Music has been a huge part of my life in many ways for as long as I can remember, but live music has a much bigger part of my heart than anything else. So it was egregiously saddening that on the night of December 8th, while I was scrolling through Instagram for a better part of twenty-five minutes, I saw a post from a fellow Winnipeg photographer Joey Senft. Senft was The Garrick’s house photographer for the past fifteen years. Joey’s post was bidding farewell to her position and the historic Winnipeg music venue itself, which has now closed down permanently -this time, the venue has fallen victim to COVID-19. Days following scrolling to the post, I wanted to make a post on my social media pages about my favourite concert venue, but I couldn’t find the words to fit within a character limit. That brings us to this writing about all the concerts and memories I’ve shared within The Garrick.
Fifty-nine. That’s the total number of shows I have seen at The Garrick over the past twelve years. If I was attending simply as a fan or even photographing or reviewing the shows for Reasonably Late, it was always a blast when you stepped foot through those two sets of doors that led to a carpeted lobby that to this day still had its look from when it was just a movie theater. I’ve seen several upon several talents perform at the venue -of all genres across the board. My first time stepping foot into The Garrick was February 4th, 2008, with my dad to see Silverstein, The Devil Wears Prada, Protest The Hero, and IllScarlett as a birthday gift from a month earlier -that my dad still regrets to this day, by the way. I couldn’t tell you then that would have been a form of love at first sight kind of situation for some of my favourite live music moments. Incredibly, I haven’t stepped foot in any other venue in Winnipeg as much as I did The Garrick.
I’m eternally grateful for The Garrick for not only shaping the love of live music that has developed inside of me but I would’ve never even thought I had a chance of stepping into a photo pit if it wasn’t for the long list of shows I was fortunate to shoot at the venue. There’s a list that’s a kilometer and a half long of reasons why I love this venue, but I don’t want to bore anyone. However, one of the most wonderful things I still love The Garrick for to this very day is all the friendships I’ve had the opportunity to create while frequenting the venue for the numerous shows I’ve had the pleasure of observing in the flesh.
If it wasn’t for this wonderful venue, I would’ve never driven myself to attempt my hand at concert photography. Something I’ve forever had a passion for since before I even attended my very first concert. If anyone is curious, that first show I ever attended was My Chemical Romance in 2007 while the band was on The Black Parade Tour. However, I didn’t think I would be able to step foot into concert photography. A few years back, I took online photo courses and borrowed a camera from a friend before I committed to an entire rig of my own. The following year, I got my first camera. To get into the groove of things, I hit up a few free outdoor shows throughout Winnipeg. These being part of the Winnipeg Jazz Festival and the many Jeux du Canada Games shows at The Forks. I was thrilled with what these shows produced for me that I took it upon myself to create a “photo bucket list.” My wonderful friend Matt Harrison, who at approximately the same time just started Reasonably Late and knowing I’d need a publication to post coverage of shows -I have now been more than grateful to have shot- we formed a partnership to bring you coverage from countless shows over the last three years and counting. Fast forward to December 2, 2017, one of my first string of shows I had permission to photograph. This particular show was One Bad Son, at your guessed it, The Garrick.
My full circle concert photography moment came pretty early after I ventured into the field, and it led me to shoot Silverstein for the second time. I saw the band the first time a month shy of eleven years prior. Again, what I’ve stated previously was my first time walking through the double set of doors. My first major gig working for a touring act also happened within The Garrick’s four walls. June 22, 2019, I will never forget this night. Elijah Woods x Jamie Fine performed a headlining set in the city as part of the Winnipeg Jazz Festival. Working for Elijah and Jamie for the night, I was tasked with joining the band on stage to capture their nightly stage selfie. I will never forget the echoing of Elijah’s voice announcing to the crowd inside The Garrick welcoming quote, “Sam, the photographer to the stage.” I’m getting goosebumps just replaying the memory in my head. This night will forever be one of the best nights I have had while inside this venue that holds such an immeasurable place in my heart.
What may have been the last show I both captured and spectated as a fan inside The Garrick transpired on February 15, 2020, with The Beaches and special guests Hunny. Reflecting on this concert during the last few days, it couldn’t have been the perfect show to go out on when I give it such a thoughtful gaze. The show went on without a hitch. The sold-out crowd brought newfound enthusiasm I haven’t joined in, in some time, and of the nine concerts of 2020 I attended before COVID-19 took what I cherish most and put the entire world on hold, it was incomparably one of my favourites. It was just simply the overall best-rounded night of this long and fraught year.
The Garrick has been through thick and thin. It’s seen the changing of hands from its owners, managers, and alike over the nearly two decades operating as a concert venue. There have been times of uncertainty in the past under various names, The Garrick Centre at The Marlborough, Garrick Centre -and most recently named to what everyone called it anyway- The Garrick. Every time it has always come out thriving more than it had before. For now, in this time of uncertainty with COVID-19, the venue stands a much bigger purpose than music. Going onward, it’s been announced the venue will act as a COVID-19 testing center as of last week. Until the day music can return, may The Garrick be used in a new capacity for a greater sense of good. Hopefully, the music venue can come out of the dark times once again when it’s all blown over and be handed over to another owner looking to continue the legacy The Garrick has created as more than just another room for live music in Winnipeg. One thing continues to remain constant while I reminisce on The Garrick, I’m not ready to let the venue go.