Tractorgrease Café is inviting the community to two free concerts on Canada Day weekend and is hoping, in return, folks will donate to help get the café’s feet back firmly on the ground.
The fundraiser music events will be bringing in some much needed money to help out the intimate live music venue located in the Chilliwack River Valley after it had to temporarily stop its Friday Open Mic nights and Sunday jam sessions due to licensing errors, says owner Jeff Bonner.
In B.C., people are not allowed to dance at restaurants unless the establishment has a “patron participation endorsement,” explains Bonner.
He completed the proper paperwork for their liquor licence and patron participation endorsement when they first opened in 2015.
But, when police came and shut down their Open Mic night in September 2018, they stated that according to the B.C. Liquor Control and Licensing Branch, the patron participation was not endorsed.
Since then, it’s taken nine months of paperwork, meetings and emails to get the proper documents in place, and he still doesn’t know when he’ll be given the green light to relaunch his Open Mic and Sunday jam nights.
They’ve been struggling financially. Their Open Mic events were their most profitable night of music throughout the week, and they haven’t been able to host it since September. Bonner even had to lay off staff through the winter.
“Tractorgrease has been stuck between the bureaucracy of liquor laws and what we set out to do in the first place,” says Bonner. “We’re working hard to get back our Open Mic.”
Now they’ve launched a fundraising campaign called Support Live Music at Tractorgrease, and with it comes CDs, T-shirts and a whole lot of free live music.
Since September, they’ve received various letters of support:
“Jeff Bonner and the folks at Tractorgrease have had, and continue to have, a profound impact on the cultural mosaic in Chilliwack. Not only is Jeff a tireless supporter of musical talent, his venue provides an incredible opportunity for artists of all genres a chance to perform,” writes Clint Hames.
“I currently play in a band called Blue Moon Marquee and we have survived solely on music for the last three years. This is not an easy feat and we are able to do it because of venues like Tractorgrease Cafe,” says musician Jasmine Colette.
“When I think about how much struggle life is as a touring musician, venues like Tractorgrease stand tall in the vast field of emptiness as a beacon of hope. This venue opens the opportunity for touring and local musicians to continue their chosen life struggle in a world where, sadly, are few and far between,” writes multi-award winning artist Harpdog Brown.
“It’s the open mic culture that built this place,” adds Bonner.
And so, on Friday, June 28 they will host the first of two fundraising concerts featuring none other than some of their favourite Open Mic night performers.
Bonner is also having a CD launch that night for their eight-song album “Support Live Music at Tractorgrease.” It is a compilation of songs written by some of the familiar faces at Open Mic nights.
The show on June 28 begins at 7 p.m.
Then on Canada Day, it’ll be a day filled with more live music including bands: CR Avery (who Bonner describes as an East Van James Brown), Salt Thief (duelling viola brothers who play pirate folk music with a little bit of symphony), The Unbranded (old time country music), Naxx (local indie folk band), plus Open Mic performers Outlaw and Lace, River Valley Ramblers, and Tamihi (Jeff Bonner and Leah Taylor).
The free Canada Day event begins at 1 p.m. outside the café on Monday, July 1. CR Avery and Salt Thief will be closing the Canada Day festivities with an evening concert at 7 p.m.
“By setting up the stage out in the parking lot, we want people to see what the culture is like here at Tractorgrease. You don’t even have to walk in our doors, you can just hang out in our parking lot and see what we’re about,” says Bonner.
For both events, “Support Live Music at Tractorgrease” CDs and limited run T-shirts will be for sale. Donations will also be accepted at the events.
You can also donate via their GoFundMe page.
Tractorgrease is located at 48710 Chilliwack Lake Rd.