Dine Alone and Mill Street a marriage made in musical heaven

For the third year in a row the mavens at Toronto-based Dine Alone Records and the folks at the Mill Street Brew Pub in Ottawa are putting on a festival in a parking lot.

Called Hopped and Confused, this year’s event on Friday Aug. 17 and Saturday Aug. 18 brings to town bands such as Bedouin Soundclash, Rural Alberta Advantage and I Mother Earth.

The location is in front of the Mill Street pub just off the Sir John A. Macdonald Parkway east of the Canadian War Museum.

The site holds about 2,500 when full to the brim offering a more intimate venue for fans who want to see bands up close and personal.

Alexandre Lanthier, the Toronto-based marketing director for Mill Street, the spark for the event happened a few years ago.

“I started to meet people at Dine Alone through different promotions. Craft beer and indie music are often related. We were doing series with a Toronto newspaper at the time and started meeting folks from Dine Alone” at various events.

Lanthier knew he had an interesting location in Ottawa and he started talking with the label reps about “doing something.”

The first year went well enough for there to be a second year. And that one worked too. So now there is a third version. In the past two years the lineup has included The Sheepdogs, Monster Truck, Tokyo Police Club and The Trews.

Mill Street has tried to stage a similar event in Toronto but it hasn’t worked so Ottawa remains the only one, he said. “There is way too much other stuff going on in Toronto,” Lanthier said.

Later in August seems to be the time. The original event was in August because the bands were available and the brew pub was slow.

“We picked the slot by fluke, but it worked, so we kept it.”

Mill Street is part of the InBev group of breweries, which includes Labatt. But “we have our own sales and marketing teams and brewing team. We still develop our activities and programs inside the Mill Street environment,” he said.

For Dine Alone, this gathering, “is about aligning our brand with Mill Street,” said marketing director Ryan Spalding. “It doesn’t necessarily always have to be our bands, but we do always try to put a couple of our bands in the lineup. We always want to make it a great event,” he said. Dine Alone is one of the larger independent labels in Canada. They represent big acts such as City and Colour and The Lumineers.

“This was something that we could create from the beginning.” Dine Alone also has a similar sounding relationship with Riverfest in Elora, Ontario where the label has a branded stage.

The nature of the music business is such that several revenue streams are necessary to build the overall business. The festival partnerships fit into that. For example, Dine Alone also has a trailer that opens out into a record store which visits different events.

“We carry more than Dine Alone titles in the trailer. It’s actually an indie record shop that can set up pretty much everywhere. These are ways that people get to know about Dine Alone and learn what we have going on. We can also sell tickets and it becomes a way for us to help (the events) financially,” Spalding said.

The label saw a good opportunity to partner with Mill Street when Lanthier presented the idea. “It was a way for us to curate the lineup that we could put our bands on. But it was also a fun way to build a showcase.”

Dine Alone has done similar things in with Red Bull.

The business model is even extending to the label’s new headquarters in Toronto on Eastern Avenue.

“We just opened a new office and the idea behind the space was content creation. We have a small (performance) venue in it. We have a record store; a commercial kitchen; a rooftop area and an editing suite.

“It will provide opportunities for different ways to present content. Now that we have some space, we will look to get out of the normal routine of the CD release party, for example. Maybe we’d include a local chef to do food tasting with a performance afterwards. Or we could partner with a cannabis company or a local craft beer company.” It’s a one stop music shop.

“We did open up the record store on Record Store Day … and we had a lineup out the door. Eventually the store will be open more frequently.” And there will be more that Dine Alone merchandise in there, he added.

Basically the label has vertically integrated its business.

You have to be adaptable, Spalding says.

As far as smaller and shorter festivals such as Hopped and Confused go, other labels are staging similar events, Spalding said.

“Paper Bag is doing one this year and Arts and Crafts have been doing field trips for a few years now. It is something that has been happening, but now it seems to be accelerating,” Spalding said.

Hopped and Confused
Featuring I Mother Earth, Bedouin Soundclash, Birds of Bellwoods and Rural Alberta Advantage
Where: Mill Street Ottawa Brewpub, 555 Wellington St.
When: Aug. 17, 18. Doors at 5 p.m.
Tickets: hoppedandconfused.ca

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Peter Robb began his connection with the arts community in Ottawa in the mid-1980s when he was the administrator and public relations director of the Great Canadian Theatre Company. After a long career in journalism with the Ottawa Citizen where he served in a number of different posts he returned to the arts when he became the Citizen's arts editor.