The phrase “If you build it they will come,” was made popular by the 1980s movie Field of Dreams. Although Erik Dickson definitely doesn’t hear voices in his head telling him to build a baseball field, the movie has a slight parallel. Dickson’s experience working in the music industry and living in the downtown St. Catharines area for the past 10 years, has led him to envision a concert venue where musicians could perform in an intimate and acoustically appealing space.
“Our primary function is to provide a concert venue dedicated to live music,” explains Dickson. “Most bookings will be original music, not cover bands,” explains Dickson. Wanting to have a location for local and mainstream artists to share their talents, Dickson began searching for an intimate concert hall perfect for any function requiring exceptional acoustics and a stage. “Over the years I have realized that there are a lot of people in need of an appropriate space for their event, but are unable to find one,” says Dickson.
For the past six years, Dickson has co-owned IndoorShoes Music, a music production company and record label. “Working with Indoorshoes is what has inspired the process of opening a venue as I was planning in other people’s venues,” says Dickson.
Dickson has an impressive list of bookings under his belt. From Paul Langios of the Tragically Hip, Matthew Good Band, Said the Whale, the Sheep Dogs and Ubiquitous Synergy Seeker, he has booked many Canadian artists heard every day on the radio.
One of the most gratifying aspects for Dickson is the ability to bring to the region a venue for artists that hasn’t existed before. “We don’t have a dedicated live music space for this specific context. If you go to Waterloo, which is of the same size as us, there are three venues dedicated solely to live music,” explains Dickson. “In St. Catharines there are bars that host functions but it is not their primary goal.”
With a background in live music promotions and bookings, Dickson has taken his experiences in the industry and applied them to the local music scene. “There is such a thriving music scene in Niagara,” says Dickson who keeps a list of all active artists in the area. “At any one time there are up to 100 active artists that I am aware of,” says Dickson, “There is a disproportionate level for the amount of people here to venues. We could easily fill the calendar with just what is happening locally.”
The Warehouse Concert Hall will provide a venue for local talent to perform in where they may not have been able to crack into the downtown scene before. Subsequently, where mainstream artists may have performed at a larger venue similar to the Ontario Performing Arts Centre, now there is a more intimate space.
Dickson is ecstatic to be delivering a wide range of bands to the city. “I’m pleased to host a variety of musical genres that people otherwise may [have] had to travel outside of the region to see,” says Dickson. “Jazz or blues bands are less common in a bar environment. I am hosting Juno award winner blues musician Steve Strongman from Hamilton,” says Dickson. “That isn’t something I would of done before as a company: I am stepping outside of the box.”
With the understanding that bookings in music often come in waves, Dickson has found his stride with the business side of the music industry. With confirmations of local artists two to three months in advance and six months to a year notice for mainstream artists, the Warehouse Concert Hall will be the go-to spot for everything local in music.
“The difference with the Warehouse Concert Hall is that now I can improve the production value of the concert,” says Dickson, who had his heart and mind set on securing the old carpet store on Geneva Street the first time he saw it. “It’s a small personal environment rather than a seated one,” he explains. “It would fall in the middle between a bar atmosphere and concert space.”
With over 60 individual panels on the ceiling, the Hall’s acoustics will speak for themselves. “You can hear a drastic difference when you talk in the washroom and then in the concert area,” says Dickson. “We want our reputation to be the best place to hear a band.”
The venue is a located in close proximity to Court Street and St. Paul Avenue. There is a parking lot out front of the building and the venue is only a short distance away from the St. Catharines Bus Terminal and additional parking lots.
The Warehouse Venue’s focus on local talent applies not only to the music, but the refreshments as well. “We offer a variety local craft beers and wine,” says Dickson. “We will also have what you get in a normal bar, but with more attention on Ontario craft beers, wine, and spirits,” explains Dickson.
Dickson has lived in the downtown area for just over 10 years. “I was here before the Meridian Centre and Performing Arts Centre. “The music and arts community has always been downtown it just had a different focus. There are so many great businesses downtown, I am excited to be one of them,” explains Dickson, who takes pride in the opportunity to be part of the revitalization at the heart of the city.