Season three of Capital Slam kicked off last night at the Thirsty Scholar on York! And in case, like many people I've spoken to, you're saying, "Where's that?" . . . well, that's pretty much what I said. But it's a great venue, size- and shapewise. It's next to the Natural Food Pantry - walk down York a little past Dalhousie. I don't think it's been there long in this incarnation, but I could be wrong.
The venue is much more audience-friendly, with a large stage and an empty floor in front of it: no pub-style tables and chairs, so seating can be arranged in rows. There are small floorside tables at the back and space at the bar for those who'd rather lurk (or for the scorekeepers to sit at: I was manning the stopwatch, so I got a great view) and the sight lines are generally pretty good, despite four large pillars at the corners of the audience floor. The sound system is great, and the layout works well - bar off to the side, bathrooms at the back, so no one has to walk in front of the performers. Holds about 200 people, as well, which will come in handy as the season heats up. It was more than comfortable for the 50-75 that arrived last night. I like the look of it, too - lots of dark red paint and wood, nice lighting, and bookshelves all over.
The only problem I have with CPC's new home is that the bar only had two kinds of beer on tap, and they're Blue and Canadian, and only three or four in bottles, and they cost $6 apiece. I saw martini glasses happening, so I assume the mix drink menu is okay, but with the beer prices so high, I'm wondering how much the bar will be able to make off a crowd made up entirely of, face it, poets. But then, the bar, and the bar staff, seemed new, so maybe that'll pick up. And they were friendly enough. Plus, the bar is enough out of the way that you could be sure everyone coming in was coming for the show. We weren't going to be handing an unpleasant shock to someone coming in thinking they were going to watch the game, and getting charged cover for 'some weird-ass poetry show.' Giving it a couple of points over the Gap of Dunloe, although I will miss the availability of both Guinness and food.
And the slam... New this year the show's being hosted by Elissa Molino and Steve Sauve, who tag-team nicely. Looked like the crowd was a nice mix of Slam vets and newbies, so those of us who'd been there before could put in the energy to boo or cheer for the marks - because a certain amount of audience energy really helps the poets. There were a bunch of new and visiting poets too, and it was really good to see a couple of the new poets make it into the second round. New blood!
The feature, Dwayne Morgan, was someone I haven't seen before - although I have the nagging feeling I might have seen him at the WordLympics two years ago. Nice stuff, funny and passionate and really well delivered - and he arrived able to take debit and visa for his books and CDs, which was, as someone else mentioned, most un-poetlike, but very smart.
So, it looks like slam's off to a good start for the year. The next show is on Oct 19th, delayed a bit from the usual second Thursday because of the Canadian Festival of Spoken Word in Toronto (go if you can!)
And while I'm here - This Saturday SAW Gallery is holding a fundraiser, paying tribute to the Le Hibou cafe! $15 to get in ($10 for gallery members), or $30 for a year's membership and free admission to the concert - which features Sneezy Waters, Vince Halfhide and a bunch of other special guests. It's at 8:00 at SAW Gallery (67 Nicholas Street). I'll be out of town, but I think a few other Dusty Owls are going to be there - Le Hibou being our spiritual parent after all.... for more info, check out www.galeriesawgallery.com.