Ryan McAllister has seen the music industry from the very pinnacle as a star, signed to Madonna’s record label and performing in big venues with his band Dakona.
He’s also seen the old music industry business model collapse in the years since then, with the internet changing everything as contemporary music fans consume their favorite tunes digitally — often for free. Performance venues have also shrunk, as the burgeoning real estate market has led to favorite hotspots becoming too valuable and being redeveloped for other purposes.
“Here in Abbotsford we have the Fieldhouse, which seats 40 to 50 people, and we have the Abbotsford Centre which seats 7,000, and not a lot in between,” says McAllister.
So McAllister leapt at the opportunity to showcase artists at the Community Room at High Street mall at Mount Lehman Road. The ‘Listen Local Concert Series’ kicks off this coming Friday, Sept. 28, from 7 to 10 p.m. and over the next three Friday evenings will showcase three artists and bands each night.
“Tanya and Alyssa book the High Street’s Community Room and are proactive and big arts supporters. They have generously made those four prime Friday evenings available to us for this series,” said McAllister. “There is seating for up to 150 people and it has good sound and lighting, with big glass windows that makes it a welcoming space.”
Over the past decade and a half McAllister has developed a recording studio called Five Acres Studios at the family’s Bradner farm, where he has produced, engineered and arranged recordings for artists from across the Fraser Valley and beyond. Many of those artists will be showcased at the concert series.
He’s also developed the Valley Music Co. and its website, which links to a playlist of these artists on Spotify, where music fans can “test drive” the tunes and discover new homegrown music.
“We have the 100-Mile Diet so I figured this would do the same for musicians. Get to know these artists and others on our Listen Local Spotify playlist (http://valleymusic.co/listenlocal) and then join us at High Street for four Friday nights of great live music from B.C. artists, and beers and wine from local breweries and wineries,” says McAllister.
“There is so much information out there on the internet, a sea of musicians, so Valley Music Co. is a way for us to rally together instead of competing with friends. The artists involved are all unique and original songwriters, I don’t know what to call the format — Canadiana, perhaps? It’s refreshing to join other songwriters and work together instead of always just pumping out the old familiar pop-rock hits, which I also do at random gigs where it’s called for to pay the bills.”
There will be three bands per night for four Friday nights featuring: Sept. 28th, North Country Gentlemen, Prairie Dance Club and Jonathan Inc.; Oct. 5th, JJ Shiplett, Crescent Sky and Zaac Pick; Oct. 12th, Ryan McAllister, Chilladelphia and Greg Neufeld; Oct. 19th, Coalmont, Jamison Isaak and Under the Rocks.
The first night has McAllister’s new group, North Country Gentlemen as headliners. McAllister and his cousin Barnaby McRae will trade off lead vocals as well as harmonize with each other, backed by the band of guitarist Jason Davies, bassist Jeremy Friesen and drummer Jay Stewart, and the band will also be augmented by a couple of guest musicians that night.
McAllister will also headline the Oct. 12 concert, featuring music from his forthcoming solo CD.
“It’s been 20 years now since I quit my server job at the ABC restaurant in Aldergrove to go into the music business, through all the ups and downs, and raising four kids with my wife,” says McAllister. “But I think the people who are in this business for life are doing it for the right reasons — being creative and expressing their art.”
Advance tickets for the Listen Local Concert Series are $15 per night or $20 at the door. A Concert Series Pass (four Fridays, 12 bands) is available until Sept. 28th for the special price of $50. These shows are for ages 19 and up, please. Tickets are available online at www.valleymusic.co/.
High Street mall is located at 3122 Mt. Lehman Road, Abbotsford, and the Community Room is next to the Starbucks.