There’s something gypsy-like, arresting and just plain powerful about Ben Caplan’s voice and performance. In turn, Caplan says there’s something unique about Halifax, his adopted hometown, a place where East Coast talent collects.
“Halifax offers a lot of real rough gems. It’s maybe not as polished and cut as your typical Toronto act – I mean we’ve got that, too – but there’s also a beautiful innocence.”
So as he sets out to play Canada, California and Europe this summer, Caplan shares five picks on where to listen now:
Seahorse is definitely an unmissable venue. There’s live music pretty much every night of the week. A great place to see local talent. That is on Argyle Street. You go down a staircase and it’s in a basement with open ceilings and leaky pipes. It’s probably got the best stage in Halifax for the smaller clubs. And it’s got a great vibe, sort of like a 1930s speakeasy meets a 1980s rock club. 1665 Argyle St.
That’s located on Gottingen Street in the North End. It’s smaller than the Seahorse and you’re much more likely to catch a quieter songwriter or a folk act. Amelia Curran used to perform there frequently. You might see local favourite Willie Stratton. He’s sort of hoot-and-hollering folk gypsy. It’s definitely a place where you go to listen. 2202 Gottingen St.
That’s in the North End. I’ve been on tour almost non-stop for the last two years, and it opened at some point in the last two years. It’s apparently got a great sound system and I’ve heard they’ve put on really great stuff. It seems like it’s the new headquarters for the indie scene. Lots of indie. Lots of punk. Lots of metal. 6100 Young St.
Marquee Club doesn’t have events on a consistent basis. It’s sort of in an up-and-coming part of town. It’s right next to the Propeller microbrewery. The Marquee Club has had a reputation for putting on the best shows in Halifax and the biggest shows. It’s sort of your last stop before you start playing the Metro Centre, one of these massive venues. It’s recently been home to the Trews and Wintersleep. 2037 Gottingen St.
My fifth pick is on a poorly kept local secret. It’s the Open Mic House, a little house with a liquor store on one side and an auto garage and a bike shop on the other.
Every Monday night they host open mics where the living room is opened up. Everybody is welcome to step inside. It’s been four years now. I participated in the founding with some other local musicians. The performers vary from people who have never played publicly to classically trained musicians to all kinds of good stuff. You’ve had Juno winners performing, guys like Bill Bourne. Usually it’s a focus on acoustic music, but we’ve also had poetry and bands. 2539 Agricola St.
This interview has been edited and condensed.