Fri, Dec 22, 2006 - Page 15 News List

Where Taichung gets its 'Groove' on

By Ron Brownlow  /  STAFF REPORTER

Canadian Patrick Byrne opened Grooveyard last June to fill a void in Taichung's live music scene.

PHOTOS COURTESY OF GROOVEYARD AND HENRY WESTHEIM

Jazz musicians Patrick Byrne and Roger Smith felt Taichung needed more places for bands that play original music — so they built one.

Their club, which opened last summer, features different bands on Fridays and Saturdays, an open-mic night on Thursdays and live jazz on Wednesdays. They called the place Grooveyard, and by all accounts that's exactly what it is.

"It's the best live music venue in Taiwan, bottom line," said Red-I, a full-time musician who's been performing around the world with various reggae acts for the last 25 years. "It's probably the only place that really was created by musicians and actually for the benefit of musicians. A lot of people would like to say that. But just from playing around the island, I think they're the most sincere in that way."

Byrne, a 40-year-old saxophone player from Canada, and Smith, 31, a multi-instrument whiz from Australia, met five years ago and formed 'Round Midnight, a jazz combo that began playing full time three years ago, averaging 10 to 15 shows a month. "We were one of the first bands in Taichung to crack that" market, Smith said.

Personnel changes caused the band to go part time, giving Smith and Byrne space to seek other opportunities. "We saw a hole in the music scene. You heard a lot of local music here that's excellent but most of it's cover [songs]," said Byrne, who was interviewed from Taichung by phone last week. "We wanted to open a place that's for musicians and develops the scene more, a place with a warm atmosphere where people could play whatever they're creating and where people could relax and enjoy decent music."

Their solution seems to have become a one-stop shopping center for Taichung's creative types and fans of live music. In addition to weekly gigs by everything from expat country-and-western bands to Taiwanese heavy metal acts, Grooveyard hosts workshops on subjects like drum-playing and theater and functions as a gallery where painters and photographers can hang their work. Things have gone so well that Friday and Saturday night's shows are usually booked two months in advance, and Byrne said they have plans to open a second live music venue in Taichung, perhaps towards the end of the month.

For your information:

What: Grooveyard hosts a jazz night on Wednesdays at 9pm and a “Taiwan Exposed Open-Mic Night,” a jam session for established and amateur musicians, every Thursday starting at 9pm. Taichung-based bands perform on Fridays, and local and international bands play gigs on Saturdays. Tonight it's blues-folk combo CatNip, and tomorrow it's “Divas and Crooners,” 10 amateur singers backed up by house band 'Round Midnight. Both shows start at 9:30pm. Entrance: Tonight is NT$100 with a happy hour from 8pm to 10pm, for tomorrow it's NT$100 before 10pm and NT$200 after. There's no cover on Wednesdays and ThursdaysWhere: Grooveyard is located at 2F, 105 Huamei W Rd, Taichung (台中市華美西街105號二樓). For more information, visit www.grooveyardtaiwan.com


"Grooveyard is one of the best venues I've played at because the two musicians that started it had a musician's perspective in mind," said Nick Fothergill, 29, whose acoustic rock trio Black Lung Inner City Choir recently completed a three-month tour of Canada. "The things that make a musician feel comfortable when coming into a club are there."

He likes the sound system, which he said is "on par" with what he's seen in similar-sized venues in Canada. Grooveyard also has two electric pianos, three trumpets and an acoustic guitar, which it makes available for performers.

These come in handy on open-mic night, which Byrne said draws an average of 40 to 60 people. From poets to musicians, everyone is welcome. They sign up on a first-come, first-served basis, with the one restriction being that only acoustical music is allowed after 11:30pm, because of complaints by nearby residents that led Byrne and Smith to briefly close Grooveyard earlier this year to install more soundproofing.

"You never know what's going to happen" on open-mic night "and, more often than not, it's really exciting because it's new and its fun and it's improvised right off the top," Byrne said.

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