Is Bermuda pulling the plug on its live music scene?
Wednesday, December 16, 2009 9:29 AM
It's only a matter of time before Bermuda "disappears into boredom."
This is the view from industry veterans who fear the demise of live entertainment will "finish us off."
The island's hotels have long come under fire for scrapping their nightly schedule of live performances.
Now pubs and bars are following their lead by ditching their live music saying "there's just not the demand."
Some of the island's well-known and best-loved singers have not had their contracts renewed for the 2010 season.
The Swizzle Inn's Ray Pasnen was the first to leave after 15 years. And The Bermuda Sun has learned that next year James Bootle will no longer be performing at Henry VIII and Will Black will be leaving the Hog Penny.
It is believed the Pickled Onion will be the only bar in Bermuda to continue with its live music most nights. This is "a million miles away" from Bermuda's musical hey-day where "there was live music at every hotel, bar and restaurant."
Phil Barnett, president of the Island Restaurant Group which includes the Hog Penny and Pickled Onion, said: "The bottom line is that the marketplace has changed due to the recession.
"We just don't have the late-night clientele anymore, it's hard to get the crowds in even on a Friday.
"There are no cruise ship passengers or crews and with the drop in the U.S. dollar, the expatriate community doesn't even seem to want to party.
"Our sales have diminished, it's impossible to make live entertainment profitable.
"It is very sad but if we're not careful Bermuda is going to disappear into boredom. It may be a lovely place with pink sand but it's going to become a boring place."
Entertainer Will Black, who will be performing at the Hog Penny for the last time on New Year's Eve, blamed the "downward slide" in tourism in recent years.
He said: "Front Street is dead, there's no longer a solid tourism industry to support live entertainment.
"Front Street used to be busy, but it's declined due to circumstances out of our control. Next year is going to see much of the same.
"It's a sign of the times, Bermuda is going through a serious slump. Something needs to be done to turn things around."
There are now calls from long-time Bermudian musicians for the government to step in to save the island's music industry before it is too late.
Gene Steede, who is one of Bermuda's musical heroes, said: "It's quite evident what's happening to the music industry in Bermuda; it is being left to die a slow death.
"The hotels were the first to get rid of live music, now the smaller places are doing the same.
"Government could certainly help but no-one is interested in spending any money on entertainment, but the money, time and effort has to be put in.
"At the moment there is nowhere for people to go to see live entertainment. There is nothing to brag about when it comes to our entertainment industry."
Concert organizer and professional drummer Howard Rego said "someone has to do something different."
He said: "The usual type of entertainment has run its course, people have got bored of seeing the same things.
"Instead of subsidizing the music at the airport, the government should give X amount to local entertainment. Tourists aren't interested in hearing music at the airport, they just want to get through customs and get to their hotel as quickly as they can.
"We've got to get live music going again but we need that element of surprise.
"We need a spectacular venue with rotating local and overseas acts giving us something completely different, something we've never seen before."