toronto musicians

Someone in Toronto is trying to make it a lot easier for musicians to get gigs

During lockdown, illustrator Jenelle Lewis found herself picking up a passion she had dwelled over for a long time.

With more time on her hands and the world around her at a stand still, she taught herself how to play the guitar, produce music on Garage Band and eventually wrote songs to accompany them.

"I taught myself how to compose, wrote my own baselines and my own drums," said Lewis. Soon, by August 2022, Lewis was playing her first show at the The Dakota Tavern, under her artist pseudonym Camille Leon

Since then, Lewis has played shows across the city at venues such as the Monarch Tavern, Tibet Street Records and Bar Orwell to name a few. Performing her EP Near Quaint at these venues, Lewis has built a name for herself in the alternative indie rock scene. 

toronto musicians

Stage Fright is the brainchild of Lewis and her friend Shuli after performing together for the first time in early summer of 2022.

But, before Lewis began to perform around the city, they found themselves one night at the Tranzac Club meeting Shuli of Toronto band Vviolet. After both learning that they had never played a show before, a show to get rid of their stage fright with friends and family was hosted.

"Then, one day, someone told me that the Tranzac had open calls for residencies, and I thought what if I pitch that idea of getting new bands out because it was so difficult getting gigs," said Lewis.

That's how Stage Fright was born. 

Lewis's residency with the Tranzac focuses on bringing in new bands and artists with less than 10 shows under their belt to flourish. Performing before Camille Leon, new bands and artists will be given a platform to showcase their talent. 

Hosted on the last Monday of every month, the 6-month residency kicked off with folk duo Seasonal Birds.

On Jan 30, Seasonal Birds, which consists of Maia Taruc-Piling and Sean Parker, brought in a different energy to what Lewis thought Stage Fright would bring.

toronto musicians

Seasonal Birds is the first band to kick off Stage Fright, with bandmates Maia Taruc-Piling and Sean Parker.

"I originally was aiming for punk and alternative bands, because even thought there is a few of us it's not like we don't exist," said Lewis. "But with Seasonal Birds I told myself, 'you know what I'm going to take a chance on this [duo], and they were incredible."

The stage presence the duo brought pulled every audience member in, completely mesmerized by the raw emotion in their music. Lewis's choice for a folk duo was confirmed to be the right one after their first song. 

The venue, which began to fill in as the duo played, was the perfect combination with the duo's sounds. Bringing in that rustic cabin-like warmth you could hear in Taruc-Piling's voice as it echoed through the venue.

The residency fosters a constant mantra of "low energy, low stakes" which gives artists the opportunity to be more comfortable and grow from the experience. 

toronto musicians

The room filled up by 9 p.m., once the duo were making their way to the stage.

It's purpose at its core is to provide a space for new BIPOC artist to feel less terrified of entering the music scene while promoting their work for potentional growth.

"This is the emerging wave of creatives and everyone would be so lucky to see bands as they're gaining their footing," said Lewis. 

After the Seasonal Birds set, Lewis performed alongside her band for the remainder of the show. Camille Leon's energy is something much different yet equally as intrinsic as the duo's. 

Lewis's deep alto voice accompanied by the bands cosmic sounds perfectly summed up the artists aesthetic; a twist of technicolor through alternative rock sounds. 

Playing from her EP, the band closed the event with their rendition of The Neighbourhood's song 'Sweater Weather'. 

toronto musicians

Lewis plans to hopefully continue this project after its final show in June, to keep this space going for emerging artists.

Stage Fright will continue to be held at the Tranzac Club till June 2023, with the possibility of extension.

For the Seasonal Birds, they will be recording new music through out the year and perform next on Feb. 3 at Free Times Cafe. You can also catch Camille Leon at the Tranzac Club once again on Feb. 4 for Long Winter. 

Photos by

Rhea Singh

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