Horseshoe still launching new bands on paths to success

On Tuesday night, Orangabang, a band from Uxbridge, Ont., took to the Horseshoe stage for the first time. It rocked through songs with provocative titles, such as “Fledermaus” and “Cunning Linguist.” Geoff Holt sings and plays rhythm guitar for Orangabang.

“It was our first time playing a show in Toronto,” Holt said. “It was great. The crowd was awesome … (We’ve) never had so many people cheering at the end of a show before.”

Most days, the Horseshoe Tavern sits quietly among shops and boutiques on Queen Street West. But when the sun goes down, it becomes the iconic venue that has launched musicians such as Bryan Adams and Blue Rodeo.

Even on this Tuesday night, as it has since 1947, the Horseshoe provides a stage for newer bands looking to make it big. Richard Famia, 43, works at the ‘Shoe, and credits its “Nu Music” nights for helping bands get into Toronto’s music scene.

“It’s very important,” Famia said. “Some bands will come in and if we like them, we’ll invite them to come back [to play more shows].”

Holt hopes that Orangabang gets that chance.

“We definitely want to play the Horseshoe again,” Holt said. “Such a great place … bands who have played there, the energy. It just went really well.”

Gillian Turnbull is a professor and musicologist at Ryerson University. She sees the Horseshoe as the perfect place for new artists to play..

“Today, an artist like Sam Cash … can play there on a Saturday night to a full crowd, and he’s just getting started,” Turnbull said. “The Horseshoe gives these bands the opportunity, but it also has the audience already built in.”

It might lack in size, but the ‘Shoe’s reputation gives it descent audiences most nights. Orangabang was joined by local bands such as DLV and History Majors, in what turned into a successful night.

The bar became famous in the early 1970s, when Stompin’ Tom Connors released a pair of specials at the Horseshoe. Since then, it’s become an integral part of Toronto’s scene, for both old acts and new.

“(Consider) Handsome Ned, Sam Larkin, The Cowboy Junkies,” Turnbull said. “Those acts … might not be around today if they didn’t have a club like the Horseshoe.”

Meanwhile, Orangabang’s Holt can’t wait to get back on stage at the Horseshoe.

“When I think of a club or bar, that is the first place I think of,” Holt said. “The Rolling Stones have played there, the Foo Fighters … it’s just a legendary place.”