After nearly a year, local and Canadian musicians once again have a performing home at the Jackson-Triggs Niagara estate on Niagara Stone Road.
The winery will be showcasing area musicians every Friday, Sunday and on holiday Mondays until the end of October, says estate manager Sreejith Sasikumar.
Saturdays will be dedicated to artists from other regions, such as Toronto, Hamilton and Montreal.
“I’m just finalizing some details on Juno award winners coming in,” said Rob Richardson, president of Marquis Entertainment, which handles programming and bookings for Jackson-Triggs’ events.
Shows will be held outside with the artist on a makeshift stage built in a demonstration sunroom from Lumon Canada Inc.
“This is the perfect portable stage for us,” Richardson said.
The portable stage has an overhang to protect the performer from rain, as well as a heat reflective roof to keep the area cool on blistering summer days.
“Pure luxury, the Jackson-Triggs way!” he said.
The winery has a large amphitheatre that has seen big acts perform on its stage, including the Tragically Hip in 2012.
The amphitheatre has not been used since 2019 due to the pandemic. Last summer, a smaller stage was used to keep hosting Canadian musicians.
“We started a long series again just to try and stay connected to music, to show that we still care about Canadian and Ontario musicians and local musicians,” Richardson said.
“We’ve been supporting Canadian musicians for over 20 years and we really want to continue that,” Sasikumar said.
One of the silver linings of the pandemic has been the strengthening of the community web, something that Jackson-Triggs is taking part in by preparing to sell local merchandise at the winery.
“We bring them in and we sell their product in Jackson-Triggs. So, kind of a win-win situation for both. They do us a favour and we do a favour for them,” Sasikumar said.
Products will start to roll out over the next few weeks, he said. One of the first items to be sold in the winery's shop will be cheese from the Upper Canada Cheese Company based in Jordan, Ont.
For the time being, the estate is going to focus on shows on its small stage, even with the announcement from the provincial government that Step 3 of the reopening plan starts this Friday, July 16.
That phase allows venues and concert halls to open with a 50 per cent capacity for indoor seated venues or 1,000 people, whichever comes first. Outdoor concert venues with no set seating can have up to 75 per cent capacity or 5,000 people.
“75 per cent for us, will it cut it? Maybe,” Sasikumar said.
“We want to make sure that it’s COVID-safe and that we are providing a safe environment for the artists and our guests.”
Even if the numbers make sense, it will be a while before any events are held at the amphitheatre.
“Probably we are looking at September,” Sasikumar said.
The winery also wants to ensure that it is booking artists that reflect the level of quality that Jackson-Triggs strives for as a business, according to Richardson
That is why they hired Katie Gatta to perform the first show of the year last Friday.
Gatta is a Niagara-based musician who was born in Welland and now lives in St. Catharines.
She said she was excited to be back at Jackson-Triggs, playing her first show of the year.
“It feels good but it’s a little strange. This is the longest stretch I’ve ever had without playing,” she told The Lake Report.
“It’s nice to slowly feel it come back. When the thinking finally turns off and you’re like, ‘Oh, yeah. I do remember how to do this!’,” the 29-year-old singer said.
Not being able to play throughout the pandemic didn’t stop Gatta. She recorded and recently released a new album called "Idle Hands" under the name Sleepy Jean.
“It's equal parts inspired by 1950s and '60s singer-songwriters and old jazz standards.”
She said she is inspired by singers like Billie Holiday, Etta James, Joni Mitchell and Otis Redding, and brought an amalgamation of those styles to Jackson-Triggs first show of the 2021 summer season.
Evan Saunders, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Lake Report