It was almost six months ago that Toronto folk-inspired singer-songwriter Megan Bonnell first performed in the rustic confines of Parkindale Hall, located almost 45 minutes south-southwest of Moncton.
Although the venue’s location may not be central to any of New Brunswick’s major cities, it has managed to attract both a dedicated core of fans as well as a wide array of talent from right across the country, including Nova Scotia’s Old Man Luedecke, Ben Caplan, and Great Lake Swimmers.
As Bonnell looks forward to returning to Parkindale Hall to perform this Friday night, she shares how special – and seemingly rare – such venues are in the bigger picture of the Canadian music scene.
“Admittedly, going into my first shows at Parkindale this past March, I had no idea what to expect, but it ended up being one of the most magical places I’ve ever played, and not just because of the lack of cell service,” she says, referring to the venue’s remote location.
“Having the opportunity to just completely disconnect from the outside world for a little while, and take in just how engaged the surrounding community is when it comes to putting on these shows. It made for an incredibly special day.”
While many artists touring Canada are often forced to contend with chatty crowds in the nation’s nightclubs, Bonnell says having the opportunity to perform at Parkindale Hall is a breath of fresh [country] air.
“In a bar, it’s fair for people to be chatting, but it can make it tough to really connect with the audience. In a setting like Parkindale Hall, people are more willing to listen and want to be there, which allows you to make an intensely more personal connection with the audience. There are great aspects of playing in big cities, but it’s hard to rival the genuine appreciation you get when playing small towns.”
With two albums already behind her – 2013’s Hunt and Chase and last year’s superb Magnolia – and a third due for release in 2018, Bonnell’s love of music dates to her tenure as a student. Although she ended up studying classical voice while still in high school, she chose an entirely different route when it came time to pursue post-secondary education.
“I ended up studying English and political science at the University of Toronto, even though I was always pretty sure I wasn’t ever going to use it in a direct way,” she says, with a smile piercing her voice.
While still a student, Bonnell continued moonlighting musically, playing shows in Toronto’s vibrant music scene when her academic schedule allowed.
Interestingly, it was the people Bonnell met while working as a barista at her part-time job at Ella’s Uncle Café in Toronto that afforded her the opportunity to musically flourish.
“Toronto can be a tough nut to crack, but working at Ella’s provided me the chance to meet all these amazing people from the local music community, from producers to band members and everyone in between. It was such an inspirational place to be. Before working there, I had been living in a bit of a bubble trying to find my way in music. The path just became that much clearer when I started working at Ella’s Uncle. To me, it’s where the city really came to life, and is where I ended up meeting some of my dearest friends,” she says.
What: Megan Bonnell
When: Friday Sept. 8, 8 p.m.
Where: Parkindale Hall, 3434 Route 895, Elgin
Tickets are $10, available at the door.