This past December the Horseshoe Tavern turned 65, becoming one of Canada’s oldest live music bars.
For almost 20 of those 65 years, Dave “Bookie” Bookman has been hosting “Nu Music Nite” every Tuesday, where unknown talent takes the stage.
“So [we] have a night where it’s free, it can be community oriented, and people can come out,” says Bookie. “You have a big band, a small band, and you share the stage.”
That’s The Horseshoe’s legacy. A place where music comes first and anything can happen.
The Rolling Stones, The Tragically Hip, The Foo Fighters and many others have challenged the Horseshoe’s maximum occupancy during surprise shows.
“If you’re a musician you imagine yourself playing on the hallowed ground,” says Bookman. “Much like fabled arenas and stadiums like Yankee Stadium or Wrigley Field, Fenway Park, Maple Leaf Gardens, or Madison Square Garden.”
From the music fans’ point of view, the Horseshoe a great place to see huge acts on a small stage.
“For 25-year old music fans you’ve got pictures of your favourite bands playing there and you’re hearing about events that happened there,” says Bookman. “Especially special events, like bands having seminal gigs there, coming back to play small gigs.”
Nu Music Nite is about both sides of the stage – giving fans new sounds and giving musicians new fans. The result is a perfect environment for aspiring rock stars to get their big break. Several Canadian acts have kicked off their careers in the tiny backroom venue.
“I know Nickelback had the people fly in from Roadrunner [records] to see them specifically,” says Bookie. “After their Tuesday night set here, they got signed.”
The Horseshoe doesn’t discriminate – it doesn’t have a specific style, no image to conform to. It’s not too big or too small for any act. True to tradition, Bookie’s had over 3000 bands play Nu music Nite over the years. He says this is an important part of the event’s success.
“The magic is in the music and the music is in the Horseshoe,” says Bookie.
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by Alan Carter, Mia Sheldon, Nick Goldhawk