The Basement, a song by Etta James, describes a night of safe, jamming, all-ages fun, in the comfort of her own basement. This is exactly where eighteen year olds Isabella Rutherford-Torlone and Kyle MacDougall got the name for their all-ages shows at First Baptist Church in Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island.
Previously known as The Solid Rock Café, these all-ages shows have been known as a popular place for youth to dance, socialize, and listen to some fantastic live music. The shows have been around for 15 to 20 years! Unfortunately, Solid Rock had its last run of shows in 2016. Due to safety issues and lack of management, the days of Solid Rock ended.
This is where Rutherford-Torlone and MacDougall jump into the spotlight. In high school, Rutherford-Torlone took up an independent study on the creation of all-ages events. The finished product of her study was to be an all-ages show. In their grade 12 year, Macdougall was the president of Space Disco Club, which gave students the chance to dress up, eat, dance, and socialize during the lunch hour every Friday. But MacDougall wanted something bigger than just a classroom, so when they found out that Rutherford-Torlone was starting an all-ages show, the two instantly collaborated.
Rutherford-Torlone quickly found a venue: The First Baptists Church of Charlottetown which happened to be the setting of the old Solid Rock shows. Andrew and Laura Bennett are the Co-Director of Youth, Young Adult and Connection Ministries at First Baptist Church. The couple was itching to start up a space for youth in the basement of their church. This was exactly what Rutherford-Torlone was looking for. She brought her ideas to the couple. Rutherford-Torlone wanted her all-ages event to be a safe space. There could be a safe room and couches for those who struggle with anxiety and panic in overwhelming places. There would be a strict no-substance rule with high security to ensure this rule was followed. There could be an art market where youth could display and sell their work. And of course, all the music played at the show would be played by the youth of Charlottetown. Her overall goal was to promote accessibility to the arts through all ages. The Bennetts loved the new ideas and so The Basement began.
Since their first show on April 27th 2018, Rutherford-Torlone and MacDougall’s Basement has been a huge success in Charlottetown. They’ve had four successful monthly shows since April and will be holding their fifth on November 16th. In past shows, The Basement has hosted local artists and bands such as Logan Richard, The Shores, A Nice Short Life, Allyson Blush, My Dog Vivid, Vince Marquis & The Squid and many many more. Rutherford-Torlone says that it’s not difficult to find artists and bands wanting to play. They often come to her asking about gig opportunities. Frequent audience members have even formed bands, just to be in this all-ages show. The Basement has become a common starting ground for new youth in the music world. It’s also very easy to find young musicians, because Rutherford-Torlone and MacDougall accept music of all kinds such as rock, punk rock, R&B, rap and pop.
The magic of The Basement began with Rutherford-Torlone and MacDougall, but it takes a dedicated team to pull off an all-ages show like this. There is a group of 8 youths who volunteer at each show to make sure audience members have a safe and enjoyable experience. There’s security at the front door and throughout the crowd, an admissions table where volunteers collect $5 from each audience member which goes towards the artists and bands at the event, and there’s a bag and coat check and a canteen table, where the audience can purchase snacks to keep happy and refreshed. Rutherford-Torlone covers many positions: she contacts the artists and bands, she sets the stage for every show, and she’s the one behind social media. MacDougall takes charge in the artist market spectrum, contacting artists interested in the market, setting up the market and spreading the word on social media.
When I asked Rutherford-Torlone what her hopes are for The Basement, she shared her vision of this all-ages show developing into a community centre. Because she and MacDougall are both young, busy, and growing people, they can’t promise they’ll be around to carry on this tradition forever. Rutherford-Torlone hopes to find more young community leaders in the high schools of Charlottetown that are eager to take on this project. She hopes she can find youth with big ideas that can help make The Basement bigger and even better. Rutherford-Torlone’s final message to the youth of Canada is this: take hold of your opportunities. Don’t be the follower, be the leader! Inspire the youth around you to take hold of their lives and be inspired by them to reach their goals. She hopes that youth will learn and give the gift of inspiration, just as she did in her experience in creating the beloved Charlottetown Basement.
Please feel free to follow and catch up on the buzz of The Basement on Facebook and Instagram @ctownallages