The Reminder is making its archives back to 2003 available on our website. Please note that, due to technical limitations, archive articles are presented without the usual formatting.
Rob Lutes stands in his makeshift dressing room, strumming his guitar in eager anticipation of the concert he will soon headline. Looking sharp in all-black attire, the Montreal-based musician is pumped not only about his first Flin Flon performance, but also about his chosen venue. Lutes' audience awaits him not in the raised seating of the R.H. Channing Auditorium or the plastic chairs of the Creighton Community Hall, but on the comfy basement couches of a Hemlock Drive home. "It's very intimate," says Lutes, part of Home Routes, a program that brings professional folk musicians into Canadian homes. "You can try lots of different things. You can have some fun. You can joke around. It's kind of like a party and you're the entertainment for part of that party." Based in Winnipeg, Home Routes launched three years ago as a means of opening up untapped venues to small-scale musicians. At the same time, music lovers in even far-flung places like Flin Flon can enjoy cozy live performances that might not otherwise be feasible. "You'd never be able to get musicians from Montreal or Toronto up to a small place like Flin Flon for a concert, because the economics would just be impossible," says Tim Spencer, who along with wife Elly hosted Lutes' concert last Friday evening. Spencer brought Home Routes to Flin Flon last year after anxiously learning about the program from an out-of-town friend. Since then the Spencers have welcomed nine mostly big-city musicians to share their talents, each time cramming their basement with over 30 friends and associates. "They're superb musicians but they're not well known, so it gives them a chance to meet other audiences and share their music," says Spencer. With no need to amplify the music, and with mingling between musicians and audiences encouraged, Spencer says the end result is a "party atmosphere." Guests are charged $15 each for the evening, with the night's musician keeping most of the proceeds (a percentage goes to Home Routes). It's not a bad living. Even an audience of 20 people, small by Home Route standards, brings the artist over $250 for one night's work, not counting all of the CDs he or she may sell. Flin Flon was one of a dozen stops in Manitoba and Saskatchewan for Lutes, on his first Home Routes tour. The 41-year-old singer-songwriter has toured Canada, the United States and Europe, but for him there's nothing quite like the gigs that bring him to basements and living rooms. "Part of the interesting thing of life is meeting people and seeing how they live and learning what they're doing and how they're facing the struggles of life," says Lutes. "It gives me insights into life." With that, Lutes gives his guitar one last strum and turns off the light in the Spencers' spare bedroom. He's not about to be late for this gig.