Saying goodbye is never easy, but it’s always a lot more fun when the occasion features great live music in a room full of friends and acquaintances.
On Saturday, Nov. 30, more than 400 local music lovers turned out for the final show under the Canal Street Tavern name and to honor club founder Mick Montgomery, who sold the club in 2012. The Future Laureates and Shrug performed enthusiastic sets to a packed room full of appreciative music fans who reveled in a last chance to take in a show before new owner Bill Daniels and manager Shaine Sullivan changed the venue’s name to Canal Public House.
“I was flabbergasted,” Montgomery said. “I’m a huggy person, but there were really a lot of people out that wanted to give me a hug and say thanks. It was like that at the Pyschodots’ show on Wednesday too.”
Montgomery was originally contracted to stay on as the club’s booker for five years. However, after a heart attack in late 2012, two subsequent hospitalizations and disagreements with the new owners, he decided to walk away and take the name with him.
That Saturday night was emotional. There were tears, but there was also plenty of laughter and goodwill because of the positive memories Canal Street Tavern generated over the years.
“People usually only get together like this when somebody dies so I was glad I was out of the hospital in time to get out for both shows,” Montgomery said. “I’ve seen so many people I haven’t seen in years. It’s been amazing and a little overwhelming.”
Legacy of a listening room
Unless you’re writing a book the length of “War & Peace,” it’s hard to adequately put into words the impact Montgomery and his 225-seat listening room had on Dayton. The club, which opened at 308 E. First St. in late 1981, had an eclectic booking policy, hosting everything from folk, blues and country rock to bluegrass, indie rock and punk.
Canal Street hosted internationally known acts such as Mary Chapin Carpenter, Los Lobos, the Del McCoury Band, Leo Kottke and Bela Fleck & the Flecktones. The intimate venue also served as an incubator for the city’s original music scene, nurturing teenage musicians just starting out, established acts and older musicians taking their own first stabs at live performance.
“The plan when we first opened was to focus on national acts,” Montgomery said. “We discovered that first summer that it was hard to compete with the bigger outdoor venues for touring acts. In 1983 we started the Dayton Band Playoffs to help keep the club booked during the summer. It also turned out to be a great way for us to find out about some of the new bands in town.”
Although Oakwood native Danny Surico left the area for college nearly a decade ago, Canal Street has been a regular stop since his Chicago-based band The Future Laureates formed in 2008.
“The venue has had a major impact on our development,” Surico said “It’s served as a mirror of and forum for our development over the years. We first played Canal Street Tavern shortly after forming as a band, when we were raw and unpolished, but full of energy and enthusiasm. Mick gave us an opportunity and we seized upon it and never looked back.”
Surico and his bandmates relished having one last opportunity to perform in the club.
“Saturday night was undeniably special and maybe even a little spiritual,” he said. “It was the first time we felt truly worthy to play at Canal Street Tavern, and the biggest reason for that was the palpable, positive energy exuding from the audience that lifted us up. Playing with Shrug required us to rise to the occasion, too, because of the high esteem they’ve earned as such a mainstay in the Dayton rock scene, not to mention their impeccable musicianship. To be able to share the stage with them and so many open-hearted music lovers was a feeling we won’t forget.”
Moving forward musically
“Seeing that over 400 people came to support Mick’s last show was a major demonstration as to why Canal Street Tavern and Mick are such a major thing to Dayton, Ohio music, and nationally too,” said local show promoter and former Canal Street Tavern employee Louie Wood Jr. “And I say ‘are’ because Mick isn’t done booking shows in the area. There is still much more to come.”
Montgomery will continue to book shows at other venues as Canal Street Productions. He has partnered with Wood for the annual Dayton Does Dayton Festival at Gilly’s on Feb. 14-15.
“I’m honored and very pleased Mick is a copartner for Dayton Does Dayton number four,” Wood said. “I couldn’t ask for a better person to help me with this show. I think it’s a great idea for people to support Mick’s first concert booking outside of the 308 E. First St. location at this major Dayton event.”
While Montgomery has moved on, Sullivan promises Canal Public House will continue to make live music its primary focus. The first show under the new name was Jordan Hull on Friday. Buffalo Killers will headline the official grand opening next Saturday.
“I want people to know we’re going to keep the live music tradition alive,” Sullivan said. “We’ll still be doing Musicians Co-op on Tuesday nights. We’ve got the same people running it and it’s been going really well.”
Sullivan says there will be some changes.
“We’ll be doing a few upgrades,” he said. “We’ve launched the new Web site and I’ll be working on that and improving it as we go along. We’ll be selling tickets online and we will also have the ability soon for people to pay at the door with credit cards. We’re trying to keep a lot of things the same but it’s also important to do some of these changes.”