In two months, Ottawa’s newest live music venue will open in Old Ottawa South, and it promises to be a gathering place not just for concertgoers but for the whole music community.
Red Bird, located at 1165 Bank Street, is the passion project of musician Geoff Cass, a member of local folk outfit Gentlemen of the Woods and a former employee of Dovercourt Recreation Centre and the Bluesfest School of Music and Art. Red Bird is a combination of both those careers—not just a live music venue, but also a functional music school.
The venue is still two months from opening, but Cass’s vision for the space is airtight. A local coffee shop will run the café—he’s keeping his lips sealed for now about which one—and he’s got working partnerships with local breweries.
“We’re looking to partner with companies that do good things, that have the same culture that we will have,” he says. “Making sure that we’re involved in the community.”
For musicians, the space will have a devoted green room. Sonically, Red Bird is an Americana, folk rock, and bluesgrass venue—Cass said he doesn’t want to compete with House of TARG up the road, and Americana is the kind of music he creates and listens to. He moved into the space on July 1, ready to take the plunge from musician to venue owner and community-builder.
“I know that people thrive on this sort of thing, of being part of a community.”
“I know that people thrive on this sort of thing, of being part of a community, having someplace to go and something to be a part of,” Cass says. In that vein, people will be able to put on impromptu jam sessions when the stage isn’t being used—Cass plans on lining the walls with used instruments visitors can play while at the venue.
Speaking to Cass, it’s obvious that community and neighbourhood camaraderie is at the heart of Red Bird. In fact, the menu—all Italian-inspired finger foods—is being created by his neighbour. He’s been impressed at people’s willingness to step up and help when they hear there’s a new music venue on the horizon.
While Ottawa always needs more venues, Red Bird plans to go above and beyond by creating a community space—for adults looking to get a few beers and catch some local tunes, and for kids honing their own musical talents in the same building as the professional musicians they might someday become. There are four small private studios for music lessons in the space.
“Parents can sit out here and have a cup of coffee or a beer while they wait, and kids can come through this really cool venue and be inspired by that. I think it’ll go a long way to growing that passion for music.”
“I hope to have a roster of 20 to 25 music teachers teaching all the time,” Cass says of his vision for the venue. “I told bands that there’s no private soundcheck, that there’s going to be kids coming back and forth for their lessons.”
“Parents can sit out here and have a cup of coffee or a beer while they wait, and kids can come through this really cool venue and be inspired by that. I think it’ll go a long way to growing that passion for music,” Cass says.
Red Bird aims to move beyond evening shows by hosting matinee shows on weekends as well as shows for families. It’ll be a space for music students and listeners alike—and for people who want “craft beer or a quart of 50,” as Cass puts it.
With the venue scheduled to open October 1, Cass is currently working on Red Bird’s first few lineups—he says promoters are excited about the new space—and finalizing the roster of music teachers, all while renovating the empty space into a premier venue.
“I want a really great place for bands to play, whether you’re touring from the States or live around the corner,” he says.