Gina Leslie has been hosting Sidney’s Saloon Sundays for the last two years. The weekly late-night series features two local bands before Leslie closes out with a set of her own, which often turns into a joyful jam session.
How did it get started?
Dave Hammer, Ric Robertson and I formed a band called Damn Gina. We weren’t established enough to get a gig in the big venues. We found Sidney’s as a place to host us, but wanted it to be a community event, not just about our band.
Why did it work the way it did?
It’s a place where many bands have played their first gig. Some bands were formed at Sidney’s. Most musicians who play all the time play what the tourist economy demands of them—but have side projects they just haven’t found a setting for. People have learned that this is an experimental place where people can bring those projects in and try them out.
How do you find musicians?
I have a running list of musicians I like and ask them if they have a side project or passion project that they’d like to showcase. Word also spreads, so people approach me and say they want to play.
What brings people back every Sunday?
It’s hard to put your finger on exactly what it is that brings people back. Because this has all been an experiment from the beginning, there’s unpredictability to it, and it has a relaxed atmosphere.
It feels organic and you never quite know what’s going to happen. Each one is different but they all have the common thread of this being a supportive environment for whatever kind of music and whatever people may come through the door.
It’s always fun to catch something before it’s blown up. It still feels like a community event that’s somewhat unknown. It’s known by musicians and people in the scene, but tourists don’t really know about it. That’s good for the intimate feeling, there’s a happy medium where we can funnel people in but still maintain that feeling.
There’s nowhere else in the city where you’ll hear a country band, a Brazilian band and a jazz band playing and have the same crowd, same dancers.
A lot of times this is people’s last stop on their way home after their gigs, so it’s a room full of musicians who all have their instruments.
At the end of the night, it just turns into a spontaneous jam where we open it up to the musicians to let them play so people can keep dancing. It’s a place to blow off steam at the end of the week.