It started with a new music platform app three local businessmen are developing.
“We call it Rustr (pronounced Rooster) and it will be a new way for fans, venues and musicians to connect,” explains entrepreneur Mike Beggs.
But Rustr the app won’t be launched until the spring. In the meantime, Beggs and business partners Steve (Whitey) Kiernan and Bil Eldridge found a way to promote it, and that’s how Sarnia’s newest live music venue came to be.
“It wasn’t part of the plan but Whitey came across the hall one day and it was available to lease,” Beggs said. “We decided it would be a great way to get the branding for Rustr out there.”
Beggs admits it’s a big jump from developing an app to operating a music hall. “But it goes hand in hand because once launched, the app will make our jobs as venue owners much easier.”
Besides, running Rustr Music Hall is proving to be a lot of fun.
It opened in July after the partners spent three months of lockdown renovating the former service club building at 2505 London Line. They built a patio with seating for 75 and began hosting outdoor shows for a pandemic-weary community starved for live music.
When protocols allowed for indoor shows, the crowd moved inside where there’s capacity for 125 and a stage large enough for a six-piece band.
“We feel we’re bringing something that Sarnia has been missing,” said Beggs. “Most nights we’ve been selling to COVID capacity limits.”
Rustr’s partners plan to support local musicians and bring in out-of-town bands from the U.S. and Ontario. Some memorable shows have already happened, Beggs said.
Bryce Janey, a U.S. blues and classic rock artist sold out twice. The local boys from Wheelhouse had a great night, and Cock of the Walk open mic Wednesdays are popular, he said.
Robb Sharp of Lit’l Chicago, a local R & B band, said he approached Rustr to play his first show since the pandemic because he heard it has an outstanding sound system.
“It struck me as a good venue to get back at it because it’s solely dedicated to live music and the band doesn’t compete with TVs,” said Sharp. “If someone’s there, they are there to see the act.
“I’ve talked to a few other bands that have played there and they just loved it.”
His Lit’l Chicago bandmates, including Francis Seager on bass, Harlin Braichet on drums and Dave Thomas on keyboards (for the Rustr show only), are eager to get back before a live audience.
“We haven’t played out for about two years and we went one year without seeing one another, so we’re really, really excited for this,” Sharp said. Rehearsals have been underway for six months to prepare.
Sharp said tickets are priced at only $12.50 to allow for the cost of a taxi to get to and from the licensed hall, which is located a six-minute drive east of Lambton Mall.
Most weekends at Rustr are booked with a different band Friday and Saturday nights. For a full lineup, visit www.rustr.ca.
IF YOU GO:
WHAT: Robb Sharp and Lit’l Chicago play blues, R&B and soul
WHERE: Rustr Music Hall, 2505 London Line
WHEN: Saturday, Nov. 27, 8:30 p.m.
TICKETS: $12.50, available at www.rustr.ca. Vaccine certificate required.
The Arts Journal is about Sarnia’s cultural life. Send your ideas to [email protected].