician’s fortune. What it is going to do is encourage them to practise hard, write good songs, work their stage presence, and take pride in their name. “I’m sure if we scrapped the cover and charged more for booze and advertised free shows, we could get a crowd some nights,” says Onur Altinbilek of Black Pirates Pub. “But that usually only works for a couple of weeks and then the venue dies out.” The caveat about your $5 is that it also indicates that the show will be worth seeing—especially true since our city is such a pressure cooker for talent.

In April 2018, much hullabaloo was made of a British study conducted by behavioural scientist Patrick Fagan and commissioned by venue giant O2, which found that found that going to concerts was good for your health. Feelings of well-being, comradery, and mental stimulation all showed dramatic increases in test subjects during a live musical performance, which apparently translates into longevity. The day after a show might be a different story, but when you’re on the dance floor and a band is doing their best to get the crowd moving, it’s a different feeling from queuing up season eight of Dynasty on the idiot box.

Don’t like being out late, or fighting for cabs, or dealing with the cold? You should still go. Go see the symphony, go see your kid’s school musical, get out of your comfort zone. Have an awesome night or a terrible one, and be amazed at how far $5 can take you.