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Updated: Apr 27

It was Spring of 2008 in an empty building in downtown Sarnia when the first concert happened.

"In 2007, I caught a ride back to Ontario from B.C with fellow Sarnian Eric Woolston. On that long ride back, Eric, who was an established professional musician living in Toronto, put forth an idea to start a concert series to get more indie/underground acts to perform in Sarnia. The shows would happen in 'empty spaces' downtown, since half of the downtown area was vacant back then," says Danny Alexander, co-founder of Sarnia's longest running independent music festival. "There would also be a major emphasis to pair these touring bands with up and coming local bands, especially those still in high school," (ie. all ages shows), he explained from Toronto to Mouthpiece Magazine earlier this week, as he gears up to return home for the 12th annual festival set to kick off this weekend.

The road trip conversation between the two artists was then taken by Woolston, (Alexander notes his more transient mindset at the time), and quickly became a reality downtown: and so began in April of 2008 the Empty Spaces concert series.

"Flash forward 9 or so months... [and] that's when I noticed the first Empty Spaces concert was announced. I attended and I was immediately hooked by how unique the Toronto band was; it was true that Sarnia didn't have very many 'indie' bands (for lack of a better word) coming through back then, so I was immediately hooked by Eric's concept and wanted to help bring as much interesting music to the area as possible, help build the local scene and, hopefully, inspire people to start more bands."

After the launch of the Empty Spaces concert series, Empty Fest began one year later as the first year anniversary party of the original series. "There were a ton of "Empty Spaces Presents" shows scattered throughout the year until about Empty Fest 10," noting he started dialing things back a bit to what is currently the annual Festival and the Holiday show, in April and December respectively.

When asked about the evolution and importance of Empty Fest on Sarnia's local scene, the co-founder had this to say:

"I think Empty Spaces, alongside other important cultural events such as Artwalk and First Friday, had a large impact helping to jumpstart the rejuvenation of downtown Sarnia. I'm always in awe by how many friendships and connections have been established at these shows. Often, Toronto bands will meet for the first time in Sarnia and become great friends, despite living in the same city and being part of the same general scene. And of course, many local artists have made connections with touring acts and gone on to play shows with them across Ontario. I always try to grow the festival a bit each year and stack the lineups as much as I can. I like to go all out!"

Officially launching as "Empty Fest" in 2009, this weekend marks the 12th instalment of the longest running Sarnia based independent music festival. Set across two venues, The Refined Fool (London Road) and Maud's Variety (Mitton Village), the work of Danny Alexander continues to contribute to the growth and celebration of musical culture within Sarnia wherein musical acts across the nation will again come together and share their independent and underground sounds.

Event Info:

DAY 1 Friday, April 28th @ Refined Fool (1326 London Rd): 9 BANDS ON TWO STAGES $22 advanced on Eventbrite:

Doors at 8:30pm / Music at 9:00pm

DAY 2 Saturday, April 29th @ Maud’s Variety (125 Mitton St S) $20 at the door only **NO ADVANCED TIX / VERY LIMITED CAPACITY Doors at 8:00pm / Music at 8:30pm

The Lineup:

Friday, April 28th at Refined Fool Brewing Co. London Rd Doors @ 8:30pm

9:00 - 9:30 - Johnny Deerest / KETTLE STAGE 9:30 - 10:00 - The Strange Happenings / FRONT STAGE 10:00 - 10:30 - Gaijin Smash / KETTLE STAGE 10:30 - 11:00 - Martian Crisis Unit / FRONT STAGE 11:00 -11:30 - Secret Sign / KETTLE STAGE 11:30 - 12:00 - Possum / FRONT STAGE 12:00 - 12:30 - Twin Rains / KETTLE STAGE 12:30 -1:00 - ANIMATIST / FRONT STAGE 1:00-1:30 - Leona Hell / KETTLE STAGE

Saturday, April 29th at Maud's Variety ** limited space, arrive early! $20 at the door

8:30 - 9:00 - Daphne’s Demise 9:20 - 10:00 - Faiyaz and The Wasted Chances 10:20 - 11:00 - Theo Vandenhoff 11:20 - 12:00 - Bad Waitress 12:20 - 1:00 - yoo doo right 1:20 - 2:00 - Paulo Sinski Microband

Event and Band Posters:

Poster Design: Kalina Nedelcheva

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Updated: Mar 27

Jacob Barber is back with his 4th solo album.

Set to be released in Summer 2023, "One with the Stars" was written, recorded and produced by the Sarnia based psychedelic rock multi-instrumentalist in his self-made home recording studio and can be best described as his personal cosmic love song to the people.

Inspired by the psychedelic sounds of the 1960s, Barbers album was conceived of out of an almost spiritual experience at an outdoor music festival last year, basing his latest work on the sensation of the apparent inner-connectivity of all things: the inner and outer oneness of the planet, people, and stars through infinite time and space.

As is typical of the artist, all vocals, guitar tracks, bass, drums, and lyrics were written, performed, recorded and produced independently to bring you a home grown and groovy dose of kaleidoscopic sound.

Beginning with ukulele, Barber first started playing music at age 16, prompting him very shortly after to write his first original song. Noting that there's "probably a recording of it on some computer somewhere," Jacob laughs as he talks about describing feeling like a fish swimming around in circles in the writing of his first ever song, "Fish Bowl.”

"As soon as I learned chords, I started writing my own songs. I guess I learned a couple covers too, but I started writing my own music very early on," said Barber during a March 22nd interview with Mouthpiece Magazine.

"Writing songs is meditative for me. I'll take my guitar and really just try to empty my mind. I start playing around, without thoughts, just strumming and feeling out what feels good to me, and then I'll start humming melodies while I strum. I write songs almost every day. I have hundreds. Many that will never see the light of day. Usually I write about what I'm thinking or feeling that day, like an ongoing daily journal of sound. But this album is different. It’s more passionate. This album is bigger and more outside of myself. The love isn't romantic, it's cosmic."

In addition to his now fourth solo album, Barber is also known for his work performing and producing albums with his former band Dream Seer, in addition to dropping three EPs with his first band Bad Habit. Currently, he plays with Sarnia's newest band The Aventurines alongside Taylor Pevec on bass, Zoe L (Daphne's Demise) on guitar and vocals, Taylor Sherman on drums, and keyboardist/percussionist/vocalist Myia Pevec.

After picking up his first ukulele at age 16, in just ten years Barber has added vocals, bass, guitar and drums to his musical aptitude along with becoming a self-taught record producer. Not only does he self-produce his own creative works, he also aids other independent and local artists in the production of their albums while connecting countless bands, people and minds in his personal contribution to the local scene.

“I’m really inspired by the psychedelic rock born out of 1960s counter culture music, and the “neo-psychedelic” revival DIY garage bands. Ultimate Spinach, Allah-las, 13th Floor Elevators, Brian Jonestown Massacre, King Gizard and the Wizard Lizard to name a few. Music became a quick obsession for me. I started playing one day, and just never stopped. I think it’s really important to not be afraid to follow your passion. We’re conditioned to prioritize money, working for other people, and chasing superficial goals. But everyone is born with an imagination and it’s important not to lose it. If you find something that makes you feel something, something that makes you feel alive, you have to follow that passion. You have to chase that. Chase what makes you feel alive.”

For more:


Spotify: Jacob Barber Instagram: @jacobbarberrrr

Jacob Barber. Photo by Evan Kwan

Jacob Barber and The Aventurines Photo by Evan Kwan Back Row: Myia Pevec, Zoe L, Taylor Pevec Middle: Jacob Barber Front: Taylor Sherman

Jacob Barber at Hollow Fest Photo by Alex Carre

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I arrived at Maud's on Mitton Street in Sarnia on a Sunny Sunday afternoon absorbing the optimistic anticipation from a crowd of mingling musicians, artists, and cool shit enthusiasts: we were awaiting the beginning of what would be the first of its hopefully regularly recurring "Songs From the Couch" event. Live recorded, pared down sets performed by local artists inside Maud's Variety, the former "Harry's Restaurant" location and regular host of original and independent artistic talent was on the agenda today as I pulled in alongside one of two newest contributors to mouthpiece magazine: photographer/videographer Ethan Trepanier. Our mission today was to document the "Tiny Desk meets MTV Unplugged" pared down performances taking place in the heart of Mitton Village.

Conceived of by Matt Delaroche (A Loud Thing) and Dane Hansen (Puce), the pair organized the event with Delaroche explaining between sets he sees so many talented artists and musicians leaving Sarnia who often believe they need to take their work in music out of town, and underlined the importance of not dispersing but supporting and elevating the local scene.

The first of what would later be announced as a one-per-season (4x/year) event, Songs from the Couch on this particular Sunday featured opener Paul Cammeart, who, legend has it, can perform so many styles and genres you never know what you're going to get. (On this day he played a blues set). Next to hit the the stage was A Million Ghosts, taking listeners on a ethereal sound adventure with a trance-inducing presence, followed by psychedelic rock band A Loud Thing. Next was Puce (Sarnia's own hard rocking, good time Charlies) and finally, Gucc, as per all reports on Instagram, the "great value brand electronic band."

If you want to get a taste for the unique sounds of each of these bands, check out this black and white teaser video footage of the event here:

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