Photos by Brad Germain

Approximately once a month from last October through to June, Into the Abyss, a record store on Locke Street South, hosted concerts in its small but cheery space. With autumn back on the horizon, the store is starting up the Shopshows Series once again on September 29.

Store owner Brad Germain had been thinking of the idea long before the record store opened last year. He believes being able to enjoy music with music makers and other music lovers in a close environment is a special experience.

As a friend of musicians and a musician himself, he wanted to provide a unique venue where artists would want to play. The closeness of the shop setting delivers the sort of heightened experience that he knows artists are looking for.

“[A]ny time you can break down the barrier between audience and creator, I think it always makes for better art and always makes for a better experience… I think that it’s so much easier to make a connection with the audience and the audience with you when you’re all on the same level and… close to one another and able to feel each other’s energy,” he explained.

At the same time, he also enjoys the fact that he is able to support hardworking and heartfelt artists by inviting them to play at the shop. The shows last year often included local Hamilton artists, such as improvised noise duet Eschaton and the band, Human Nun, known at the time as Poorage.

Like the music sold at the store, the artists that have played Into the Abyss come from many different places. Last year, there were shows featuring Canadian artists such as Montreal folk singer Corey Gulkin, and Winnipeg-based band Tunic. Internationally known artists, such as British folk act This Is The Kit, also came to play the shop.

Germain is looking forward to bringing some more internationally renowned artists into the store this year, giving his audiences a unique chance to see these larger artists in a smaller venue.

The intimacy of the space was not the only motivator behind Germain’s decision to start the shows. He also liked the idea of providing an alternate small space venue outside of the bar scene, something the Locke Street community didn’t have prior to Into the Abyss.

“I think a lot of music now… is tied to [having] a seat in a bar and then you have to drink. You have to… go out late at night and you know people tend to drink a lot and then it turns into this… party thing where the music becomes a secondary… part of the puzzle,” he explained.

“I felt that it was important to have another space in Hamilton [where] people could have access to live music and connect with it in a very quiet, intimate, small setting where the music is the focus… [It’s about] bringing people together… [and wanting] another space in town where people could go to see music without all that other type of pressure.”

Last year’s Shopshows series included kid-friendly shows and start times as early as four in the afternoon. Distancing the music viewing experience from the party experience gave Shopshows audiences a chance to truly enjoy and interact with the music they came to see.

For Germain, the music is the most important aspect. He loves working in music because he believes in the power that it has to change lives and foster community.

Well, you know, the power of music is crazy, the power of what music can do to a human being and the effect it has. The effect that music has on plants, the effect that music has on animals… I get… so excited about music when I talk about it… because it changes your life,” he said.

“When you think about all the moments in your life where music impacted you in profound ways and it’s like, you know, speech has the power to do that as well, but sometimes tones arranged in the right way, performed by the right person and you listening to them at the right time is…transformative…[I]t’s so vital to the human experience.”

The audiences that come out to the shows are able to feel that transformation. The small space breaks down the distance that exists between strangers and allows individuals to feel part of the larger community. By plugging into the music and to each other, the Shopshows give people a chance to unplug and truly feel the power of music.

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